Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling and behaviors. These illnesses can impact one’s ability to relate to other people, to work and attend school and can impair one’s ability to attend to activities of daily living. Each person will have varying experiences, symptoms and courses, even when sharing the same diagnosis.
Types of Mental Illness
There are five major categories of mental illnesses:
It’s important to remember that there are varying degrees of severity present in the expression of each condition. When you are concerned about your mental health, or that of a loved one, it’s best to talk with a qualified health care provider. Many people with mental illness often feel as if there is a stigma attached to their condition; however, awareness of mental health disorders has come a long way. Many who suffer with these conditions and those around them now understand that mental illness requires the same need for treatment the same as many physical ailments.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders are a form of mental illness that causes people to experience distressing and frequent bouts of fear and apprehension. Many will experience these feelings when periodically doing things like public speaking or a job interview. Those with anxiety disorders experience these feelings frequently, and for an extended period – six months or more.
If not treated, these symptoms can worsen and increase, including:
- Panic attacks
- Physical symptoms such as pain, nausea and headaches
- Obsessive thoughts
- Fear of leaving the house
Types of anxiety disorders
Common diagnosis of mental illness, under the category of anxiety disorders, includes:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social phobia (social anxiety disorder)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Every one of us has experienced feelings of sadness, irritability, or a general case of the “blahs” at one time or another. While bad moods are common, and usually pass in a short period, people suffering with mood disorders live with more sustained and severe symptoms and disruption. People living with this mental illness find that their mood impacts both mental and psychological well-being, nearly every day, and often for much of the day.
It is estimated that one in 10 adults suffer from some type of mood disorder, with the most common conditions being depression and bipolar disorder. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most of those living with mood disorders lead healthy, normal and productive lives. If left untreated, this illness can affect role functioning, quality of life and many chronic physical health disorders such as .
Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
Schizophrenia is a very serious brain disorder that is marked by significant changes and disruption in both cognitive and emotional function. Schizophrenia has an effect on the most basic human aspects of life (e.g. language/communication, train of thought, perception of objects, self and others).
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Hearing voices
- Social withdrawal
- Incoherent speech
- Abnormal reasoning
Dementia is distinguished by a disruption of consciousness, as well as changes in cognitive health (such as memory loss and motor skills).
Types of dementia
The most common forms of dementia include:
- Health conditions (e.g., head trauma, HIV, Parkinson’s); and
- Substance-induced dementia (e.g. drugs/alcohol abuse, inhalants, or exposure to toxins).
Eating disorders are very serious, chronic conditions that can be life-threatening, if left untreated. These conditions typically take root during the adolescent years, and primarily affect females. While there are variations in the expression, symptoms and course of eating disorders, the common thread is that they all involve obsessional and sometimes distressing thoughts and behaviors, including:
- Reduction of food intake
- Feelings of depression or distress
- Concern of weight, body shape, poor self-image
At the onset, these disorders begin with the person eating smaller/larger portions than usual. However, over time, urges to decrease/increase the amount of food eaten take hold, and the illness escalates.
Types of eating disorders
The three most common types of eating disorders are:
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 45 million Americans have a mental illness in any given year, with only about half seeking treatment. While the majority of us will have concerns about our mental well-being from time to time, mental illness is diagnosed when there are ongoing and increasing signs and symptoms begin to cause continual stress and impact our quality of life and our ability to function.
Do you or a loved one suffer from a mental health disorder? What has helped you in terms of treatment or dealing with your disorder that may be helpful to others? We’d love for you to share your stories with readers in the comments below. For more information on mental and behavioral health, please visit our behavioral health website.