The Relationship Between Mental Illness & Violence

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The Relationship Between Mental Illness & Violence

Many people have the false notion that poor mental health and violence tend go hand in hand. They mistakenly believe that people with mental health disorders are also aggressive and unpredictable, especially when it comes to certain mental illnesses. One survey found that 60% of Americans thought that people with schizophrenia were likely to act violently and 32% of people with major depression had tendencies toward violence.1

Does Mental Illness Cause Violence?

The relationship between mental illness and violence is a complicated one. While the general public may believe that mental illnesses lead to violence, the numbers suggest that this is not always the case. About 3.7% of the general U.S. population commits one or more violent act every year and as much as 24% will commit an aggressive behavior in their community at some point in their lifetime.2 In comparison, people with major mental health disorders are estimated to only be responsible for 4.3% of the level of violence in a community.3 Most people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the average person, but there are always exceptions.

There are certain mental health disorders that are more associated with violence than others, including schizophrenia or psychotic disorders. While the media may portray people with these disorders as being violent and unpredictable, this may not be the case. People with schizophrenia are actually 14 times more likely to be the victim of violence in their community compared to being arrested for the same thing.4  For patients with more violent tendencies, mental health treatment may be able to decrease the rate or violence as well as the psychotic symptoms.2

Another possible reason behind mental illness violence may be substance abuse. A study found that 31% of people with both a psychiatric disorder and a substance abuse disorder had committed a violent act in the last year, whereas only 18% of people with just a psychiatric disorder had done the same thing.1

These numbers suggest that substance abuse can make violence more common, but some researchers challenge the validity of this study. Regardless of the results, people who are struggling with both of these problems at the same time should go to a dual diagnosis treatment center to get help.

The overexaggerated relationship between mental illness and violence can be harmful. It can lead to stigma against those suffering with mental health disorders and also keep people who need help from stepping forward.

For people struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, and anger, we offer anger rehabilitation alongside our other treatment programs to help patients heal comprehensively and work toward better lives once treatment is complete.

Get started on the road to recovery today. To speak to one of our staff members at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, call 561-220-3981.


  1. NCBI – Violence and Mental Illness
  2. NCBI – Violence and mental illness: an overview
  3. NCBI – Violence and Schizophrenia

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