TYPES OF

MENTAL ILLNESS













MOOD DISORDERS


DEPRESSION

Variations in mood are a normal part of everyday life and daily events can influence one's mood. Depressive disorders are distinct from normal variations in moods in terms of:

  • Their depth
  • Their persistence
  • Their disruption of one's ability to function

It is important to remember that not everyone will experience potential symptoms of a depressive disorder in the same way! Symptoms will often vary according to a number of factors such as a person's gender, their cultural background, etc.

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with depressive disorders:

  • Feeling sad or down for long periods of time or alternatively, feeling flat and unmotivated
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Fogginess and poor concentration
  • Changes in your sleeping pattern
  • Changes in your eating habits
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling agitated or conversely feeling physically slowed down
  • Thoughts of suicide

Note if you are feeling like you might harm yourself, please seek help immediately from your local emergency service or hospital.

The pain of a depressive disorder can seem unbearable. However, advances in both psychiatry and in psychology now provide a menu of effective options that can help you feel better and get back to normal. In particular, there are a variety of effective medications and types of psychotherapy that can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Sometimes people will opt for both medication and therapy. Others will choose only one depending on what they prefer. Treatment decisions are left to the patient and rest assured, there are multiple options you can try if your current treatment is not a good fit for you.

If changes in your mood, or of that of a friend, have become debilitating and are disrupting the flow of your/their daily life, then you may want to learn more by consulting with a health professional.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

 

 

BIPOLAR DISORDER
Variations in mood are a normal part of everyday life and daily events can influence one's mood. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, causes changes in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily responsibilities.

By its name, a person with bipolar disorder experiences two drastic shifts from their usual mood and behaviour: an overexcited state called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state called a depressive episode. It is important to remember that not everyone will experience symptoms of a bipolar disorder in the same way! Symptoms will often vary according to a number of factors such as genetics and environment, among other risk factors.

Here are some of the symptoms associated with a manic episode:

  • Period of feeling "high," overly happy, or outgoing mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Talking very fast and/or racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being overly restless
  • Sleeping little or not being tired
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and engaging In high-risk behaviours

Here are some of the symptoms associated with a depressive episode:

  • Feeling sad or down for long periods of time or alternatively, feeling flat and unmotivated
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Fogginess and poor concentration
  • Changes in your sleeping pattern
  • Changes in your eating habits
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling agitated or conversely feeling physically slowed down
  • Thoughts of suicide

Note if you are feeling like you might harm yourself, please seek help immediately from your local emergency service or hospital.

Effective treatment over time can help a person living with bipolar disorder gain better control of and manage their symptoms. An effective treatment plan usually involves both medication and psychotherapy. Sometimes people will opt for both medication and therapy. Others will choose only one depending on what they prefer. Treatment decisions are left to the patient with the consultation of their health professional. A range of treatment options is available and it is important for the patient to find what works best for them.

If changes in your mood, or of that of a friend, have become debilitating and are disrupting the flow of your/their daily life, then you may want to learn more by consulting with a health professional.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml#part_145402

 

ANXIETY DISORDERS


Anxiety is an emotional state characterized by:

  • Feeling nervous or restless
  • Repeated thoughts and images related to a perceived threat
  • Urges to avoid or escape the situation
  • Finding it hard to think of other things besides the perceived threat
  • Physiological symptoms (e.g., shortness of breath, fast heart rate, sweating, tingling sensations, muscle tension, nausea, pains, etc.)

Some lef-destructivevel of anxiety is actually a normal part of the human experience. It allows us to identify potential problems in our lives and to take action. If you could not get anxious, then you might ignore problems or be relatively unmotivated to do anything about them.

Sometimes our anxiety seemingly spirals out of control. When anxiety reaches a level that is significantly impairing our lives, we call this an anxiety disorder. Psychiatrists and Psychologists, over the years, have described several types of anxiety disorders. Below are a few more common varieties of anxiety disorders with some basic features of each:

