A mental illness is a disorder that affects moods, thinking, and behavior and requires management through treatment and/or therapy. A mental illness can come from abuse, trauma, brain chemistry, continuous exposure to stress, and/or a family history of mental illness. It can occur from time to time or be chronic – something you have to live with.

A mental illness does not suggest that one is “crazy” or that there’s something wrong with them. It’s not one’s doing or wish to have a mental illness – life happens and just like any other disease, mental illnesses are manageable. They are more common than you’d think:

  • 1 in 5 U.S adults experience a mental illness each year
  • 1 in 20 U.S adults experience a serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S youth aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health illness each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by 14, and 75% by age 24

 

Mental Illnesses Are Not Adjectives

To end the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, we must start by not taking them for granted or treating them jokingly. Behind our everyday common use of mental illnesses as parts of speech, lies people who are actually struggling to manage and get by because they’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Still don’t know what I mean? Have you heard anyone say the following?

  • You are acting so psycho/schizo
  • I am so OCD – I keep everything neat
  • You look so anorexic
  • This movie is so depressing
  • I swear I feel so retarded
  • She’s acting so mental right now
  • You’re behaving so bipolar
  • I’m going to kill myself if this doesn’t work out
  • I am so ADHD today – I can’t seem to focus on anything
  • You almost gave me a panic attack

 

These are just some of the phrases people use to describe people or situations and it’s often in a negative light. This in turn propels the stigma and makes us treat mental illnesses as a bad thing or not take them as seriously as we should. In the same breath;

  • Depression is more than just sadness
  • Anxiety is more than worrying
  • OCD is more than being tidy
  • PTSD is more than just flashbacks
  • Bipolar is more than just mood swings
  • Eating disorders are more than just being underweight
  • Borderline personality disorders are more than just instability
  • Addiction is more than just a choice
  • Schizophrenia is more than just seeing things.

 

So, what exactly are these mental illnesses? This list is curated from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) handbook that is used by American clinicians and psychiatrists. It’s published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Mental illnesses are so many, we can’t cover them all in one blog post. However, we will go through some of the commonly misunderstood ones. The following is for knowledge purposes only, kindly don’t diagnose yourself or someone else.

 

  1. Anxiety Disorders – people with anxiety disorders experience extreme and continuous fear and worry in response to perceived or real threats. They anticipate that there’s a threat that may arise in the future.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – the excessive worry of everyday occurrences. This isn’t mere nerves but an abundance of it that interferes with how someone functions.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – an irrational fear of social situations and interactions. One fears that they are being judged or watched.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – this is the extreme fear of being separated from caregivers, loved ones, or attachment figures.
  • Panic disorder – this is characterized by sudden panic attacks that can make one develop anxiety and fear of the attacks reoccurring out of the blues.

 

  1. Depressive disorders – these disorders are characterized by changes in mood and lingering feelings of sadness, emptiness, irritability which may come with physical and mental symptoms of pain.
  • Major depressive disorder – can be identified by a disinterest in activities and a depressed mood.
  • Persistent depressive disorder – ongoing and chronic depression for a long time.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – begins a week or two before menstruation and is characterized by anxiety, depressive mood, and irritability.
  • Substance depressive disorder – caused by excessive use of alcohol or drugs or withdrawal from them.
  • Medical depressive disorder – identified in people with a history of chronic illnesses like cancer, stroke, diabetes, etc.

 

  1. Personality Disorder – when someone has a personality disorder, they act, behave or think in rigid and unhealthy ways that are considered out of the normal way of functioning.
  • Avoidant personality disorder – extreme shyness and reservedness from socialization and sensitivity to rejection. Avoids others because they fear they won’t be liked or accepted.
  • Antisocial personality disorder – nonconformity to rules, social norms, and other people’s rights. People like this lack empathy, deceive others, and are destructive.
  • Borderline personality disorder – characterized by emotional instability, intense emotions, impulsive behavior, and poor self-image.
  • Dependent personality disorder – a lingering need and pattern of dependency and needing to be taken care of. Feels like they can’t take care of themselves.
  • Histrionic personality disorder – excessive need to be the center of attention and will do anything to seek attention even if it’s unhealthy. Have extreme emotions.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – an inflated sense of self and entitlement, extreme self-centeredness, and a lack of empathy for others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder – an excessive fixation with control, details, schedules, orderliness, perfection. This is not to be confused with (OCD) obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Paranoid personality disorder – overly suspicious of others even if they’re family or friends. Assume that others will hurt or deceive them even when there’s no evidence of it.
  • Schizoid personality disorder – complete detachment from social relationships and disinterest to cultivate them. Chooses to be alone and can be judged as dismissive or cold.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder – an extreme strangeness in appearance, thought, behavior, and speech or “magical thinking” which makes it difficult to form normal relationships.

 

Other common mental illnesses

  1. Bipolar Disorder – involves dramatic shifts in moods, energy levels, and attention. One goes from extreme happiness to extreme bouts of depression.
  2. Schizophrenia – characterized by the abnormal interpretation of reality and has delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, confused thinking, and a distorted way of expression.
  3. Obsessive-compulsive disorder – characterized by excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). The obsessions lead to stress or anxiety and to cope with them, one engages in compulsions like the need to arrange things in order or clean.
  4. Insomnia disorder – a chronic inability to fall asleep or have undisturbed sleep which results in distress and disrupts normal functioning. Not to be confused with a mere lack of sleep.
  5. Eating disorders – involve compulsive concerns with gaining or losing weight in a way that results in poor physical and mental health.
  6. Dissociative identity disorder – characterized by the presence of two or more distinctive personalities/identities in one person.
  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder – extreme stress and anxiety from exposure to a traumatic event/experience like an accident. One feels like they’re reliving the experience.
  8. Autism spectrum disorder – characterized by continuous shortfalls in communication and social interactions in different areas of life as well as limited and persistent patterns of behaviors.
  9. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – chronic attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness that interferes with normal functioning.

 

The explanations are meant to give you an idea of the different types of mental illnesses but only a mental health professional should give you a diagnosis. However, if you suspect to have any mental illness, the best thing would be to reach out to us for a consultation and the way forward.

 

Mental illnesses are manageable – don’t condemn yourself or anyone to an unfair fate and isolation. Lifting the veil of shame and stigma in mental health begins with us understanding that mental illnesses are not synonymous with “crazy” or “psycho”. They are just like any other physical ailments and they deserve the same attention and care. It starts with you.