Believe it or not, the most prevalent disease in developed countries isn’t cancer or heart disease – it is mental illness. Though not everyone is aware of the fact, mental health issues are genuine medical conditions that require treatment – sometimes with medication, but often with psycho-social therapies and significant lifestyle adjustments. Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, ethnicity, and economic status. Disorders range from mild to severe, and it is not always known what can trigger a mental illness. Just like any other person dealing with a disease, a person suffering from a mental health issue needs support and understanding.
These are the 10 most common mental health issues today.
1. Personality disorders
There are numerous recognized personality disorders, ranging from odd disorders to dramatic/emotional/erratic disorders, and from anxious/fearful disorders to personality disorders resulting from other medical conditions. Among the most common of these disorders are antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and avoidant personality disorder.
Those with antisocial personality disorders have little regard for others and may be prone to criminal behavior. Those with borderline personality disorders can be impulsive and mentally unstable, have difficulty maintaining relationships, and may be prone to attempting suicide. People with avoidance personality disorders avoid interactions with others because they fear criticism and often suffer from severe anxiety.
Personality disorders have numerous causes, from genetics to life experiences to traumatic experiences. These disorders are managed through individual psychotherapy, family therapy, psychiatric medications, and psychological education. The US government have more information about depression which is very insightful and worth reading on their website.
2. Mood disorders
Mood disorders are diagnosed in people whose moods go beyond just feeling “blue”. In the case of a person with a mood disorder, extreme moods such as depression are persistent and accompanied by fatigue, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, thoughts of suicide, and lack of focus. Mood disorders can be depressive, bipolar, substance-induced, alcohol-induced, benzodiazepine-induced, and may arise from a medical condition. Treatments for mood disorders include therapy, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotics.
3. Autism spectrum disorders
Autism spectrum disorders include autism, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome. Also included in this classification of pervasive developmental disorders is what is referred to as PDD-NOS or pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified. Of these, autism is the most debilitating. The rest of the disorders, such as Aperger’s, produce milder symptoms.
These mental health issues are characterized by cognitive delays, social deficits, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. Treatments for autism spectrum disorders vary, but the main goals are to diminish associated defects, improve the quality of life, develop functional independence, and reduce family distress. Treatments are tailored to each patient’s particular needs.
Experts have yet to pinpoint a specific cause for autism spectrum disorders; however, risk factors have been identified. These include genetics, environmental factors, prenatal and perinatal conditions, and neuro-anatomical abnormalities.
4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is a common childhood disorder usually diagnosed in extremely active children who experience difficulty controlling their behavior and focusing. Genetics appears to play a part, but ADHD can also be caused by low birth weight, premature delivery, and the use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. ADHD is managed through stimulant medications and a combination of psycho-social therapies such as behavior therapy, psycho-educational input, and family therapy.
This is a serious mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, catatonic or disorganized behavior, disorganized speech, poor emotional responses, and lack of motivation. Schizophrenia affects men and women equally and often first appears sometime between the late teen years and the early thirties. Those who suffer from schizophrenia often experience significant difficulties in social settings and at work.
There is no established cause for schizophrenia, but known contributory factors include genetics, social and psychological processes, and early environment. Schizophrenia is managed through the use of anti-psychotic drugs, psycho-social therapies, and coping mechanisms.
6. Bipolar disorder
People with bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness experience major mood swings from extremely high (manic) to extremely low (depressive). These are unlike mood swings experienced by people without bipolar disorder. Bipolar mood swings can be so severe that relationships with others are damaged, work and academics are affected, and the patient can end up contemplating suicide.
Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose. There is no single cause. To diagnose bipolar disorder, experts rely on evaluations and on the patient’s mental health history. Bipolar disorder can be managed using mood-stabilizing drugs and psychotherapy. With proper management, those suffering from bipolar disorder can lead relatively normal lives.
7. Anxiety disorders
The most common anxiety disorders are general anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). OCD is characterized by recurring thoughts or obsessions and repeated actions or compulsions that give a person the illusion of control. PTSD is a mental disorder resulting from a traumatic experience. Its symptoms include anxiety, anger, hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviors, and depression. GAD is diagnosed when a person suffers from a long-lasting anxiety with no apparent cause.
Anxiety disorders can be genetic but may also result from stress, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse. Treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and alternative medicine.
A phobia is an extreme fear of an object or situation wherein the person goes to great lengths to avoid that which he or she is afraid of. When the phobia cannot be avoided, the person suffers from severe anxiety, his or her daily life is interrupted, and physical symptoms may emerge. Phobias are treated through cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressant medications, and hypnotherapy.
9. Eating disorders
The three most-diagnosed eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. These mental health disorders have various causes, including genetics, brain tumors, obstetric complications, parental influence, peer pressure, child abuse, social isolation, and cultural pressure. Treatments for eating disorders vary and depend on the severity of the case. Currently, doctors use a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, medication, nutritional counseling, and creative therapies to manage eating disorders.
10. Panic disorder
Panic attacks are fairly common; but when they are recurring and are so severe that they render the patient disabled, they can be classified as a disorder. Symptoms of a panic attack include rapid heartbeat, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, excessive perspiration, weakness, chest pains, loss of control, a feeling of being smothered, and an uncontrollable fear of dying or going crazy.
Panic disorders are more common in women than in men. Most cases begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Genetics appears to be a big factor in whether or not a person will be susceptible to severe panic attacks. Panic disorders are treated or managed with a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and psycho-pharmacological interventions.
I have certainly found that mindfulness meditation can really help in relaxing the body and mind and there is no better video than this one for an introduction: