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

Mental Illness Causes

Mental illness is seldom, if ever, caused by a single factor. Mental illness is heritable. However, it is important to understand that people do not quite inherit the condition; rather, they inherit the genes that increase their susceptibility to mental illness. Mental illness is not a trait, thus it cannot be passed from parent to child. However, as already mentioned, the genes that have the potential to trigger mental illness can be passed from parent to child, making mental illness genetic.

Mental illness can also be caused by the brain itself. The brain’s structure and neurochemistry, the neurochemicals and other elements in it, can make it susceptible to the development of mental illness. Traumatic injuries to the brain too can cause mental illness.

Environmental factors, the world in which you live and function, can also cause mental illness. Environmental factors responsible for mental illness fall into a broad category and are always external to the individual. Some of these environmental factors include chronic stressors like social struggles, poverty, exposure to toxins, especially during the developmental stages of life, family and relationship problems and lifestyle choices like prolonged substance abuse.

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.

Mental Illness Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut way to prevent mental illness. However, taking certain steps can help you take control of your life, increase your resilience, boost your self-esteem and prevent mental illness. One of these steps involves looking out for potential warning signs. Working with your therapist or doctor can help you learn and address mental illness triggers. Consider involving family and close friends when watching out for mental health warning signs.

You can also prevent mental illness by taking good care of yourself. This involves getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, and healthy eating. Taking good care of yourself also means giving up alcohol and hard drugs.

Stress is bad for your mental and physical well-being. Therefore, as part of your mental illness prevention strategy, be sure to do all you can to manage your stress levels. Nurture good relationships and take time out to relax and have fun with family and friends.