What are Mental Disorders?

What are Mental Disorders?

Awareness of mental disorders and mental illness is growing in today’s society. What are mental disorders? Where is the line drawn between normal behavior, thoughts and feelings vs. abnormal behavior, thoughts, and feelings?

The answer to this question is quite complex. There are many different types of mental disorders and their causes are varied. Here are some of the most commonly identified types of mental illness.

Mood Disorders

Depression is perhaps the most well-known mental disorder. Those with depression may experience prolonged periods of sadness and a loss of interest in the things they used to love to do. They may over or under eat and feel fatigued frequently.

Anxiety is another well-known mental disorder. It is often comorbid with depression. Anxiety comes in many forms including phobias (fear of something specific such as spiders or tight spaces), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Mood disorders can be triggered by situations, but can also result from a chemical imbalance or a combination of both. Medications and therapy combined make mood disorders among the most treatable mental disorders.

Mental Disorders Involving Psychosis

  Bipolar disorder is one of the most difficult mood disorders to manage. People with bipolar disorder experience prolonged periods of depression followed by periods of mania. During the mania phase, they may have periods of psychosis and/or grandiosity.

Schizophrenia is less common, but many people are aware of it because the media has sensationalized the most severe cases. Those with schizophrenia have psychotic episodes where they may hear or see things or people that are not there or have a skewed view of reality.

These types of disorders necessitate treatment with medication and therapy. Medication is usually lifelong and symptoms must be consistently managed, but they are treatable.

Personality Disorders

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often think highly of themselves to a point where they almost beg to be worshiped. They are very self-centered and are often incapable of considering anyone’s needs but their own.

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by having black and white thinking, emotional outbursts and difficulty regulating emotions, as well as an intense fear of abandonment that sometimes drives the borderline disordered person to do and say irrational things.

Personality disorders are unique in that medication is often not the first line of defense against these disorders. Specific, intensive therapy is often the most successful form of treatment for personality disorders.

Trauma Disorders

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, was once classified as a type of anxiety disorder. That is not the case anymore. Those with PTSD have experienced a traumatic, life-threatening event and have intense flashbacks, dreams, and anxiety.

Acute Stress Disorder is similar to PTSD but is preceded by a stressful or traumatic life event. To cope, the disordered person dissociates or mentally detaches from his or her environment.

Anxiety medications can help those suffering from trauma disorders, but medication alone is rarely enough. Therapy is usually necessary to help those with trauma disorders be able to cope with their symptoms.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all mental disorders. There are many disorders that are more rare, misdiagnosed, or simply undiagnosable. Many people living with mental disorders have more than one and have to fight to have the lives they want every day. The most important thing to know about mental disorders is that there is help and there is hope.

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