Mental Illness

Overview

Mental health disorders affect millions of U.S. adults each year. Some disorders are mild, and others are more disabling and require intensive management and care. The majority of people suffering from mental disorders can effectively return to normal, productive lives if they receive appropriate treatment--treatment that is readily available.


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Mood Disorders

Mood disorders refer to a category of mental health problems that include all types of depression and bipolar disorder. Mood disorders are sometimes called affective disorders. Anyone can feel sad or depressed at times. However, mood disorders are more intense and difficult to manage than normal feelings of sadness. Children, adolescents, or adults who have a parent with a mood disorder have a greater chance of also having a mood disorder. However, life events and stress can expose or exaggerate feelings of sadness or depression, making the feelings more difficult to manage. The following are the most common types of mood disorders:

  • Major depression. A two-week period of a depressed mood or a noticeable decrease in interest or pleasure in usual activities, along with other signs of a mood disorder.

  • Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder). A chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood for at least two years.

  • Manic depression (bipolar disorder). At least one episode of a depressed or irritable mood and at least one period of a manic (persistently elevated) mood.

  • Mood disorder due to a general medical condition. Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic medical illnesses) can trigger symptoms of depression.

  • Substance induced mood disorder. Symptoms of depression that are due to the effects of medication, drug abuse, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment.

See more information about mood disorders.


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Anxiety Disorders

There are several anxiety disorders that require the clinical care of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Anxiety disorders can include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety, and phobias.

Panic disorder is characterized by chronic, repeated, and unexpected panic attacks—bouts of overwhelming fear of being in danger when there is no specific cause for the fear. In between panic attacks, people with panic disorder worry excessively about when and where the next attack may occur.

See more about panic disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an unreasonable thought, fear, or worry that he or she tries to manage through a ritualized activity to reduce the anxiety. Frequently occurring disturbing thoughts or images are called obsessions, and the rituals performed to try to prevent or dispel them are called compulsions.

See more about obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that often follows a terrifying physical or emotional event, causing the person who survived the event to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories, or flashbacks of the ordeal. Persons with PTSD often feel chronically, emotionally numb.

See more about post-traumatic stress disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes its sufferers chronic and exaggerated worry and tension that seem to have no substantial cause. People with generalized anxiety disorder often worry excessively about health, money, family, or work, and continually anticipate disaster. People with this disorder usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants, but cannot rid themselves of these irrational concerns.

See more about generalized anxiety disorder.


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Personality Disorders

For people without a personality disorder, personality traits are patterns of thinking, reacting, and behaving that remain relatively consistent and stable over time. People with a personality disorder display more rigid and maladaptive thinking and reacting behaviors that often disrupt their personal, professional, and social lives.

Examples of odd/eccentric (Cluster A) personality disorders

  • Paranoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, and unable to form close, interpersonal relationships. Often overly, yet unjustifiably, suspicious of their surroundings, persons with paranoid personality disorder generally cannot see their role in conflict situations and often project their feelings of paranoia as anger onto others.

  • Schizoid personality disorder. People with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. People with schizoid personality disorder are often so absorbed in their own thinking and daydreaming that they exclude themselves from attachment to people and reality.

  • Schizotypal personality disorder. Similar to those with schizoid personality disorder, people with this disorder are often cold, distant, introverted, and have an intense fear of intimacy and closeness. Yet, with schizotypal personality disorder, people also exhibit disordered thinking, perception, and ineffective communication skills. Many symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder resemble schizophrenia, but are less intense and intrusive.

Examples of dramatic/erratic (Cluster B) personality disorders

  • Borderline personality disorder. People with this disorder present instability in their perceptions of themselves, and have difficulty maintaining stable relationships. Moods may also be inconsistent, but never neutral - their sense of reality is always seen in "black and white." People with borderline personality disorder often feel as though they lacked a certain level of nurturing while growing up and, as a result, incessantly seek a higher level of caretaking from others as adults. This may be achieved through manipulation of others, leaving them often feeling empty, angry, and abandoned, which may lead to desperate and impulsive behavior.

  • Antisocial personality disorder. People with this disorder characteristically disregard the feelings, property, authority, and respect of others, for their own personal gain. This may include violent or aggressive acts involving or targeting other individuals, without a sense of remorse or guilt for any of their destructive actions.

  • Narcissistic personality disorder. People with this disorder present severely overly-inflated feelings of self-worth, grandiosity, and superiority over others. People with narcissistic personality disorder often exploit others who fail to admire them, and are overly sensitive to criticism, judgment, and defeat.

  • Histrionic personality disorder. People with this disorder are overly conscious of their appearance, are constantly seeking attention, and often behave dramatically in situations that do not warrant this type of reaction. The emotional expressions of people with histrionic personality disorder are often judged as superficial and exaggerated.

Examples of anxious/inhibited (Cluster C) personality disorders

  • Dependent personality disorder. People with this disorder rely heavily on others for validation and fulfillment of basic needs. Often unable to properly care for themselves, people with dependent personality disorder lack self confidence and security, and are deficient in making decisions.

  • Avoidant personality disorder. People with this disorder are hypersensitive to rejection and thus, avoid situations with any potential for conflict. This reaction is fear-driven, however, persons with avoidant personality disorder become disturbed by their own social isolation, withdrawal, and inability to form close, interpersonal relationships.

  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. People with this disorder are inflexible to change and bothered by a disrupted routine due to their obsession for order, thus, they experience anxiety and have trouble completing tasks and making decisions. People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder often become uncomfortable in situations that are beyond their control and have difficulty maintaining positive, healthy interpersonal relationships as a result.

See more about personality disorders.


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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is one of the most complex of all mental health disorders. It involves a severe, chronic, and disabling disturbance of the brain. What was once classified as a psychological disease is now classified as a brain disease. One of the most disturbing and puzzling characteristics of schizophrenia is the sudden onset of its psychotic symptoms. The symptoms of schizophrenia are often classified as positive (symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, and bizarre behavior), negative (symptoms including flat affect, withdrawal, and emotional unresponsiveness), disorganized speech (including speech that is incomprehensible), and disorganized or catatonic behavior (including marked mood swings, sudden aggressive, or confusion, followed by sudden motionlessness and staring). Schizophrenia is a major psychiatric illness. The symptoms of schizophrenia may resemble other problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis. Treatment for schizophrenia is complex. A combination of therapies is often necessary to meet the individualized needs of the individual with schizophrenia. Treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms associated with the disorder.

See more information about schizophrenia.

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