A mental illness/disorder is recognized as a pattern of behavior or cognition that interferes with one's ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Signs and symptoms vary between each disorder and can often overlap, making it difficult to treat and/or diagnose. Mental disorders can vary greatly between each person; two people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder can display very different symptoms and behaviors while still having the same disorder.
The cause of mental disorders in general is very complex, not well understood, and can differ considerably based on the person and disorder in question. One's psychological profile, environment, upbringing, and genetic predispositions and/or weaknesses can all play a part in the development or progression of a mental illness. Oftentimes it is a combination of these factors, rather than a single one, that causes or progresses a disorder. It's possible to develop a mental disorder without being predisposed to it because the environment you live or grew up in was/is negative and non-supportive, and conversely it's possible to be predisposed to a disorder and never develop it because of a positive upbringing and/or lifestyle.
Based on the National Survey of Drug Use And Health conducted in 2013, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that there were an estimated 43.8 million U.S. residents above age 18 that had a mental illness. This means approximately 18.5% of all U.S. adults had a mental disorder as of 2013. Co-Occurring disorders, where one has multiple mental disorders (including substance addiction), are also common. Furthermore, more than half of all adults that suffer from a mental illness also suffer from alcohol and/or drug addictions, as those with mental disorders are generally more prone to addiction than those without mental disorders. Those with mental illnesses are at higher risk of suicide than the general population, are more prone to physical health conditions, and more often than not have trouble simply living their daily lives.
Due to the prevalence and severity of mental disorders it is important to have a basic understanding of this topic in order to better assist those who have them; there's a high chance that you will meet and associate with many people that are affected within your lifetime, and without one's mind all other endeavors are futile.
Types of Mental Disorders
Here is a list of common mental disorders and their basic descriptions. The names, features, symptoms, and treatments of a disorder may differ depending on which accepted classification and diagnostic tool you are referring to.
The two most widely accepted and used are:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), used in the United States and published by the American Psychiatric Association
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), published by the World Health Organization and used in many countries across the world.
The fifth edition of the DSM (DSM-5) was used to compile this list and was published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association. Not every disorder included in the DSM-5 is listed here. If you believe you have multiple symptoms of any disorder on this list you should contact a medical professional for either a proper diagnosis or a referral to a specialist who can properly evaluate you. A self-diagnosis of any mental disorder is often incorrect and unsafe to go by, and most mental disorders cannot be properly treated without professional assistance.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a relatively common Anxiety Disorder, causing long-lasting feelings of anxiety that are not caused by specific events or situations. Someone suffering from GAD feels consistent, non-specific fear and worry, often about day-to-day activities or actions. The diagnostic criteria is as follows: Restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. The individual in question must experience three or more of these symptoms for a period of six months or longer, and these symptoms cannot be the result of another mental illness or physical health condition (including drug addiction). These symptoms must also cause impairment in social, occupational, or daily functioning. A combination of therapy and medication is the most effective treatment for this disorder and is often successful.
- Panic Disorder
- Panic Disorder causes individuals to frequently experience intense panic attacks which cause extreme anxiety, intense feelings of fear and/or impending death, and significant behavioral changes; various physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, dizziness, shaking, and tense muscles are also common. These panic attacks are impossible to predict, causing some individuals to get anxious about when the next attack will occur and thus causing further anxiety. These panic attacks range in duration from minutes to hours. Some panic attacks can be so intense that the affected individual will seek emergency medical assistance, believing a heart attack or similar life-threatening event is occurring. Someone suffering a panic attack typically has an intense desire to escape the situation that caused the panic attack. A diagnosis of this disorder requires frequent, unexpected panic attacks to occur that cause at least one month of significant behavioral changes. A diagnosis also requires that drug addiction and other mental illnesses or health conditions be ruled out as a cause of the panic attacks. Treatment usually involves therapy and medication and is often successful at managing symptoms.
- Bipolar Disorder
- This disorder causes the affected to experience mood swings, ranging from intense depression to highly elevated moods. These mood swings can occur very rapidly or relatively infrequently. During the manic phase of the disorder (when the patient feels unnaturally happy and energetic) they can be impulsive, engaging in risky behavior and making decisions that negatively affect them and those around them. The consequences of these actions are seldom considered and they may be prone to extreme anger. The depressive phase can cause intense lack of motivation, reduced contact with others, and a bleak outlook on life. The risk of suicide in those with bipolar disorder is about 6% and the risk of self harm ranges from 30-40%. Anxiety disorders and substance abuse are also quite common. Medication is the most effective treatment, and when coupled with therapy symptoms can be managed sufficiently.
