What is mental illness? Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.
What is mental health?
Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health includes “subjective well-being, perceived self- efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others”.
Statistics related to mental health disorders
The following are the latest statistics available from the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health:
- Mental health disorders account for several of the top causes of disability in established market economies, such as the U.S., worldwide, and include: major depression (also called clinical depression), manic depression (also called bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive
- An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given
- Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. In particular, depressive illnesses tend to co-occur with substance abuse and anxiety
- Approximately 9.5% of American adults ages 18 and over will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each
o Women are nearly suffering depression twice than men. However, men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.
- While major depression can develop at any age, the average age at onset is the mid-20s.
- With bipolar disorder, which affects approximately 2.6% of Americans age 18 and older in a given year — the average age at onset for a first manic episode is during the early
- Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder — most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse
o Four times as many men than women commit suicide. However, women attempt suicide more often than men.
- The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in Caucasian men over age 85. However, suicide is also one of the leading causes of death in adolescents and adults ages 15 to
- Approximately 1% of Americans are affected by
o In most cases, schizophrenia first appears in men during their late teens or early 20s. In women, schizophrenia often first appears during their 20s or early 30s.
- Approximately about 18% of people ages 18- 54 in a given year, have an anxiety disorder in a given year. Anxiety disorders include: panic disorder, obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).
o Panic disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.
- The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence.
- GAD can begin at any time, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle
- Individuals with OCD frequently can have problems with substance abuse or depressive or eating
- Social phobia typically begins in childhood or
What are the causes of mental illness?
There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as
- Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
- Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
- A traumatic brain injury
- A mother’s exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- Having a serious medical condition like cancer
- Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated
- Mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.
Types of mental illness
There are more than 200 classified types of mental illness. Some of the main types of mental illness and disorders are listed below; however, this list is not exhaustive,
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health problems. They include generalized anxiety disorders, social phobias, specific phobias (for example, agoraphobia and claustrophobia), and panic disorders. Depression is often related to anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders are common mental health problems that affect many people. Approximately 25% of the population has an anxiety disorder that warrants treatment at some time in their life and up to another 25% have less severe anxieties such as fears of spider and snakes.
BEHAVIORAL AND EMOTIONAL DISIRDERS IN CHILDREN
All young children can be naughty, defiant and impulsive from time to time, which is perfectly normal. However, some children have extremely difficult and challenging behaviors that are outside the norm for their age.
The most common disruptive behavior disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD); conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
These three behavioral disorders share some common symptoms, so diagnosis can be difficult and time consuming. A child or adolescent may have two disorders at the same time. Other exacerbating factors can include emotional problems, mood disorders, family difficulties and substance abuse
BIPOLAR AFFECTIVE DISORDER
Bipolar affective disorder is a type of mood disorder, previously referred to as ‘manic depression’. A person with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of mania (elation) and depression. The person may or may not experience psychotic symptoms. The exact cause is unknown, but a genetic predisposition has been clearly established.
Environmental stressors can also trigger episodes of this mental illness.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by lowering of mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, and reduced energy. It is not just feeling sad. There are different types and symptoms of depression. There are varying levels of severity and symptoms related to depression. Symptoms of depression can lead to increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors
DISSOCIATION AND DISSOCIATIVE DISORDER
Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. Dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalization disorder and dissociative identity disorder.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. They can affect people of all age groups, genders, backgrounds and cultures. The number of people with eating disorders is increasing. We understand more about eating disorders now than ever before. Yet, many people live with these disorders for a long time without a clinical diagnosis or treatment.
Female adolescents and young women are most commonly diagnosed with an eating disorder. Males and gender diverse people also experience eating disorders, and are often under-diagnosed.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects two to three percent of the population (more than 500,000 Australians). It usually begins in late childhood or early adolescence. People with OCD experience recurrent and persistent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted (obsessions). They also perform repetitive and ritualistic actions that are excessive, time-consuming and distressing (compulsions). People with OCD are usually aware of the irrational and excessive nature of their obsessions and compulsions. However, they feel unable to control their obsessions or resist their compulsions.
Paranoia is the irrational and persistent feeling that people are ‘out to get you’. Paranoia may be a symptom of conditions including paranoid personality disorder, delusional (paranoid) disorder and schizophrenia. Treatment for paranoia includes medications and psychological support.
POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a set of reactions that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event that threatens their life or safety
(or others around them). This could be a car or other serious accident, physical or sexual assault, war-related events or torture, or a natural disaster such as bushfire or flood.
Other life-changing events such as being retrenched, getting divorced, or the death of a family member are very distressing, and may cause mental health problems, but are not considered traumatic events that can cause PTSD.
In the first days and weeks after a traumatic event, people often experience strong feelings of fear, sadness, guilt, anger, or grief. Generally these feelings will resolve on their own, however if the distress continues, it may mean that the person has developed PTSD or another mental health condition.
Anyone can develop PTSD following a traumatic event, but people are at greater risk if:
- the event involved physical or sexual assault
- they have had repeated traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse or living in a war zone
- They have suffered from PTSD in the
Around three per cent of people will experience a psychotic episode at some point in their life. In any given 12-month period, just under one in every 200 adult Australians will experience a psychotic illness.
The period of time where people experience psychotic symptoms is known as an ‘episode’ of psychosis. Some people only experience a few episodes of psychosis, or a brief episode that lasts for a few days or weeks. Others will experience symptoms more frequently, in association with a longer-term illness such as schizophrenia.
The first episode of psychosis usually occurs in a person’s late teens or early 20s.
Schizophrenia is a complex brain disorder, which affects about one in a 100 or between 150,000 and 200,000 Australians. The illness is characterized by disruptions to thinking and emotions, and a distorted perception of reality. It usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood and does not spare any race, culture, class or sex.
About 20 to 30 per cent of people with schizophrenia experience only a few brief episodes. For others, it is a chronic condition. Ten per cent of people with schizophrenia commit suicide.
SUBSTANCE USE DISORDERS
Substance use disorders occur when frequent or repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs causes significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. Substance use problems can be fatal to the user or others. Examples include drunken driving fatalities and drug overdoses.
Mental illnesses and substance use disorders often occur together. Sometimes one disorder can be a contributing factor to or can make the other worse.
Sometimes they simply occur at the same time
Mental Health Promotion and Prevention
Preventing mental illness and promoting good mental health involves actions to create living conditions and environments that support mental health and allow people to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. These include a range of actions to increase the chances of more people experiencing better mental health, such as
- Early childhood interventions (for example, home visits for pregnant women and programs that help young children build social and emotional skills).
- Social support for elderly
- Programs targeted to people affected by disasters or other traumatic
- Mental health interventions at work (for example, stress prevention programs).
- Violence prevention strategies (for example, reducing violence in the community and the home).
· Campaigns to change the culture of mental health so that all of those in need receive the care and support them deserve.