Mental illness is a topic that is often misunderstood by the general public. There are many types of mental illnesses, and they can affect people in different ways. Some may function normally while experiencing symptoms, while others may not work or take care of themselves at all.
Mental disorders are a group of physical and mental conditions that affect how we think, feel, or behave. These disorders can range from the occasional mood swings to more severe cases like depression, where your thoughts constantly overwhelm you with negative energy.
Everyone needs to understand the various types of mental illness to provide support when it’s needed most.
4 Basic Criteria For Mental Illness
The four essential criteria for a mental disorder include:
Distress is an emotional state in which a behaviour causes anxiety, bad feelings or other negative emotions for either the person who engages with it or others that come into contact.
The presence of significant emotional, physical, or social distress experienced by an individual as manifested by at least two of the following:
- Feeling overwhelmed with negative feelings such as sadness, grief, and anxiety
- Appearing agitated or restless
- Difficulty concentrating; lack of interest in daily activities
- Feeling constantly on edge and a significant change in appetite and sleep habits.
- Feeling detached from others and losing interest in activities once found enjoyable
Suppose a person poses a danger to themselves or other people. In that case, that can be seen as a mental illness and one that interferes with their ability to function in society which may put others at risk of being harmed by what they do.
The presence of danger to self or others as manifested by at least one of the following:
- Self-inflicted injuries, including suicide attempts
- Actions that constitute a threat to the physical well-being of oneself others.
- Behaviour that puts one at risk of being seriously hurt, killed, abused, or neglected
Behaviour that deviates from what is accepted within society would also qualify as a symptom of mental illness because it marks them apart from what most people do and believe, causing distress for those around them.
There are two different types of deviance. One is statistical, and the other social.
- Statistical deviance means that the behaviour doesn’t often happen in society.
- Social deviance means that most people in the community find it odd. Neither one by itself is enough to say that someone has abnormal behaviour.
Suppose a person cannot perform what would be considered their normal daily activities, such as going to work or school and taking care of themselves. In that case, that can also indicate a mental illness. Outside help is usually needed for such mental health conditions.
This is when someone has a problem in their life, and it keeps getting worse. For example, they can’t hold down a job or be normal with friends. When someone gets to this point, they know that they need help and often see it themselves.
Types Of Mental Health Disorders
Some common mental health disorder types include:
1. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are mental disorder that causes sufferers to feel fear and dread in response, not just physical signs like rapid heartbeat or sweating. Their main symptom is anxiety. This disorder can range from mild to severe, depending on how many contacts or life interference the individual is experiencing.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A person who experiences excessive anxiety and worries about everyday things for longer than six months.
Social Phobia: An intense fear of being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down upon in social situations.
Specific Phobia: An irrational fear of objects or situations which results in a compelling desire to avoid it/them.
Panic Disorder: A panic attack is a sudden burst of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes a variety of psychological and physical symptoms.
Agoraphobia: An anxiety disorder where the person fears being in places or situations where escape might be difficult, embarrassing, or they feel unable to get away from whatever it is that’s causing their distress, which can lead to them limiting their lives their activities.
2. Behavioural And Emotional Disorders In Children
A group of disorders that influence how a child behaves, feels, and interacts with other people. It’s essential to seek help for these issues as soon as possible because it can interfere with social development, e.g. Asperger Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Such disorders can lead to problems developing social relationships and fitting into society.
Behavioural and emotional disorders in children could lead to long term consequences if left untreated because this impact one’s ability to function properly at home, school or work.
3. Bipolar Affective Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a potentially severe illness; sufferers may have extreme depression and intense excitement and energy. This can be very dangerous in certain situations, such as driving a vehicle or operating machinery.
The depressive episodes are so severe that the person often has suicidal thoughts. These people need to seek professional help before their condition deteriorates further.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in Australia today. In some cases, this leads to suicide, particularly amongst men who do not seek assistance from professionals. During a depressive episode, the sufferer may often lose interest in day-to-day activities and have feelings of intense anxiety or guilt.
5. Dissociation And Dissociative Disorders
Dissociation is a term used to describe a state where memory, identity or perception become separated (dissociated) from consciousness. It’s not clear how common this is amongst people with no experience of mental illness, but it can be severe in people with specific conditions such as borderline personality disorder.
Dissociation has also been known to occur after childhood abuse and during traumatic events, e.g. accidents, natural disasters etc. The symptoms are usually severe in adults who have experienced prolonged trauma in their lives, whilst children are more likely to experience temporary episodes.
6. Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are characterised by abnormal eating habits that can affect a person’s health. There are three main eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED).
It is classified as an anxiety disorder in which people have an intense fear of gaining weight. This illness is marked by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. People with this disorder often exhibit obsessive thoughts about food and weight gain. Anorexia typically develops during adolescence, although the illness can affect people of any age group or gender.
People with bulimia nervosa engage in frequent episodes of uncontrolled overeating known as binge eating. After these episodes, they compensate for the excess calories by purging, inducing vomiting or misusing laxatives. Unlike anorexia, bulimia doesn’t involve significant weight loss.
Binge Eating Disorder:
It is similar to bulimia in that people with this condition feel compelled to overeat large amounts of food at one time (binge). The main distinction between binge-eating disorder and bulimia is that people with BED don’t purge their bodies of the extra calories.
People who suffer from an eating disorder typically have low self-esteem and poor body image. The mental health condition contributes to an irrational fear of gaining weight. Eating disorders also carry a higher risk of malnutrition, heart problems, kidney failure, osteoporosis, infertility, and death.
7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder categorised by feelings of doubt in combination with repetitive thoughts or actions. OCD causes people to have persistent, unwelcome thoughts or ideas (called obsessions) that make them feel anxious or uncomfortable. They may also feel compelled to perform certain routines repeatedly (compulsions).
It can include mental rituals such as counting, praying, repeating words silently, keeping things extremely clean or organised, arranging items in a particular way or using excessive amounts of hand sanitiser when they don’t believe they are spotless. The severity of the obsessive-compulsive disorder can vary from person to person.
- After performing their compulsions, people with OCD feel a range of emotions, including sadness, guilt, and helplessness.
- In some cases, people may be able to resist compulsive behaviour for brief periods. However, some form of compulsive behaviour is performed regardless of time or place.
- In addition to anxiety and mental stress, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder often face feelings of embarrassment concerning their condition.
- The mental health concern should be treated as per the doctor’s advice.
8. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition typically triggered by one or more traumatic events in a person’s life, such as war, combat, serious accidents or natural disasters. After experiencing a terrifying event like this, people often relive the ordeal through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, become irritable or startle easily.
They may also feel hopeless or depressed, lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, feel detached from other people, experience trouble concentrating and remembering details or engage in self-destructive behaviours like substance abuse or reckless driving.
“Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental illness. It affects how a person thinks, feels and acts.”
People who have schizophrenia might see things that aren’t there (hallucinations), believe things that aren’t true (delusions) or hear voices that don’t exist (auditory hallucinations). They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are thinking. People with the condition may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking.
Schizophrenia has no cure, but treatments such as medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Mental illness is a complex and nuanced topic. It can be challenging to understand what mental illnesses are, how they differ from one another, and the best ways for people with different disorders to manage their symptoms or maintain wellness. But doing so could save a life or make a living with someone suffering from mental illness easier.
Whether you are experiencing depression yourself or know somebody who has been diagnosed with any mental illness, it’s essential to seek help from professionals.