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Lots of things can contribute to whether someone has a mental health problem or develops psychosis. It’s very complicated and we don’t know all the reasons why these things happen. Just like with lots of things in life, psychosis develops because of a mixture of the things that you’re born with (e.g. genes, sensitivity) and the things that happen to you during life (e.g. your environment, experience, stress). One very important thing to remember is that if you do develop a mental health problem, it’s not your fault and it’s not because you’ve done something wrong. This just isn’t true.

"You know, it’s not something you’ve done to get it, as a person, you know, and sometimes it’s trauma, sometimes it’s genetics but it could happen to anyone." - Rob aged 23

Although we don’t know everything about why people experience psychosis and other mental health problems, research has taught us that there are several factors that can contribute to this. These include:

  • Biology and genetics- There is some evidence that your genes and biology can make you more or less sensitive to certain types of mental health problems just like your genes can make you more or less sensitive to other health problems, like asthma, heart disease or diabetes. But there is a lot about genetics that scientists still don’t know. If someone in your family has a mental health problem it doesn’t mean that you will have one too. Sometimes it can make it more likely to happen, but sometimes it doesn’t have any effect at all.
  • Life experiences- Sometimes if you have a stressful experience when you are a child or a teenager, like losing a parent, or experiencing bullying, trauma or abuse it can make relationships with other people more confusing or more difficult and this can sometimes contribute to mental health problems
  • Social and lifestyle factors- Sometimes social and lifestyle factors like unhelpful coping strategies and responses to stress, poor sleep patterns and working too hard can contribute to the start of mental health problems. It doesn’t mean that these things will definitely cause mental health problems but on top of other factors like genetics and life experiences, they may increase the risk. Trying to care for our bodies (e.g. exercise, eating well, sleeping enough) can be as important for our mental health as for our physical health.
  • Drugs and alcohol- There is a lot we don’t know about how using drugs and alcohol are linked to mental health problems. We do know that everyone who uses drugs or alcohol doesn’t get a mental health problem or psychosis. We also know that some people are more sensitive to the effects of drugs than others. Using drugs a lot, particularly when you are young, and especially when you’re more sensitive or more affected by stresses can contribute to the start of mental health problems or can make them worse.

More information about drugs and mental health can be found here.

Obviously, there is a lot about mental health problems and psychosis that we still don’t know. You can have lots of risk factors, sensitivity and stress but be protected by other things in life and never develop mental health problems or you can develop mental health problems after a build-up of little stresses.

If you are experiencing psychosis or mental health problems, talking to someone and getting some support may help you to understand some of the things that may have contributed to this. Knowing what has contributed to mental health problems can help you to protect yourself from problems in the future

The EYE Project is a research project supported by:

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Swandean, Arundel Road, Worthing, West Sussex, BN13 3EP