Every day, millions of people across the country look for ways to cope with mental illness. With time and dedicated treatment efforts, many individuals can make a full recovery and return to normal day-to-day life. However, to expand preventative measures, one must look beyond treatment. For that, they must look back and ask: How do mental health problems start?

If medical professionals can determine common causes of mental health problems, they can take more proactive steps to prevent them from occurring as frequently. It also helps people identify early warning signs that they may be at risk of developing a mental illness. From there, they can more easily recognize when to seek treatment that will prevent their condition from worsening.

Common Types of Mental Health Problems

The phrase “mental health problems” encompasses a vast range of conditions, all of which affect individuals in different ways. For instance, some types of mental health problems include:

Note that the above is not a complete catalog of mental illnesses. Many other types of mental health conditions exist as well. In some ways, because of how expansive they are, asking, “How do mental health problems start?” opens the door to overgeneralizations. Every mental illness may not have the same potential causes.

Thus, moving forward, keep in mind that the causes discussed in this article are not an exhaustive list. Depending on someone’s individual situation and the type of mental illness they have, they may be able to identify a different reason for their condition.

How Do Mental Health Problems Start?

With that being said, how do mental health problems start? Many researchers have tried to find a definitive answer to this question. However, current findings for most mental illnesses do not reveal a singular, concrete cause.

Instead, over the years, scientists have made great strides in identifying risk factors for certain mental health problems. And even though every mental health issue presents its own unique challenges, many of them do have overlapping risk factors.

Some of the most common causes that contribute to mental health problems include:

Traumatic Events

One of the most common and well-researched responses to, “How do mental health problems start?” is trauma. Though, much like the phrase “mental health problems,” the word “trauma” encapsulates a very broad range of experiences as well.

For many individuals, childhood trauma leads to mental illness that persists through their adult lives. Others survive traumatic experiences like sexual assault, car crashes, armed robberies, and emotional abuse. All of these can result in the development of a serious mental health condition.


When someone asks, “How do mental health problems start?” they may be looking for an external source of some kind. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that many types of mental illnesses may have a genetic component.

For example, if someone has a parent with substance use disorder, they are more likely to demonstrate addictive behavior patterns as well. Likewise, mood disorders and anxiety disorders often appear in multiple family members.

Substance Abuse

Substance use disorder is its own mental health condition, but addictive behaviors also increase someone’s risk of developing other mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Known as co-occurring disorders, these simultaneous conditions often need to be treated at the same time.

For people who battle co-occurring disorders, the answer to, “How do mental health problems start?” is often with substance abuse. They may have thought it would only happen once, but if left unaddressed, one night of binge drinking can turn into a pattern of chronic intoxication.

Unexpected Life Changes

Life is full of twists and turns. Some of these unexpected events, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, can have detrimental impacts on someone’s mental health. When these incidents occur and someone does not have the proper support systems in place—and sometimes, even if they do—they may experience a mental illness as a result.

If someone is asking “How do mental health problems start?” because they are worried about their response to a recent stressful event, they may be correct in thinking their mental health is at risk. For example, complicated grief is a very real problem that some people face after losing a loved one.

How Are Mental Health Problems Treated?

Exploring possible answers to “How do mental health problems start?” can help individuals deepen their understanding of their mental state. If they catch the signs early enough, they may be able to change their situation and avoid harming their mental health further.

However, for others, the circumstances surrounding their deteriorating mental health can not be so easily swayed. In that case, professional mental health treatment can help them work through their problems and learn to manage their symptoms.

Just as mental health issues themselves are vast and varied, treatment can take many forms as well. Common evidence-based treatment options include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Psychoeducational focus groups
  • Medication management
  • Aftercare and discharge planning

While the answers to “How do mental health problems start?” are not always easily quantified, medical professionals have grown confident in their ability to treat such problems. Whether someone needs immediate inpatient care or more long-term support, treatment facilities like The Willough at Naples can provide the help they need.

Mental Health Treatment in Brooksville, Florida

The Willough at Naples is a mental health treatment center dedicated to helping individuals facing emotional, cognitive, and behavioral challenges. We offer an assortment of diverse treatment programs to ensure we can provide highly individualized, effective care.

Patients in our care know we do everything we can to help them achieve their recovery goals and regain control of their lives. With the support of our evidence-based treatment modalities, patients learn vital coping skills to manage their symptoms and return to daily living.

To get started on recovery or learn more about other possible answers to “How do mental health problems start?” please reach out today. You can call our admissions team at (239) 688-3063 or submit a confidential contact form online if you prefer.

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