What is Mental Illness?
There are several categories of mental illness, including:
Of course, many co-occur with other conditions, so there is not usually a clear diagnostic picture. This may be why in the past, some research indicated people might experience symptoms for several months, even years, before the diagnosis was made. Today the diagnostic criteria and “the state of the art” of medicine have reduced that period considerably.
Anxiety disorders are the most common; affecting one in nine people at some period of their lives. What are the conditions known as the anxiety disorders?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – ongoing, extreme tension that interferes with daily functioning. Constant worry, even when there is nothing to worry about.
Panic Disorder – overwhelming feeling of being in danger, with several physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, chest pains, dizziness, nausea, chills, hot feverish feeling, etc. For most people these episodes come on with little or no warning, so the fear of having one may prevent a person from going out, driving, attending a certain activity, for example, where an attack happened previously.
Phobias – uncontrollable, irrational, and ongoing fear of a specific place, thing, or activity. For example, many people may be afraid of poisonous snakes, and this is quite rational. But some are just as afraid of garter snakes, or house spiders, which are not in any way dangerous. To the extent that the fear is great, and interferes with daily activities, it can be seen as a phobia.
Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder – Significant or extreme discomfort associated with social situations. Many people are shy or anxious about going to social gatherings. This condition is reflecting a much more extreme reaction, almost to the point of the symptoms expressed above in the section on Panic Disorder. NB: this is the condition most often associated with suicidal thoughts, which is evidence of the pain experienced by people with this condition.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Obsessions are frequently-occurring irrational thoughts that cause great anxiety but cannot be controlled by reasoning. Compulsions are rituals that a person feels compelled to go through in attempting to control his or her anxieties. Examples of compulsive behaviours might be: finger tapping of a certain duration, excessive cleaning, always walking into a room in a certain direction.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – A person who has survived a severe physical or emotional event, will, if he/she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder , re-experience itt frequently through flashbacks or realistic nightmares. Other symptoms may include sleep disorders, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, depression, feeling numb or detached, and unable to experience usual feelings of caring or love, for example. Often with anxiety disorders there is a co-existing disorder, such as clinical depression or/and substance abuse.
To find out more about these and other disorders, ask your physician. You can also call our office and ask to have information mailed, or borrow a public education video on a particular subject. It is possible to participate in an education-focused screening to determine possible symptoms you may be experiencing.
How Common is Mental Illness?
What Causes Mental Illness?
Who is affected?
Cited from: Canadian Mental Health Association
What is the economic cost?
Sources: The Report on Mental Illness in Canada, October 2002. EBIC 1998 (Health Canada 2002), Stephens et al., 2001
The most frequent reason identified (by far) by Canadians in a survey of 1600 Canadians in four geographic regions, for why they would not seek professional help for a perceived mental disorder, was the stigma they associated with having a disorder, and someone’s finding out they were in treatment. This despite the fact that depression, for example, is more treatable than most physical illnesses, but without treatment is very likely to be ongoingly disabling.
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If you wonder about yourself, or someone you care about, you should ask your doctor for an assessment.
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