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Someone who has this disorder will consistently experience feelings of low self-worth, low mood, and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure). This condition is extremely disabling, affecting one's ability to work, concentrate, do daily activities, and maintain social relationships. About 3.4% of people diagnosed with this disorder commit suicide. Medication has varying levels of effectiveness depending on the medication used and the intensity of the disorder; it's not uncommon for one to have to take several different medications before one of them does anything. This makes treatment a very long process, as the medications that are typically prescribed take about a month for any positive effects to be noticed. Furthermore, if one medication ends up not working or has too many side effects, the patient cannot stop taking the medication suddenly or more side effects will occur. Therapy is often done in conjunction with medication and this combination can be quite effective at managing symptoms.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
- Caused by major psychological stress such as sexual assault, rape, war, intense shock, and life-threatening events, this disorder causes recurring flashbacks about the event that caused it. Other symptoms include hyperarousal, memory loss (of the event), and intense anxiety or fear when in situations or seeing things that are similar to the event that caused the disorder. Most people who experience traumatic events will not develop PTSD; PTSD most often occurs when the individual in question experienced a physical attack on themselves. PTSD is common in war veterans. Medication has limited effectiveness at managing symptoms, and the best treatment option is therapy.
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- People with this disorder have intense fears in one or more social situations. These fears can cause impairment in daily life, and can be caused by perceived or actual criticism from others. Panic attacks can occur, and some symptoms include sweating, stammering, nausea, trembling, increased heart rate, and blushing. Some patients may use drugs to ease their fears, which in some cases can lead to substance abuse. The best treatment for this disorder is therapy, but medication may be given to provide relief from anxiety.
- Schizophrenia causes the affected to have a distorted perception of reality. They may or may not have auditory and/or visual hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing people that do not exist. Symptoms can include abnormal social behaviors, hallucinations, lack of motivation, and delusional or confused thinking. Recreational drugs can cause or worsen symptoms in vulnerable individuals; someone who is vulnerable to developing schizophrenia due to genetic or environmental factors should not partake in psychoactive drug use, due to increased risk of developing the disorder or worsening already existing symptoms. People with this disorder are very likely to also have other disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Substance abuse is very common with this disorder, with numbers as high as 50% being suggested. Long-term unemployment and homelessness are also common. The average life expectancy of people with this disorder is 10-25 years shorter than normal, due to increased health issues and a higher rate of suicide. Some symptoms can be treated easily with medication while others are better treated with therapy.
Personality Disorders are a specific class of mental disorders that feature life-long maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience that greatly differ from those accepted by one's culture. These patterns develop at an early age and can cause great difficulty with impulse control, interpersonal relationships, emotiveness, and cognition.
These patterns and behaviors are ego-syntonic, meaning they're directly tied to the needs and goals of the individual's ego and self-image. Because of this an affected individual will often deny they have a problem, view their behaviors and desires as normal, and refuse to seek assistance. For these reasons personality disorders are incredibly difficult to diagnose and treat; in some cases diagnosis and treatment is simply not possible or practical. Patients often seek help for various side effects of these disorders, such as depression and anxiety, rather than the disorder itself. A personality disorder will typically stay with the patient for life and cannot be "cured".
Personality disorders are grouped into "clusters" and are listed as follows.
- Please note that each personality disorder includes several subtypes of that disorder, each having slightly different symptoms and behaviors yet still being the same disorder (Example: Languid, Remote, Depersonalized, or Affectless Schizoid Personality Disorder). None of these subtypes are discussed or mentioned to keep things simple. Refer to either the DSM-5 or the ICD-10 for detailed information on the subtypes of a specific disorder.
- Cluster A: Odd Disorders
- Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
- Someone with this disorder is often suspicious and mistrustful of others, including family members. Interpreting others' actions as hostile and destructive, they have a lowered capacity for meaningful emotional involvement with others. They are frequently hypersensitive and relate to the world through obsessive observation of their environment for clues or suggestions that validate their often biased suspicions, ignoring evidence that suggests otherwise. Like most people with cluster A disorders, patients with PPD often live solitary lifestyles. Therapy and medication can be helpful in managing symptoms but can be very difficult; explanations about their behavior and suggested changes are usually dismissed by the patient and being too forceful or suggestive may cause the patient to cease treatment entirely.
- Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD)
- Those with Schizoid Personality Disorder have no desire or need to form or maintain social relationships (family members included), tend to live very solitary lifestyles, are emotionally cold or aloof, and are often very detached, secretive, and apathetic. Some schizoids may have incredibly vivid, elaborate internal fantasy worlds where all desires and needs are met and where all their objects of affection exist; this is a defense mechanism of sorts, not a psychotic symptom or delusion. Their communication with others is often terse and indifferent and most remain passive when presented with unfavorable situations.
- Those with SPD can form relationships based on common interests, work, hobbies, ect, although they usually still remain quite distant and emotionally unavailable. Therapy is often difficult due to the schizoid's lack of willingness to speak about deeply personal matters and their difficulty in expressing how they feel. Most are not bothered by their symptoms and thus do not seek treatment, despite whatever effects their disorder may have on others. The usefulness of medication is limited.
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder (STPD)
- People with STPD are perceived as very odd by others. They often have strange speech mannerisms, behaviors, and fashion choices. In rare cases, STPD is a precursor to Schizophrenia. Diagnostic criteria includes hallucinations, ideas of reference, paranoia, strange thinking or speech, lack of close friends, and excessive social anxiety. These symptoms must not be caused by other, similar disorders such as Schizophrenia or autistic spectrum disorders, and drug use must be ruled out as a cause for said symptoms.
