MENTAL ILLNESS & TREATMENT
What is Mental Illness?
Mental illness is a medical condition that can affect a person’s thinking, mood and behavior. The symptoms, the severity and the duration of a mental illness vary greatly from person to person, but a common “symptom” of mental illness is its severe effects on one's ability to cope with daily life.
Common Myths and Misconceptions of Mental Illness
Mental illnesses are just that – illnesses that need to be treated. However, there has been a stigma surrounding mental illness that frightens many people from getting diagnosed and treated properly.
The truth is . . .
• Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income
• Mental illness is treatable
• Without treatment individuals and society are both severely affected
• Symptoms can be difficult to diagnose
• The effects of the stigma surrounding mental illness are often barriers to treatment
Descriptions & Symptoms of Mental Illnesses
There are many different types of mental illnesses. We have highlighted some of the major illnesses here.
Clinical depression, also known as unipolar depression, is a serious mental illness affecting an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health. Among all mental illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
The symptoms of depression include:
• persistently sad or irritable mood
• pronounced changes in sleep, appetite and energy
• difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering
• physical slowing or agitation
• lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed
• feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and emptiness
• recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
• persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
When several of these symptoms occur at the same time, last longer than two weeks, and interfere with daily life, professional treatment is needed.
Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a serious brain disorder that causes severe shifts in mood or energy – extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). These mood swings may last days, weeks or even months at a time. Bipolar disorder is generally a lifelong condition with recurring episodes that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and occasionally even in children.
The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder include:
The symptoms of Mania may include:
• either an elated, happy mood or an irritable, angry, unpleasant mood
• increased activity or energy
• more thoughts and faster thinking than normal
• increased talking, more rapid speech than normal
• ambitious, often grandiose, plans
• poor judgment
• increased sexual interest and activity
• decreased sleep and decreased need for sleep
The symptoms of Depression may include:
• depressed or apathetic mood
• decreased activity and energy
• restlessness and irritability
• fewer thoughts than usual and slowed thinking
• less talking and slowed speech
• less interest or participation in, and less enjoyment of activities normally enjoyed
• decreased sexual interest and activity
• hopeless and helpless feelings
• feelings of guilt and worthlessness
• pessimistic outlook
• thoughts of suicide
• change in appetite (either eating more or eating less)
• change in sleep patterns (either sleeping more or sleeping less)
Approximately 2.2 million American adults or 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older are afflicted with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia interferes with a person's ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in the teenage years or twenties. Most people with schizophrenia suffer chronically or episodically throughout their lives, and are often stigmatized by lack of public understanding about the disease. A person with schizophrenia does not have a "split personality," and almost all people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent toward others when they are receiving treatment.
The symptoms of Schizophrenia include:
• Positive Symptoms include things like delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and disorganized or catatonic behavior.
• Negative Symptoms are things like emotional flatness or lack of expression, an inability to start and follow through with activities, speech that is brief and lacks content, and a lack of pleasure or interest in life. No one symptom positively identifies schizophrenia. However, when a combination of at least two of the symptoms described above are present for at least six months and are accompanied by increased difficulty coping with daily life, the diagnosis is generally schizophrenia.
A paralyzing nervousness and fear are the typical systems of Anxiety Disorder. There are several types of Anxiety Disorders.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an illness characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder in young persons, ADHD affects an estimated three percent to five percent of school-age children. There are actually three different types of ADHD, each with different symptoms: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when an individual experiences obsessions and compulsions for more than an hour each day in a way that interferes with his or her life. OCD is often described as "a disease of doubt." Sufferers experience "pathological doubt" because they are unable to distinguish among what is possible, what is probable, and what is unlikely to happen. Most people at one time or another experience obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors.
A person who experiences recurrent panic attacks, at least one of which leads to at least a month of increased anxiety or avoidant behavior, is said to have panic disorder. Panic disorder may also be indicated if a person experiences fewer than four panic episodes but has recurrent or constant fears of having another panic attack.
For more information on these illnesses, visit http://www.projectrelate.org/