As the granddaughter of a psychiatrist, I am well aware of the wide range of psychological disorders that people can suffer from. I am also very aware that the stigma associated with psychological disorders is undeserved. People who have a psychological disorder are suffering from an illness that is out of their control and can cause a range of symptoms, including altered moods, thinking, and behavior. This can make coping with everyday life very difficult. Psychological disorders can only be properly diagnosed by a psychiatrist. These diagnoses are made using the criteria set in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM - 5. Although this manual has many psychological disorders listed, there are several that are more commonly diagnosed.
1. Panic Disorder
Panic disorders are some of the more commonly diagnosed psychological disorders. They are characterized by panic attacks that are physical manifestations of fear. These physical manifestations can be so severe that some people feel like they are having a heart attack. One of the more frustrating things about panic disorders is that they can occur at any time and can be quite debilitating if they occur frequently. They also tend to affect women more than men. Panic disorders are very treatable. Often, people respond very well to cognitive behavioral therapy. Although, some people do need medication to help control their panic attacks.
2. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that covers a range of mental disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by recurring thoughts and repetitive actions that are often performed for a sense of self control. When severe, obsessive compulsive disorder can dominate a person’s life. Quite different from obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, occurs after a terrifying experience. Most often associated with war veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder also occurs in people who have lived through natural disasters, terrible accidents, as well as other very traumatic experiences. People who have PTSD will relieve the traumatic experience in their minds, which can be very terrifying. Generalized anxiety disorder is another anxiety illness, and it is diagnosed when a person experiences at least 6 months of excessive worry and stress. People with this problem are overly concerned with worry and often anticipate disaster. All of these anxiety disorders are treatable, but they can require intensive therapy depending on the severity.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Often difficult to diagnose, bipolar disorder is a very debilitating mental illness that can be disruptive to the sufferer’s life and can be damaging to relationships. One of the hallmark symptoms of this disorder is mood swings that take a person’s emotions to abnormally high and low places. People go from being manic to excessively depressive. Sadly, suicide is a very real risk for people with bipolar disorder when they swing to a depressive state. To treat this illness, mood stabilizing medications are often combined with therapy.
Phobias are fears that interrupt daily activities and cause severe physical symptoms. The interesting thing about phobias is people can have phobias about literally anything, although some phobias are far more common than others. One of the more common phobias is social-anxiety disorder, wherein people become fearful of everyday social situations. They also become extremely self-conscious and experience a great deal of anxiety. It can be quite difficult to treat phobias, and often exposure therapy is used to help people overcome their fears.
5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is better known as ADHD, has become a very common diagnosis. It is often associated with children, but adults can have ADHD as well. People with ADHD have a very difficult time focusing and controlling their behavior. It can be a very hard disorder to properly diagnose. Prior to an official diagnosis, other problems should be ruled out first, such as vision or hearing loss. While medications are often prescribed for ADHD, behavioral therapy is one of the most important treatments. This type of therapy helps people with ADHD learn tools that will help them focus, stay organized, and control their behavior.
6. Mood Disorders
People with mood disorders tend to see things from a very bleak perspective. One of the most frequently diagnosed mood disorders is depression. People who are depressed have persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and they tend to lose interest in life. Depending on the severity, depression can be very debilitating and interfere with everyday life. Regrettably, depression has a tendency to recur. However, it is treatable, especially through therapy with the possible need for medication in severe cases.
7. Personality Disorders
There are several different types of personality disorders that people can be diagnosed with. One of these disorders is avoidant personality disorder, which is characterized by anxiety, fear of criticism, being controlling, and being hesitant to become involved with others. Borderline personality disorder is another diagnosis people can receive. People with this personality disorder can be very unstable and impulsive. They also tend to make suicide threats or attempts, which makes this a very serious disorder to deal with. Personality disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses, which makes them very difficult to diagnose and treat.
In learning about these various psychological disorders I hope you were able to see that mental illnesses are very serious and should be treated just like physical illnesses. People with mental illness are not able to control their thoughts or behaviors and are usually very frustrated that they are unable to change their thought patterns. Thankfully, it is very possible for people to get help for their mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists are very trained in helping people recover from a mental illness, and there should be no stigma attached with seeing one. Were you aware that there is a manual that sets the criteria for mental illness diagnoses?