Mental health disorders are the ones that affect mood, thinking, and behaviour and reflect in the form of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviours.1 Mental health issues have now become common and affect millions of people each year. According to statistics,2 over 970 million people in the world are affected by a mental disorder3.
Types of mental health disorders
Mental health disorders can be grouped into some common categories4 such as:
- Anxiety disorders – Characterised by feelings of tension, worrisome thoughts and physical bodily sensations such as sweating or increased heart rate
- Eating disorders – Characterised by significant and persistent disturbances in eating behaviours
- Mood disorders – Characterised by a variety of depressive and bipolar disorders
- Personality disorders – Characterised by long term maladaptive patterns of thought and behaviour that make relationships difficult to maintain or cause every day stress
- Trauma and stress related disorders – Characterised by a psychiatric disorder where a past traumatic experience, witnessed or experienced, causes severe distress and disruption to everyday living.
- Psychotic disorders – Characterised by abnormal thoughts and perceptions that can cause to lose touch with reality.
Signs and symptoms
Here are a few signs and symptoms indicative of mental health disorders
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or sleep issues
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and people
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Changes in the sex drive
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thoughts5
Most mental illness doesn’t get better on their own and if left untreated can escalate into serious problems.
Causes and Risk factors
Mental illness can be a result of many factors such as:
Genetics – It often runs in the family.6
Environment – Living in a stressful environment such as poverty or an abusive family can lead you towards a mental disorder.
Childhood trauma – This can have an impact even later in life.
Stressful events – Being in an accident or watching an accident or losing a loved one can trigger a mental disorder.
Negative thoughts – Thinking negative paves the way for a mental illness through anxiety or depression.
Alcohol and drugs – Alcohol and drugs can lead to a mental illness and make it difficult to come out of it.
Brain chemistry – If there is an imbalance of natural chemicals in the brain and body, it can lead to mental illness.
It is important for a person suffering from mental health to seek treatment and for that they must accept that they have a problem and seek help. Because an early intervention means an early recovery.
There is no clear demarcation to understand when a problem with mood or thinking can turn into a mental health concern. Because at times depression could be considered as “normal” especially when there is a circumstance attached to it like loss of a loved one. But if the depression interferes with the normal functioning of the life then it is a cause for concern and it is advisable to seek medical help.7
Certain mental illness can be related to or mimic a medical condition. For example, depressive symptoms can be related to a thyroid disorder. Therefore, a mental health diagnosis involves a complete physical examination to rule out physical problems that could cause symptoms, lab tests including a thyroid function or a screening for alcohol and drugs and a psychological evaluation about symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns.8
The management plan will be decided based on the severity of the symptoms, how much it affects daily life, the risks and benefits of available treatments and factors such as psychiatric symptoms complicating other illness9.
The management plan is individualized between the physician and the patient. It may include psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication or other treatments. Often a combination of therapy and medication is most effective. Complementary and alternative therapies also help immensely.
In addition, self-help and family /social support is very essential to help an individual cope and recover for their wellbeing. Additional factors that help with the management are lifestyle changes such as good nutrition, exercise, meditation and adequate sleep which aids in improvement of mental health and towards recovery.
1. Mental illness – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
2. NIMH » Statistics (nih.gov)
3. 45 Worldwide Mental Health Statistics to Blow Your Mind (loudcloudhealth.com)
4. Top Mental Health Disorders: A Mental Illness List (verywellhealth.com)
5. Mental illness – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
6. What causes mental illness? – MHA Screening (mhanational.org)
7. Psychiatry.org – What is Mental Illness?
8. Mental illness – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
9. Psychiatry.org – What is Mental Illness?