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Understanding Mental Illness

People can experience a single mental illness over a period of many years. The intensity, type, and duration of its symptoms will obviously differ from person to person. There is nothing constant about them and they do not necessarily follow a regular pattern. This makes it difficult for neurologists to predict when the symptoms will flare-up again, even after treatment and recommendations by professionals. Depending on type of symptoms, mental illnesses are classified into

  1. Mood Disorders
  2. Anxiety Disorders
  3. Schizophrenia

Most of the times, the symptoms of mental illness are controlled via medication and/or psychotherapy. For some people, the symptoms may go into remission; while for others, their mental illness may cause periodic episodes which require treatment. As a result of this, some patients might require no support whatsoever, while some may need occasional support, and others still require more substantial support to maintain their normal productivity.

The most common forms of mental illness are listed below:

#1. Mood Disorders

They are also known as depressive disorders or as affective disorders. These disorders share disturbances or changes in mood, a majority of people with depressive disorders are able to show improvements substantially. Here are its subcategories –

  • Depression – Prolonged state of sadness where a person loses interest or stops taking pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
  • Bipolar disorder – Also called manic-depressive illness. Symptoms include alternating episodes of mania and depression
  • Dysthymia – Continuous cycle of low grade symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Major depression that occurs in the winter or fall season and can be related to the shortened periods of daylight

#2. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most common group of mental illness. Typical symptoms include severe anxiety or fear associated with particular situations, people or objects. A lot of people with anxiety disorders try avoiding exposure to the situation, person or object which causes them such extreme anxiety. Here are its subcategories –

  • Panic disorder – Sudden onset of terror with symptoms closely resembling those of a heart attack
  • Phobias – Excessive fear of particular objects, situations or people/animals.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Persistent obsessions that are manifested through performing repetitive and intentional acts (like cleaning)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Characterized by specific symptoms resulting from exposure to life-threatening trauma like acts of terror, war etc

#3. Schizophrenia

It is still not understood whether schizophrenia is a single disorder or a group of related disorders. There are few generalizations which hold true for people diagnosed with this disorder. In a majority of cases, people develop its symptoms between the ages of 15 and 25. Generally, the disorder is characterized by fragmented as well as an inability to process information.

In some case the symptoms are described as negative, while in other case positive symptoms are seen. Typically, the negative symptoms include withdrawal, social isolation, loss of motivation and the positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorders.

Treatment & Medications

Medications for psychiatric conditions are just one side of an effective treatment. The best possible treatment for these disorders is combination of treatment from mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist, and love from family.

Watch Dr. Samir Parikh talking about Treatment options for Mental Illness


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