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What is a Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are brain illnesses that are characterized by changes in a persons thinking, mood, or behavior, and that are accompanied by significant distress, or impairment in functioning (Healthy People, 2010).

While the exact causes of many mental disorders is still unknown, according to published reports it is likely that biological, psychological, and social/cultural factors all work together to shape the development of many diseases, to include mental illnesses (Surgeon Generals Report, 1999). Currently, genetics, changes in brain chemicals, infections, psychological issues, the environment, life events, personality and developmental factors, are some of the major theories associated with the causes of mental illnesses.


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