Like cancer and heart disease, mental illness is a medical condition that does not discriminate by age, sex, race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
Mental disorders often strike people when they less expect it, when they are in the prime of their lives and are often associated with other high risk behaviors such as gambling and substance abuse.
Like any other illness, they also vary in degree from mild, moderate and severe. In developed countries, these are the top 10 diagnosed mental disorders:
10. Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders)
I’ve written a previous post on pervasive developmental disorders. They start when children are very young and are often difficult to diagnose. As a matter of fact, I know a parent who has just acknowledged (after much denial) that her 17 year old son has Asperger’s, something he should have been tested for and began treatment for years ago.
To me, schizophrenia is one of the most interesting mental illnesses. I used to enjoy working with schizophrenic patients when I worked in the mental hospital, although I did feel very bad for them.
Imagine being tormented by voices telling you bad things about yourself, thoughts that someone is trying to poison you, or seeing visions of dead bodies everywhere. That’s just some of the things people with schizophrenia I’ve worked with were tortured by.
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person has to have two or more of the following:
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
- Emotional flatness
Contrary to popular believes, most people with schizophrenia are harmless.
8. Bipolar Disorder
Most people with bipolar disorder are diagnosed by age 25, although different things can bring out underlying bipolar symptoms, such as pregnancy.
“Bipolar” is a term loosely used these days, usually to describe someone who seems to have mood swings, although in most cases, people with bipolar disorder don’t change their moods from moment to moment, and if you ever get to meet someone with severe bipolar disorder and they are not on their medication, you will know it and probably never forget it.
I’ve seen grown men swinging from trees and women drop from exhaustion after running ragged for four days straight, partying, sleeping with half a dozen men and charging thousands of dollars on credit cards they can’t afford.
7. Panic Disorder
Sweating, rapid heart beat, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, fear, loss of control, chest pains, tingling, smothering sensation, these are all symptoms of panic disorder.
Panic disorder and panic attacks are common, and can be triggered by certain events such as riding in an elevator, being in a crowd, having to give a speech or being in a place where there is no easy escape (agoraphobia).
1 out of 3 people with agoraphobia become housebound and are basically held hostage in their own homes by their illness.
6. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
OCD is a combination of reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and actions (compulsions) that a person performs because they believe it gives them control. For instance, a person may believe they have to take 50 baths a day or they aren’t clean and they may lose their job, friends and family to this behavior.
PTSD occurs after a person experiences a terrifying even in which they face great bodily harm, death, fear or helplessness. They may then have reoccurring thoughts, nightmares, heighten fear and avoidance behaviors. Many rape victims and soldiers coming back from war experience PTSD, but so do people who have been robbed, beaten or in a car accident.
GAD is basically when someone has anxiety, stress and worry for at least 6 months period for no specific reason. Some of these people are considered “worry worts” in layman terms, but their anxiety can cause them to have a host of physical systems and a decreased quality of life.
Phobias are related to anxiety disorders and there is almost a phobia for everything although social phobia is one of the more common phobias.
In social phobia, everyday situations causes the person to become self-conscious and nervous, often leading to physical responses such as sweating which then causes the person to become even more self-conscious and nervous.
Children with social phobia often go through great lengths to avoid going to school and once at school may either be super anti-social or go to extremes to avoid other students by skipping, or staying in the clinic and feigning and illness.
A person can pretty much have a phobia of anything. Check out http://www.phobalist.com
4. Attention Deficit/Hyper Activity Disorder
This is another one I’ve written about previously. ADHD is very common and most children learn to manage their illness or outgrow it altogether, but some will have ADHD throughout their adult life.
3. Eating Disorders
Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating are common illnesses, usually affecting females.
People suffering from anorexia, when a person looks in the mirror, no matter how thin they are, all they see is a fat person. They then go through great lengths to restrict their food and burn calories until often they are on the verge of starving themselves to death, and sadly many do just that.
People suffering from bulimia are often of normal body weight, but binge on large quantities of food, then feel guilty about it and then may try to vomit it back up, exercise obsessively, or use laxatives to try to get rid of the food and calories.
People who suffer from binge-eating are caught in a vicious cycle of over-eating, feeling guilty about the over-eating, and then over-eating to try to self-soothe themselves, which all of course leads to weight gain and shame.
2. Personality Disorders
All humans have personality traits, most which are relatively fluid, based on our culture, upbringing and experiences. Many of us even have some traits of personality disorders, but people with true personality disorders have traits that are so rigid that they impair their ability to function and get along with people in their everyday life.
Some of the most common personality disorders diagnosed include:
- Antisocial personality disorder– these people don’t follow rules of society, often care little about other people unless they can use them for their own gain, they can’t empathize or feel sorry for people, they generally show no remorse. They often have criminal behavior.
- Avoidant personality disorder– these people are anxious, usually over-controlled and fear criticism, making them hesitant to become involved with other people. There for, they tend to avoid people as much as possible.
- Borderline personality disorder– these people are generally impulsive, unstable, suicidal at times, fear abandonment while at the same time they tend to push people away from them, resulting in tense, unstable relationships.
1. Mood Disorders
Mood disorders are the number one most diagnosed mental illness in developing countries and something that nearly everyone can relate to in one form or another.
Mood disorders are sustained emotions that go beyond the usual, normal feelings of sadness, to deeper feelings such as dysthymic disorder and major depression.