Everyone can agree that we’re all pretty confused about exactly how people end up with mental illnesses. We’re confident that genetics play a role, and confident that they play more of a role in some disorders (schizophrenia, depression) than others (ADHD, personality disorders).
The theory that’s most commonly cited looks like this:
-everybody gets a baseline risk: the genetic component.
-everybody experiences Life
-Life may include:
-protective factors, like having a safe home life, nutrition, social support
-risks: abuse, poverty, trauma
And then when the net of the Risks (mitigated by Protective Factors) + Genetic Loading = Too High, you end up with said mental illness.
This is a massively oversimplified model (apologies to the geneticists who were tearing their hair out). But it conveys an important idea: that it wasn’t just that one breakup that made you depressed; it might be some combination of all the other things that added up to make that one breakup tip you over into depression.
And I’ve recently been thinking that this maps nicely onto triggers overall. Triggers — the things that send you spiraling into your own personal brain!hell — can be higher risk when you’re already worn down. It’s harder to put up your cognitive defenses, or to fall back to those coping mechanisms when you’re exhausted or hungry, or you’ve done it five times that week already. The eighth exhortation to lose weight feels very different than the first. And while the first might just make me tense, the fourth might send me tearily into bed. Of course, there are always-triggers: the people or experiences that will probably always cause a reaction. We’d sort of expect that spiders would be an arachnophobia trigger, in the way we sort of expect that being trapped in somewhere small for days would probably cause claustrophobia, genetics be damned.
…and all of this is to say that when my housemates surprised me by covering up the mirror I have to walk by to get to my room and desk, I was deeply thankful.