The term mental disorder (mental illness) indicates a disease or condition which affects the brain in such a way that the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings, gets disturbed. There are different kinds of mental disorders. Listed below are some common mental disorders that can affect people.
Mood disorders: The term indicates affective disorders or depressive disorders. In people with mood disorder there are disturbances or mood changes which can cause either mania (elation) or depression (feeling low). According to experts, most people with depressive disorder improve significantly with treatment. Major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder are the commonest forms of mood disorders.
- Major depression: Major depression can be very disabling which can hinder the normal functioning of a person and affect every sphere of life such as sleep, work, study, eating, and even activities which a person normally finds pleasurable. This disorder can cause extreme or prolonged periods of sadness and can recur after successful treatment of one episode of illness.
- Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is a less common type of mood disorders than major depression and dysthymia. The patient oscillates between moments of extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).
- Dysthymia: Dysthymic disorder or mild chronic depression as the name suggest is less severe or disabling than major depressive disorder. You can have symptoms for a long time, even years but may never seek treatment as the symptoms are not really disabling. However, your normal functioning can be affected. You can have recurrences after successful treatment of an episode of illness.
- SAD (seasonal affective disorder): This type of mood disorder is much more common in colder countries (countries farther from the equator) during winters when the duration of sunlight decreases considerably and there are more dark hours. People with SAD develop depressive illness during the winter months and are well during spring and/or summer.
Anxiety disorders: This is the commonest group of mental illnesses. In this disorder, the affected person has a severe fear of or anxiety for certain objects or situations which can lead to avoidance behaviour for whatever triggers their anxiety. Some examples of anxiety disorders are:
- Panic disorder: People with this disorder feel sudden paralysing terror or the feeling of an imminent disaster without any warning at any time of the day (even during sleep). Most patients experience intense anxiety between episodes of panic. During the attack the patient feels sweaty, weak, and dizzy and their heart beat increases.
- Phobias: People with phobia experience disproportionate fear. It can be of any object, thing, place, person, or situation. There are hundreds of phobias.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): These people experience undue obsessions and compulsions. It is characterised by constant stressful thought (obsessions), and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts such as hand washing, cleaning, and checking if the house is locked (compulsion).
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD): Some people after being through a traumatic event can experience PSTD. The person may repeatedly think that his/her life or other people's lives are in danger and feel scared as he/she think that they have no control over the event.
Schizophrenia: It is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disease. The common age of schizophrenia onset is between 15 and 25 years of age. It is a highly complex illness. The patient’s thoughts seem fragmented and they experience difficulty in processing information. The disorder can cause negative such as withdrawal, lack of motivation and a flat or inappropriate mood or positive symptoms (such as delusions, thought disorders and hallucinations) in the person.
Most of the mental disorders are treatable and complete recovery is possible. But for this, appropriate treatment is important. Hence, if you think you or someone close to you has symptoms suggestive of any mental disorder consult a doctor. Don’t ignore the symptoms.
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