Mental Illness (General)

What is Mental Illness?

Any condition that primary affects the mood, emotions, feelings, or thoughts of a person is considered a mental illness. Most mental illnesses have non-physical causes, but some are triggered by other physical conditions. For example, dementia is a mental illness that can be triggered by a brain tumor or degenerative disorder.

We currently deal with over 200 distinct mental illnesses, each with their own set of symptoms, treatments, and complications. These disorders affect one in four adults and one in five children in North America.

Mental illnesses are subdivided into five main categories

The most common mental condition are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia and schizophrenia.

What are the Symptoms of Mental Illness?

Practically any unwanted behavioral issue, mood change, or thought pattern could be a sign of a mental disorder. However, many of these same signs are completely normal when they’re not disruptive to your life or routine recurring. Multiple illnesses share general symptoms.

Symptoms include

  • Depression, which is considered the loss of interest in life for longer than a few weeks
  • Trouble thinking clearly or following a train of related concepts
  • Overwhelming emotions of any kind, even happiness or focus on work
  • Delusions and paranoia that is not supported by verifiable facts
  • Sudden shifts in daily routines, habits, and patterns
  • Difficulty staying on task, maintaining relationships, or caring for oneself and others
  • Self-withdrawal from social situations
  • Substance abuse and dependency on other sources of pleasure
  • Self-destructive or outwardly aggressive behaviors

How is Mental Illness Treated?

Each treatment plan must be tailored to the type of mental illness, the suspected or confirmed causes, and the patient’s needs and desires. For example, a schizophrenic patient that has a history of self-injury may need a daily sedative and anti-psychotic medications.

Someone with mild depression may only need to exercise more and go through a few weeks of psychotherapy. There are many medications, therapy modalities, thought training programs, and more for a mentally ill patient to try when seeking help for a condition.

Most of the disorders can be managed and treatment can lead to a full recovery or at least help the sufferer to lead a very normal life without major constraints. The biggest obstacle is solely represented by the unfair stigma that sometimes surrounds these conditions that often prevents people from seeking treatment.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017