- Those with STPD are at high risk of developing permanent psychosis when using certain drugs frequently, particularly methamphetamine. STPD is considered to be easy to diagnose when compared with other personality disorders but is often equally difficult to treat.
- Cluster B: Dramatic/erratic disorders
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)
- This disorder includes what most refer to as sociopathy or psychopathy; the accepted name for these conditions in the medical world, as defined by the DSM and ICD, is ASPD. People with this disorder exhibit a pattern of indifference to the rights and feelings of others and often come across as very charming and social to others. There is often a lack of moral values and conscience as well as a history of criminal activity and impulsive behavior. Diagnostic requirements include failure to respect or comply with social norms, irritability, frequent lying and deception, disregard for the safety of themselves or others, lack of remorse, and consistent irresponsible behavior. This disorder is considered one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat; patients may be dishonest and fake progress without fully committing to treatment and most medications are not useful.
- 'Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)'
- Those with BPD are prone to extreme emotional outbursts, conflict with others, impulsive behavior, and are emotionally unstable. A person with BPD usually has unstable relationships with others and poor self-image. Other symptoms can include extreme fear of abandonment (leading to said impulsive behavior), violent anger, depression, anxiety, and irritability. The reasons for their impulsive behavior, fears, and anger are rarely understood by others. Self harm, suicidal behavior, and drug abuse are common. People with this disorder feel emotions more easily, with more intensity, and for a longer period of time than others do. They are more vulnerable to rejection and negative criticism. Medications are not recommended due to many of them not sufficiently treating symptoms. Therapy is usually the best course of action when it comes to treating BPD.
- Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD)
- Patients with this disorder are often shallow and dramatic, seeking the attention of others to an extreme level. They have a very high need for attention and often exaggerate their behaviors and emotions. Sexually provocative and flirty behavior is common and someone with HPD is easily influenced. They may be manipulative in order to satisfy their need for attention. This disorder is four times more common in woman than in men. Unlike most with personality disorders, they are often high-functioning and have excellent social skills. Diagnostic criteria includes frustration with not being the center of attention, shallow emotions, exaggerated expression of emotions, reliance on physical appearance to draw attention to self, and a suggestible nature. Therapy is the most effective treatment, with most medication being useless.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- This disorder causes the affected to be excessively preoccupied with themselves. It's a severe form of ego-centrism, and patients with this disorder are not usually able to see the issues their attitude causes for themselves and others. Diagnosis requirements include unreasonable personal goals and standards, impaired ability to empathize with others due to focus on self, and attention-seeking behavior. Drug abuse and other illnesses must be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made.
- Cluster C Disorders: Anxious Disorders
- Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD)
- People with this disorder are often very socially isolated, sensitive to criticism, experience intense feelings of inadequacy, and usually avoid social interaction. Patients are usually isolated to a similar extent of those with SPD; however, avoidants avoid social interaction because of intense anxiety and a fear of ridicule or humiliation, while those with SPD avoid it because they simply do not desire it. Diagnosis criteria includes persistent feelings of apprehension in social settings, beliefs of being inferior to others, extreme fear of being rejected in social settings, and hypersensitivity to criticism. Group therapy (for practicing social skills) and medication can be useful, but there is a high risk of the patient ceasing therapy if they do not trust the therapist or feel they will be rejected.
- Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)
- Someone with this disorder has an unhealthy, persistent dependence on others to meet their emotional and physical needs. Diagnostic criteria includes encouraging others to make important decisions, ignoring one's own needs to meet the needs of the one they're dependent on, not willing to make demands or ask something of the one they're dependent on, intense fears of abandonment, and a diminished capacity to make everyday decisions without large amounts of input from others. Medication is not useful in treatment, leaving therapy the only option.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD)
- People with OCPD are overly concerned with keeping things orderly and perfect and have an unhealthy attention to detail and a high need for control over their environment. Compulsive rituals are performed at the expense of personal relationships and common, everyday activities. It's not uncommon for patients to plan things down to the very minute and get agitated when unexpected events occur. This disorder is distinctly different from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is a mental disorder; people with OCD are often aware that their behaviors are unhealthy and usually don't want to engage in them, yet people with OCPD view their behaviors as completely rational and acceptable. OCPD is also quite similar to Asperger's syndrome. Medication may be used in treatment and therapy is often effective.
Further Information and getting help
- The information presented here is obviously not all the information available on mental and personality disorders. For more detailed, in-depth explanations of any of these disorders, their symptoms, treatment options, causes, ect ect, it is recommended that you refer to either the DSM or the ICD, which are the most widely used diagnostic tools for mental illness.
The most recent revision of the ICD, ICD-10, can be found here in PDF formant: http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/en/bluebook.pdf
The most recent revision of the DSM, DSM-5, can be found here in PDF format: http://www.terapiacognitiva.eu/dwl/dsm5/DSM-5.pdf
If you believe that you have a mental or personality disorder it is strongly recommended that you seek professional help. Be aware that a self-diagnosis is often incorrect and it is not safe to assume that it is correct. There are many resources available that can help you, and free mental health services are available in every state in the United States to those that cannot afford it. Here are some links to get you started.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 (800) 273-8255