Causes of Mental Retardation

Causes of Mental Retardation

Sometimes referred to as intellectual disability, mental retardation has always been one of biggest causes of concern in terms of medical concerns. A tough situation for most people to deal with, there is a constant research going on about its causes. Read further to learn more on the same...
PsycholoGenie Staff
Studies and statistics say that 1 to 3 percent of the population suffers from mental retardation, otherwise referred to as Intellectual Disability. A medical condition that occurs and should be identified before adulthood, mental retardation is a condition wherein the mental senses have restrictions, and a slower functioning process due to certain reasons which could be either genetic, or otherwise. According to former explanations or definitions, mental retardation was when a person had an Intelligence Quotient below 70, but today this is no longer necessarily termed as retardation. It very simply is the reason for the term Intellectual Disability. We'll take a closer look at the difference between them, along with reasons behind mental retardation.


People use the term rather casually, but it is important to get the facts about mental retardation right, before using it without a second thought. A mental condition which is categorized into four types, i.e., mild, moderate, severe and profound, the IQ of a person is the determining factor to find out where his mental abilities / capacities stand. Restrictions in a person's cognitive and social functions is a strong defining factor when a person has been affected by retardation. Unfortunately, this condition is hard to identify before a certain age, and is most prominent once a child starts attending school, and his cognitive and adaptive abilities are put to test. There most certainly must be questions in most minds regarding what causes mental retardation, so let's take a look at it now...


The causes are several. We'll discuss them in fair detail so as to allow you to have a clearer idea about it.

Genetic & Chromosomal Abnormalities: One of the first genetic cause is this condition called Down Syndrome. Surprisingly, this condition acts as both, a cause as well as an effect of mental retardation. Down syndrome is basically a condition where a person has 47 chromosomes, as opposed to the 46 chromosomes that a person should normally have. This extra chromosome interferes with the functioning of the brain, thus often leading to retardation. Another genetic cause which is also an inherited one is the condition called Hunter Syndrome. In this condition, the chains of sugar molecules are not broken down correctly, thus hampering the growth of the mind and body. Other causes are, Hurler syndrome, chromosome deletions / translocations, Rett syndrome, Tuberous sclerosis, defective chromosomes, amongst other problems.

Nutritional Deficiencies: It may come across as odd, but nutritional deficiencies are one of the biggest culprits of many a medical condition. A nutritional deficiency during pregnancy can be more disadvantageous to the unborn child than it can be to the mother. A lack of nutrients like vitamin A, iron, iodine, zinc, etc., has been known to cause problems pertaining to mental health for over 2 billion people. It is not so surprising though, given the rapid change in food trends and habits of most people these days. With a mounting consumption of fast food / junk food, nutritional deficiencies are on the rise like never before. Apart from the above mentioned, famine is also one of the largest causes of this mental condition.

Environmental Conditions & Exposure to Toxins: The next highly contributing factor leading to mental retardation are those of environmental conditions, as well as exposure to toxins. Environment in a case like such is generally in reference to poverty and cultural deprivation. Poverty is known to be a large cause of it, mainly because the impoverished conditions can lead to exposure to environmental conditions that are unsuitable for mental growth. This idea also refers to the lack of mental stimulus, thus stunting mental growth. Exposure to toxins is an equal culprit leading to it too. One of the more common forms of these toxins would happen to be cigarettes. Expectant mothers who smoke are the first threat to the baby. Apart from that, there is also that threat of toxins present in the environment, and that unfortunately is hard to avoid.

Other conditions leading to mental retardation also are, traumatic conditions faced during pregnancy, problems at or after birth, metabolic disorders, infections, as also a multitude of unexplained reasons. It is of extreme vitality that people deal with those affected by mental retardation with immense patience, and affection, especially because of their high levels of sensitivity, and quite the contrary to that, high levels of occasional aggression too.