Mental disorder is an umbrella term for a wide range of psychological conditions that affect your cognitive skills, behaviour and functional life. They influence the way you feel, think, and act. Some common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder among others. They can be triggered by a variety of reasons including life situations, brain damage, neurological disorder, genetic predisposition, environmental toxins, so on and so forth. Psychological disorders can come with quite a few health challenges. Cardiac ailments and a weak immune system are the most common among them. Social isolation loss of work, tendency to indulge in self-abortive activities are the other complications that any mental disorder is associated with.
According to the 2017 estimates of Our World in Data, an online research publication house, around 792 million people were living with some sort of mental disorder that year, worldwide. This is about 10 per cent of the global population. The top 5 psychological conditions in their list include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
CATEGORIES OF MENTAL DISORDERS
There are innumerable mental disorders that affect millions globally. Here, we guide you on a few common categories and classifications of psychological disorders.
Neurodevelopmental disorders: This category includes neuropsychological disorders that are noticed in the initial years of life.
Examples: Autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disorders.
Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders: These are characterised by a complete detachment from reality. The manifestations include delusion, hallucination, and disarrayed thoughts and speech.
Bipolar and related disorders: This category includes psychological disorders that that manifest through alternating episodes of mania. There are moments of extreme highs and lows. Depression is another trait of this class of mental health disorders.
Depressive disorders: These conditions make you feel sad for a prolonged period of time. You lose the capacity to think positively and interest in your favourite activities too. Depression can affect your life decisions and daily functionalities too.
Anxiety disorders: If you are a worrywart, you may be suffering from this category of mental health condition. People with anxiety disorder have a very high-risk perception. They get anxious about future (sometimes imagined) threats.
Examples: Panic disorder and phobias.
Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders: The traits of these disorders include repetitive thoughts, and compulsive acts.
Examples: Hoarding disorder, hair-pulling disorder, etc.
Trauma- and stressor-related disorders: This is an adjustment disorder which doesn’t allow a person to cope with a stressful life event.
Examples: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder.
Dissociative disorders: It detaches you from the self. You have a disrupted sense of the self.
Examples: Dissociative identity disorder and dissociative amnesia.
Neurocognitive disorders: They affect your brain functions like thinking and logical reasoning. Neurocognitive disorders delirium and conditions triggered by brain injury or Alzheimer's disease.
Personality disorders: These conditions lead to emotional instability and unhealthy behaviour patterns which can wreak havoc in your professional and personal life.
Examples: Borderline, antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders.
SYMPTOMS OF MENTAL DISORDERS
The signs and symptoms of psychological conditions vary, depending on the disorder, life situation, underlying health conditions, genetic factors and personality type. However, some manifestations are typical of any mental disorder. They are:
- Confused thinking
- Lack of focus
- Abnormal fears
- Severe guilt
- Volatile mood
- Social withdrawal
- Inability to cope with stress
- Sleep issues
- Changes in eating habits
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Change in sexual behaviour
CAUSES OF MENTAL DISORDERS
As already mentioned, mental disorder is a broad term for a wide range of psychological conditions. The causes vary, depending on the disorder. However, experts are of the opinion that the following physiological factors contribute to many of them:
Genetic predisposition: While certain genes may up your risk of developing a psychological disorder, your life situations may act as catalysts. If you have a family history of these conditions, then also you are more likely to fall prey to them.
Brain damage: There are naturally occurring brain chemicals which send signals to different parts of your body through neural networks. If the functions of these neural networks are impaired, chances of neurological damage become high. This may lead to various neuropsychological disorders including depression.
Other common risk factors behind any mental health condition include life situations (financial problems, separation, death of a loved one, traumatic experience, etc.) a chronic disorder, drug or alcohol abuse.
DIAGNOSIS OF MENTAL DISORDERS
Any psychological condition is tough to diagnose. However, your physician may use the following methods to find out the culprit behind your mental health condition.
Physical exam: This is the process through which your doctor will try to rule out physical problems that might be triggering your symptoms.
Lab tests: He may suggest a thyroid screening or a test for drug and alcohol abuse.
Psychological evaluation: In this process your doctor talks to you in detail about your symptoms, thoughts, emotions and behaviours. He may recommend filling in a questionnaire too for clarity.
TREATMENT OF MENTAL DISORDERS
Broadly speaking, the treatment modality for any psychological disorder includes medications, talk therapies and brain simulation therapies.
Psychiatrists use some classes of prescription drugs for treating psychological ailments. Though they don’t cure a mental illness, these medicines are known to reduce the symptoms. Your medicine will be decided based on what disorder you are suffering from and the severity of your condition. Here is a low-down on commonly prescribed class of drugs.
Antidepressants: They are recommended for depression, anxiety and various other mental health conditions. Antidepressants work by helping you with symptoms like sadness, lack of energy, concentrating issues, etc.
Anti-anxiety medications: Typically, they are used to treat anxiety or panic disorder. These drugs can be effective in bringing down agitation and sleep issues.
Mood-stabilizing medications: Your doctor may recommend this class of medicines to treat bipolar disorders. This condition is characterised by mania and depression.
Antipsychotic medications: These medicines are prescribed to help you deal with conditions like schizophrenia.
This process involves talking to a professionally trained counsellor who helps in unearthing your emotions, and gives you insights and perspectives to the situation that has triggered your condition. He will also equip you with life skills to cope with them. There are a wide range of talk therapies that your counsellor may resort to. The most common among them is cognitive behavioural therapy.
Recommended only in in severe cases of mental health conditions, this treatment modality includes therapies like include electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation among others. A psychiatrist recommends it only if medications and psychotherapy aren’t effective.
MANAGING MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
The cornerstone of managing any psychological disorder is developing coping strategies alongside medications and psychotherapies. Some lifestyle modifications will help you so.
Stay active: Exercise brings down your stress hormones and releases happy hormones. These will help you in getting rid of negative thoughts while boosting your mood. Cycling, running, swimming and dancing will help you stay positive. Walking in the morning can also work wonders.
Watch what you eat: Practise moderation while it comes to having refined sugars and processed food. They are known to aggravate the signs of any psychological disorder. A diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids will improve your cognitive skills while a maintaining mealtime routines will also help structure your day well. Discipline (with some sort of flexibility of course!) is key to a healthy mind.
Learn breathing exercises: These will help your nerves relax. Apart from calming your nervous system, they can also improve lung function.
Share your thoughts with close ones: Communicate with people you trust. Talking reduces your helps you bring down the psychological load you are bearing while giving you fresh perspective to a situation that is contributing to your mental health condition. Seeking support from friends and family will also lend you a sense of security.
Master the art of positive thinking: Seeing the glass half full and not half empty is a tough task for many. Make conscious efforts to change the way you think. The moment you find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts, take a deep breath and let them blow over you. Tell yourself that this is temporary. Once the negative thoughts tame down, and you feel a little settled, try to rethink your situation from a different perspective altogether. Listening to motivational speakers and reading self-help books will help.
Try to be flexible: Rigidity is one of the major culprits behind a disturbed mind. Flexibility in thoughts and life choices will help you work around difficult situations, which, in turn, will unburden you of negative thoughts. You will feel more in control if you are flexible.
Don’t indulge in smoking, alcohol, or caffeine: They are known to worsen the symptoms of any mental health condition. Avoid them totally if your condition is severe, or else practise moderation.