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Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses can take many forms, just like physical illnesses. Mental illnesses are still feared and misunderstood by many people, but the fear will disappear as people learn more about them. If you, or someone you know, has a mental illness, there is good news: all mental illnesses can be treated.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are extremely common and can affect anyone, be it adults or children. Unlike general bouts of anxiety once in a while, anxiety disorders are marked by extended periods of anxiety generally six months or more

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A person with generalized anxiety disorder has constant, excessive and irrational worry about anything be it family matters, money, relationships or work troubles. Fatigue, recurrent headaches, muscle aches, numbness of hands and feet, rashes, hot flashes and inability to control the anxiety are some of the common symptoms of this mental disorder

Panic Disorder: A type of anxiety disorder that affects both adults and children, panic disorders lead to several, recurrent panic attacks. Most of these attacks are sudden and are triggered off without any warning. Common symptoms include intense anxiety, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, trembling and a feeling of intense, uncontrollable fear.

Specific Phobia: Derived from the Greek word Phobos, phobia is a feeling of intense fear of a specific thing that may or may not pose a danger to the person suffering from the fear. Proximity to the phobic stimulus can trigger off this irrational fear. Fear of spiders (arachnophobia), flying (aviophobia) and fear of dogs (Cynophobia) are some examples of specific phobias.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder wherein a person feels extremely self-conscious and anxious in a social situation. He or she may start blushing, trembling, sweating profusely or have difficulty in conversing with people.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Repeated and often unwanted feelings, ideas or obsessions can be caused by obsessive compulsive disorder. The repetitive obsession of some distressing thought or image and the compulsion to do a specific act, can leave the person anxious and tired all the time. Some examples of obsessive compulsive behavior include repeated washing off hands to remove infection-carrying germs or checking and rechecking certain things like locking the door or switching off lights.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A traumatic experience like a natural disaster, hostage situations, abuse, bullying and rape can lead to post traumatic stress disorder. The person suffers from depression, anxiety and anger. Repeated flashbacks of the traumatic event can further increase the distress.

Eating Disorders

Defined as either excessive or extremely restrictive food intake, eating disorders can severely harm a person’s health. The preoccupation with food and health is so much that a person has little time to think of anything else.

Anorexia Nervosa: Characterized by an irrational fear of putting on weight and a severely restricted diet, anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder among many young men and women. These food restrictions lead to severe weight loss and other metabolic and hormonal changes. The person often has a negative self image, exercises too much and is always preoccupied with food. Constipation, menstrual irregularities, pain in abdomen, low blood pressure and dehydration are some of the common signs of this disorder. Extreme cases of anorexia can lead to multi-organ failure and brain damage.

Bulimia Nervosa: Frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food followed by feeling of guilt and compensatory behavior like forced vomiting and excessive exercising is known as bulimia nervosa. Common symptoms of this disorder include swollen glands, inflamed throat, acid reflux, severe dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance.

Binge Eating: Binge eating disorder is when a person loses control over their eating. Obesity along with related diseases like cardiovascular problems are some of the common effects of binge eating. After consuming the excess food, feelings of guilt and depression follow. This can be accompanied by even more eating.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are some of the most common types of mental disorders affecting people around the world. These disorders signify a major change in a person’s mood. Among them, depression and bipolar disorder are two emotionally crippling mental illnesses that can severely affect a person’s life whereas dysthymic disorder and cyclothymic disorder are some moderate forms of mood disorders.

Major Depression: Also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, major depression is a mood disorder wherein a person suffers from extremely low self-esteem and lack of interest. It can affect a person’s day-to-day life. The feelings of hopelessness, lack of self worth, inappropriate amount of guilt and obsessive thoughts are some of the symptoms of this disorder. In severe cases the person may suffer from insomnia, memory loss, delusions and thoughts of suicide.

Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder is often referred to as manic depression or manic depressive illness. A person with bipolar disorder can suffer from frequent mood swings. A frenzied state of mania wherein a person appears energetic and excited is often followed by a state of depression. When the person has a manic episode he or she may feel extremely happy or be in an irritable and jumpy mood. They may talk fast, be easily distracted and jump from one idea to another. This is contrasted with depressive episode when there is a long periods of “feeling low” along with fatigue, inability to concentrate and change in habits. The person may have constant thoughts of suicide.

Dysthymic Disorder: Dysthymia is a persistent mood depression which is not severe enough to be classified under major depression. In this condition a person is hounded with a depressive feeling for more than two years and often has symptoms like poor appetite, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating and insomnia.

Cyclothymic Disorder: A milder form of the severe bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder also results in mild forms of mania and depression phases. Some of the common symptoms of cyclothymic disorder is alternate periods of euphoria and depression over a period of two years with less than two symptom free months. The periods of depression usually tends to extend more than the mania phase.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Referred to as winter blues or summer blues , seasonal affective disorder is a type of mood disorder wherein people experience changes in the mood with weather changes.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders affect people who deviate from the set of distinctive behavioral and mental traits that are defined by our society. This can cause serious relationships and work related problems. There are around ten personality disorders which are divided into three clusters as listed by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These include:

Cluster A (Odd)

Paranoid Personality Disorder: A general mistrust of others along with suspicious thinking, paranoia and constantly looking for threats of danger are all signs of paranoid personality disorder.

Schizoid Personality Disorder: A person with schizod personality disorder avoids and is often indifferent to others. He or she may show a complete lack of interest in social relationships or is unable to express emotionally.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Some of the common symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include eccentric behavior in terms of dressing styles, odd beliefs in magic and supernatural, social withdrawal, paranoid thinking and suspicious thinking. The person with this disorder will have excessive social anxiety and be lacking in any close friends and confidantes.

Cluster B (Dramatic)

Antisocial Personality Disorder: A person with this disorder tends to violate and exploit the right of others. Along with the lack of any regard or empathy for others, the person may also display some amount of regular criminal activity.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Unstable interpersonal relationships, extreme mood changes, unpredictable, often self destructive actions and changes in self image are some of the characteristics of a borderline personality disorder.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A magnified sense of self importance and needs of constant attention are signs of narcissistic personality disorder. They may be extremely sensitive to failure and are often torn between insecurity and admiration for themselves.

Histrionic Personality Disorder: People affected with histrionic personality disorder demonstrate exaggerated often theatrical expression of emotions, are easily influenced by circumstances, are overtly concerned about physical appearance and have a continuous need for excitement . Some of the marked signs include looking for appreciation, manipulation to meet their own needs and feeling that are easily bruised.

Cluster C (Anxious)

Avoidant Personality Disorder: Avoidant personality disorder manifests itself in people who remain shy and withdrawn all their life. They may be sensitive to rejection and their thoughts are always clouded with their own shortcomings.

Dependent Personality Disorder: People with dependent personality disorder are extremely dependent on others to meet their needs, be it physical or emotional. They shy away from personal responsibilities, are easily hurt by criticism and always feel extremely helpless and alone in any relationship. Their decision-making ability is affected and they have problems expressing themselves in case of any disagreement.

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: Is there a person who is obsessed with rules, cleanliness and orderliness? These may be symptoms of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. The person would lack flexibility and would be continuously obsessed with details and rules. He or she may be unable to show affection or generosity towards others. To be classified as a disorder the obsession should have a negative impact on the person’s life and relationships with others.

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