“Mental illness” is the general term given to various kinds of mental disorders that affect the thinking and behavior of a person. It can be anything ranging from mild anxiety to most severe forms of schizophrenia. Some types of mental illness can seriously affect the quality of your life disturbing your relationships in office and in your family. Any medical condition that affects the normal functioning of thinking and feeling interrupting the daily activities can be called as mental illness. A mental illness can make life miserable by causing problems and affecting relationships at office or family.
Some of the common mental illness is bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder, major depression, panic disorder and anxiety disorder. It is possible to cure all illnesses with continued medications or psychotherapy.
What exactly causes mental illness is still a mystery. Certain conditions or combination of factors can produce such illness according to the opinion of medical experts. Genetics play a role in causing mental illness because certain types of disorders run in families and passed on from parents to their offspring. Genes are the fundamental units that decide how you think and act in a given situation.
Biological factors like abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters can affect the normal thinking of a person causing mental illness. Neurotransmitters act as communication receptors of the brain sending and receiving signals. Any change or chemical reactions in the neurotransmitters can affect normal thinking pattern. Psychological factors like child abuse, emotional trauma or sudden loss/death can affect the brain causing mental illness.
Symptoms of mental illness are not the same for all disorders. It varies considerably according to the nature and intensity of the disorder. For example depression can produce sadness, anxiety disorder can produce restlessness and excessive fears, borderline personality disorder can impair the normal thinking causing poor concentration and confused thinking, avoidant personality disorder can produce social phobia and anxiety, eating disorder can produce major changes in one’s eating habits etc.
Some of the common symptoms of mental illness include extreme mood swings, excess of fear/worries, guilt feelings, withdrawal from family/friends, confused thinking, change in behavior, detachment from reality, hypersensitivity, loss of sleep and extreme tiredness. In many cases mental illness can cause physiological changes causing headache, back pain and unexplained pain on many parts of the body.
When to see a doctor?
Any feeling or behavior affecting normal functioning of life can be mental illness. Mental illness can become worse if not treated on time. Most of the personality disorder and other illnesses can be treated by effective psychotherapy. Some people can develop suicidal thoughts due to major depression. Nonverbal communication and body language can reveal their intention of committing suicide. In such cases it is necessary to consult your doctor immediately.
Who are at risk?
Any person can develop mental illness. But there are certain factors which make you prone to mental illness. Having parents or close relatives with schizophrenia or other disorder, exposure of fetus to drug abuse or excess of alcohol in the womb, experiencing traumatic childhood, getting neglected as a child, serious injury on the brain and having chronic physical illness like cancer/AIDS etc. makes one prone to develop mental illness.
Your doctor may get complete medical history and order for few lab tests including blood profile, hormone tests etc. He may refer you to mental health provider for evaluating the nature of disorder. Psychologists or therapists would ask you series of questions and determine about your state of mind by the way in which you are answering them.
- Mental illnesses are of many types with varying intensity.
- Mood disorders are one that affect your thinking, behavior and emotions like major depression, bipolar disorder etc.
- Anxiety disorders are one that causes frequent worries, fears and uncomfortable feeling like panic disorder, OCD and phobias.
- Disorder caused by substance/drug/alcohol abuse.
- Psychotic disorders are one that causes delusions and hallucination affecting daily activity of a person. Example: schizophrenia that makes one to lose touch with reality.
- Cognitive disorder that affects one’s reasoning ability and thinking like dementia and delirium and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Developmental disorders (autism/ADHD), personality disorders (paranoid personality, avoidant personality) and other disorders can also seriously affect one’s quality of life.
Psychiatrist or psychologist will examine the concerned person and check the severity of the illness. Treatment methods vary according to the nature of disease and intensity of the mental illness. Often, combination of medications and psychotherapy is effective in treating many disorders.
Medications are given depending on the symptoms of the patient. Antidepressant drugs are given for treating symptoms of hopelessness, helplessness and lack of interest. Mood stabilizing drugs are given for bipolar disorder, anxiety medications are useful for giving relief from irrational fear and anxiety and antipsychotic drugs are given for controlling more serious forms of mental illness like schizophrenia.
Most of the mental illness responds well to psychotherapy. A therapist will make you talk freely about your inner feelings giving let-out for the pent up feelings to explore problems in inner mind. The therapist will establish rapport with the client making him/her comfortable so that he can ventilate the feelings without any inhibition. She would use total relaxation technique and psychoanalysis to explore your inner state of mind. Slowly the client will be able to overcome the stress and learn the ways to cope up with the problem. Even serious types of mental illness like phobias and anxiety can be treated by psychotherapy.
For some people doctor would use brain stimulation methods like electroconvulsive therapy and magnetic stimulation methods. For more severe cases, the patient will be hospitalized requiring residential treatment. To recover from alcohol or substance abuse, combined treatments of medications and psychotherapy is given.
Lifestyle Changes :
It is difficult to accept that you have some problem. But you can get well soon if you cooperate with your family/friends to overcome the issue. Follow the instructions of your doctor/therapist and stick on to the treatment schedule. Do exercises regularly and eat healthy foods. Go for a walk or join a gym to stay healthy and active. Don’t stop any medication without consulting your doctor. If you are not able to make important decisions get help from your family or friends. Be optimistic in approach and try to accept changes.
Nobody can prevent mental illness. It is not certain that mental illness develops only on weak-minded person and not on others. Some changes in chemical reaction on the brain can cause significant changes in your thinking and behavior. Don’t ignore warning signals if you suspect any symptoms. Talk to your therapist freely and get medical checkups done regularly.