What is a Mental Health Disorder?
Mental health disorders are more than just occasionally going through a rough patch or not feeling like oneself. They are persistent and interfere with a person’s thoughts, feelings and moods. These changes can make it difficult to deal with everyday tasks and interact with others. It is estimated that one in five adults is affected by a mental health condition every year.
Mental Health Disorders and Mental Illness
The terms mental health disorder and mental illness are often used interchangeably. They both refer to the same condition. Mental illness encompasses a wide array of conditions from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bipolar disorder, personality disorders and schizophrenia. They all have to do with changes in the brain that affect how people think, feel and act. Through a variety of treatment approaches that may include counseling, therapy, and/or medication, people can learn to cope with their mental health disorders and live healthy, productive lives.
When left untreated, mental illness can take a toll on a person’s life and well-being. It can keep them from reaching their potential and put them in risky situations. Some people turn to substance use as a way of self-medicating and trying to cope with a mental health disorder. In turn they put themselves at risk of developing an addiction. In other cases a person with an addiction may develop a mental health disorder as an effect of their substance use. The two can become intertwined. There are also people who experience mental health disorders on their own without developing an addiction and vice versa.
What are Common Signs of Mental Disorders?
It can be hard to differentiate between signs of mental health disorders and normal responses to stressful events if you are unfamiliar with mental illness. Being aware of common warning signs can help you to be more proactive and get yourself or a loved one professional help. A medical professional can help you to determine whether a mental health disorder is present and what an effective course of action for addressing these symptoms is. Some common signs of mental disorders include:
- Trouble relating to and interacting with others
- Changes in sleeping patterns or appetite
- Extreme changes in mood
Common Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders can manifest in many ways. Although depression and anxiety are two of the most widely recognized conditions, they are not the only ones that exist. Mental illness occurs from a combination of genetics, environment and lifestyle. Everyone experiences these things differently and it can make them more or less susceptible. Even people with the same mental health disorder may feel the impact on their lives and well-being in different ways and with varying levels of severity. Through effective approaches to treatment, however, it is possible for people to manage their symptoms and improve their overall mental health. Common mental health disorders include:
- Anxiety: Anxiety disorders tend to fill people with an overwhelming sense of worry, fear or apprehension. They may become restless and always be thinking something bad is going to happen. Physically it can lead to a racing heart, shortness of breath and upset stomach.
- Depression: Depression involves prolonged feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. It can interfere with sleep, appetite, energy, self-esteem and concentration and make it challenging to complete everyday activities.
- Personality Disorders: Personality disorders typically involve extreme changes in mood or emotion. A person may be impulsive, easily bored, aggressive or feel disconnected from their thoughts. They may feel things in extremes.
- Schizophrenia: People with schizophrenia may hear voices, see things that are not there or have other hallucinations. They may have trouble organizing their thoughts and struggle with delusions in their thinking.
- Substance Abuse & Addiction: Mental health disorders can go hand-in-hand with substance-related disorders. A person may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating to cope with symptoms, or substance use may contribute to mental illness.
Mental Illness and Treatment Challenges
The good news is that effective treatment is available for mental illness. It is possible for people to live happier, healthier lives and understand how to cope with the challenges of mental health disorders and the impact on their daily lives. However, there are many people who do not receive the treatment that they need. They may shy away from admitting that they have a mental health disorder due to lingering stigmas that exist. Some people also may not realize that their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are actually depression and not just a passing phase, or that their feelings of anxiety exceed what others experience.
Reaching out for help and receiving a proper diagnosis can support people in getting beneficial treatment. Through a combination of therapy, education, medication, and social support, they can turn their life around. Therapy allows them to talk through the challenges they face and work on underlying issues. They can identify ways to change their thought patterns and create more positive experiences. Medication can reduce chemical imbalances and help to alleviate symptoms. By participating in education and social support, people can recognize the impact that mental illness has on their life and develop more effective strategies and routines to support recovery.
Together with a mental health provider, people can create a treatment plan that addresses their individual needs and goals. They can figure out what works best for them and how to incorporate positive changes into their life to better manage mental illness. There is not just one treatment for mental health disorders because everyone responds differently.
Mental Health Problems Affect Everyone – Examining Statistics and Facts
Mental health problems affect everyone – they do not discriminate. People of all ages, genders, races, nationalities, socioeconomic classes, and occupations are affected. Even if someone does not have a mental health disorder themselves, they probably know someone who does. Everyone feels the impact in one way or another as millions of people are living with mental illness. According to statistics from the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Around 18.5 percent of adults (or 43.8 million Americans) experience mental illness each year.
- Approximately 4.2 percent of adults (or 10 million Americans) experience serious mental illness each year.
- Only about 41 percent of adults with mental illness and 62.9 percent with serious mental illness received treatment in the past year.
- Half of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24.
Mental illness can take a toll on a person’s everyday life and their ability to do basic activities. It can also increase their risk for substance use disorders or suicidal thoughts. If left untreated, mental health problems can become even more serious and life-altering. Seeking treatment is essential and with the right approaches and care, people can learn to effectively cope with mental illness and lead a more fulfilling life.
Learn More About how to get Help for Co-Occurring Disorders
Co-occurring disorders – the combination of a substance use disorder and mental health disorder – are treatable. With services and support from 1st Step Behavioral Health, you or someone you love can be on your way to long-term recovery. Do not let a co-occurring disorder stand in your way of achieving your goals. Contact us today!