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Mental Illness Case Study Example

Mental illness Case Analysis

Suicide is one of the major causes of death among people aged between 15 and 34 years. As Vandenbos, Meidenbauer and Frank-McNeil (2013) explained, most people who commit suicide develop mental illnesses prior to the time of death. In order to assist people who are inclined to commit suicide, it is vital to understand and treat the mental Mental Illness Case Study Examplehealth problems that trigger suicidal thoughts. John, a Hispanic male aged 28 years, has chronic metal illness. He lives with his grand mother and his mother. His grand father and father committed suicide after attaining 30 years. John fears that he might also commit suicide like his father and grand father. During an interview at a clinic, he seems to have severe anxiety and depression. This paper analyses the case of John from the views of phenomenological, trait and biological theorists.

Phenomenological Theorists’ Perspectives

Carl Rogers is one of the renowned individuals whose views contributed to the development of phenomenological theory. He argued that people are rational, creative, innately good, and are self motivated to fulfill their potential. He believed that the inner experience of oneself influences a person’s wellbeing. According to Rogers, people develop self-concept from what they perceive themselves to be. At the same time, the ideal self is based on what or how a person would like to be (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). In his view, people pursue life goals for the purpose of self-actualization. However, the self-concept of an individual sometimes conflicts with reality, leading to anxiety. Anxiety, for instance can occur when a person strives to conform to the expectations of others instead of accepting who they are (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). In the case of John, he knows the reality is that his father and grandfather committed suicide and thus, he might also do the same. That reality, however, is in contrast with what he would like to be. He would not like to commit suicide. The conflict is the source of his severe anxiety and depression.

Abraham Maslow also contributed significantly to the phenomenological theory. He argued that all people have different needs, which he ranked according to importance. Self-actualization, according to Maslow, is one of the needs. He argued further that all people have the ability for self-actualization. The social structures that limit people from self-actualization cause frustrations. In his view, a self-actualized person is one that has accepted reality and who he or she is (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). As suggested by Maslow, John is self-actualized and has accepted the reality and that is why he does not have disturbances in thought and perception.

Rollo May perspectives are also applicable in the case of John. He argued that people strive to fulfill their potentials and to be good, although they are capable of doing evil. In his view, people do evil when the daimon system that involves power, anger and sex gets out of control and adversely affects an individual’s ability to live authentic life (Carducci, 2009). When the daimon system gets out of control, psychopathology or self-destruction takes place. In the case of John, his daimon system has already started getting out of control and that is why he has developed chronic mental illnesses. In the end, he might destroy himself through committing suicide.

Kirk Schneider, a contemporary phenomenological psychologist, argued that people develop the feelings of destruction due to the failure to combat existential anxiety. Also, the feelings can emerge when a person thinks that he or she is insignificant and has a short life. In the case of John, he thinks that he has a short life and has developed anxiety because of his family’s history about how his father and grandfather died. The failure to combat the anxiety might lead him to commit suicide.

Research has shown that culture and brain play a major role influencing self-perception, which in turn influences the need for self-actualization. The brain enables people to acquire beliefs that shape their view of the world around them. In turn, cultural experience shapes the wiring of the brain during the development process (Cervone & Pervin, 2013).

Trait Theorists’ Perspective

Gordon Allport, one of the trait theorists, extracted around 4,500 words from English dictionary the character traits that influence a person’s behaviors. He grouped them into three categories, namely cardinal traits, secondary traits and central traits. In this view, a person’s behavior is influenced by external and internal forces (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). In the case of John, his current anxious behavior has been influenced by an external force, which is the history about the deaths of his father and grand father. Also, his behavior has been influenced by an internal force, the inability to cope with the anxiety.

Raymond Cattel is also a renowned trait theorist. Cattel removed synonyms from the list of words developed by Allport. The remaining words were 171. He argued that in order to understand the traits of a person, it is vital to rely on life data, questionnaire data and experimental data. He developed a list of 16 human personality trait dimensions. The dimensions include emotional stability, sensitivity, tension and apprehension. An individual’s score on each of the dimensions determines his or her traits. In the case of John, for instance, his score on apprehension is high since he has severe anxiety.

Hans Eysenck argued that people naturally differ in brain response. He developed three personality dimensions, namely psychoticism vs. socialization, neuroticism vs. stability and extroversion vs. introversion. He argued that people that are high in the trait of neuroticism tend to be anxious and their sympathetic nervous system is overactive even when they have low stress (Cervone & Pervin, 2013). Conversely, people that are high in stability tend to be emotionally stable. John’s score in neuroticism is high since he has a lot of anxiety. His score on stability is low.

Timothy Leary’s model can also apply to John’s case. Leary developed a graph with horizontal and vertical axes used in defining a person’s character, also called interpersonal circumplex. If a person’s trait is placed near the poles of the axes, it means that he or she sends a clear message. In the case of John, for instance, he sends a clear message that he is apprehensive.

Biological/Genetic Theorists’ Perspectives

Jarome Kagan is one of the renowned scholars focusing on the influence of biological and genetic factors on a person’s behaviors. He gave significant to people’s temperament. He suggested that anxious inhibited young children become anxious inhibited adults. He argued that a person’s emotions result from temperament and specific brain states. In the case of John, his current emotional state that is characterized by anxiety might have started during early childhood development. Most likely, he was a anxious inhibited baby.

Jeffrey Alan Gray established reinforcement sensitivity theory, which describes three brain systems that respond to punishing and rewarding stimuli. The three systems are fight-flight-freeze system, behavioral inhibition system and behavioral approach system. The behavioral inhibition system plays the role of mediating the emotion of anxiety (Yalom, 2009). The level of anxiety and worries in an individual depends on the strength of response by that system. John’s personality trait indicates that he suffers from anxiety. As such, the response by behavioral inhibition system is weak.

Although Hans Eysenck developed trait theories, he focused more on biological factors that influence a person’s behaviors. He came up with inhibition theory. He argued that an individual’s personality traits are highly influenced by heredity factors. He argued that introverts have weak inhibitory processes and strong excitory processes (Yalom, 2009). Their brains react strongly and quickly to stimuli. Applying the theory to the case of John, he may be inclined to commit suicide like his father and grandfather since he has genes derived from them.


Overall, the case of John can be interpreted using the view of numerous phenomenological, trait and biological theorists, as indicated in the above analysis. Applying the different theories can enable psychiatrists trace the root causes of his mental illness. The knowledge can help psychiatrists to develop effective treatment strategies that reduce chances of John committing suicide.

Also Study:

Mental Health Case Study Analysis Example

Is Mental Health Real or It is in Our Heads

  • Carducci, B. J. (2009). The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons
  • Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. A. (2013). Personality: Theory and Research, The Twelfth Edition. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Vandenbos, G.R., Meidenbauer, E. & Frank-McNeil, J. (2013). Psychotherapy Theories and Techniques: A Reader. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Yalom, I. (2009). The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

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