Specific Phobias
  • A persistent and disproportionate fear of a specific object (e.g., dogs) or situation (e.g., heights)
  • Fear often accompanied by substantial avoidance
  • The avoidance is often so great that the person's personal and social life can be negatively affected
  • Note: Fears that cause relatively little impairment are not classified as phobias and are a part of normal human experience
Panic Disorder
  • Consists of recurrent panic attacks accompanied by chronic anxiety about when the next one might appear
  • The avoidance of situations in which they think the attacks are more likely
  • Tendency to catastrophize the meaning of one's own anxiety often leads to the surge of a panic attack
  • The cornerstone of panic is the belief that anxiety itself is abnormal, dangerous, or unacceptable
Agoraphobia
  • Fear of being in a public space or situation in which escape may be difficult
  • This fear may be driven by the worry that the person will suffer a panic attack in front of others or it may be driven by the fear of a physical symptom leading to public embarrassment (e.g., getting sick in front of others)
  • To avoid the feared public embarrassment, these individuals often isolate themselves at home for long periods of time and can become disconnected from their social network as a result
Social Anxiety Disorder
  • A chronic fear of social situations
  • This can range from the fear of multiple social settings (e.g., being afraid of authority figures, romantic interactions, public speaking, etc.) to more specific fears (e.g., only afraid of public speaking)
  • The disorder is usually centered on a fear of being judged and often results in social avoidance, loneliness, or general difficulties in work and life
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Consists of multiple anxieties and worries covering a variety of life domains (e.g., school, relationships, finances, etc.)
  • People with GAD struggle to control their worry and this inability to control their anxiety often leaves them physically and emotionally exhausted
  • Major themes of GAD include a belief that one is not able to tolerate uncertainty and a view of the self as fundamentally unable to cope Other disorders exist that usually feature considerable anxiety but are no longer considered anxiety disorders. These include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • A set of distressing symptoms that can occur after directly experiencing a trauma or even by hearing excessive details about another person's trauma. Individuals with PTSD find themselves experiencing intrusive thoughts and feelings related to the event, feeling on edge constantly, being unable to focus, and a strong urge to avoid reminders of the traumatic situation
  • Symptoms are chronic and may lead to other issues such as substance abuse and depression
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Characterized by obsessions (i.e., unwanted distressing thoughts the person tries to suppress or neutralize) and/or compulsions (i.e., repetitive actions that are performed to reduce anxiety or prevent some feared action)
  • Examples might include counting to ten over and over to block out unpleasant thoughts or compulsive hand-washing to avoid spreading disease (even if the threat is unrealistic)
  • The symptoms of OCD can occur at very high frequencies and take over the person's life
Nature or Nurture?

Often people ask if a disorder is caused by one's biological or environmental factors. The truth of the matter is that multiple interrelated factors are thought to lead to the development of an anxiety disorder.

  • Psychological factors: A variety of psychological factors are thought to relate to the development of an anxiety disorder. These may include a negative thinking style, a tendency to avoid stressful situations, lack of coping skills, difficulty with relationships, or a low ability to tolerate one's own feelings. These and other psychological factors tend to be the focus of psychotherapy.
  • Stressful life events: Experiencing a relatively stressful experience like a break-up or an illness can sometimes trigger the onset of an anxiety episode. However, the trigger is not always obvious with sometimes seemingly positive events being a source of stress.
  • Genetics: Genetics may play a moderate role in the development of anxiety. However, having "anxious genes" is much less likely to lead to an anxiety disorder if the person manages their stress well and develops healthy habits.
  • Medical conditions: Some medical conditions can lead to a greater vulnerability to anxiety. A check-up with your family doctor can often rule this out.
What to do?

If your anxiety has become debilitating and is disrupting the flow of your daily life, then you may want to consult a health professional.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed.).Washington, DC: Author.

 

SUBSTANCE USE AND ADDICTIVE DISORDERS


Sometimes substances like drugs or alcohol or behaviours such as gambling or internet use (amongst others) can become compulsive and sel. Psychiatrists and psychologists prefer the terms substance use disorders and addictive disorders (for non-substance behaviours) to help identify and treat these problems. These disorders consist of a range of symptoms including:

  • Feeling out of control with regards to the behaviour (e.g., using more and more despite wanting to stop)
  • The behaviour ends up interfering with the person's work or social life (e.g., missing classes because of it)
  • Increasingly risky activity connected to the behaviour (e.g., using with strangers in isolated locations)
  • For substances, there may be a tendency to need to consume more and more as well as the development of symptoms should the substance be stopped (e.g., the "shakes", sweats, etc.)

Note that a diagnosis of a substance use or addictive disorder can be given even if not all symptoms are present.

Unhealthy substance use and addictive behaviours are often very hard to change because the activity can feel very rewarding in the short run. However, often the high initially experienced from the activity can become increasingly hard to achieve. This can lead to a futile attempt to recreate initial positive experiences with the substance/activity by increasing the quantity or frequency. Ultimately, in chasing the high, the person may put their physical, psychological, and social well-being at risk.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substances or addictive behaviors, please seek help! There are a number of options available to help people overcome their addiction. You may want to learn more by consulting the following links and/or by speaking with a health professional.

For more information about addictions please consult the following links:

Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Canadian Center on Substance Abuse

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).Washington, DC: Author.

 

DISORDERED EATING


It is an unfortunate truth that the media bombards us day in and day out with unrealistic images of how our bodies should look. For some of us, these unhealthy standards take a toll and may be linked to the development of disordered eating.

The term disordered eating is used to refer to a wide spectrum of unhelpful eating behaviours and can have serious consequences on a person's overall health and well-being. There are several signs that may indicate the presence of disordered eating. These include:

  • Low self-esteem and depression related to body image or to eating habits
  • Preoccupation with weight, shape, and dieting
  • Preoccupation with food, calorie counting, and how others manage their eating
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Narrow or restrictive food choices and rituals surrounding food/mealtimes
  • Refusal to eat in front of other people
  • Exercising excessively
  • Wearing baggy clothing
  • Finding excuses to immediately leave the table following a meal

When disordered eating reaches a level in which a person's life has become disrupted, then a diagnosis of an eating disorder may sometimes be given. A variety of eating disorders have been classified but below are three of the more commonly recognized disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by restricting calorie intake to such a point as to have an abnormally low body weight. Individuals with anorexia are afraid of gaining weight and have distorted views of how their body appears to others. Remaining at a body weight significantly lower than what is appropriate for your age and height can result in serious medical complications.

Bulimia Nervosa consists of cycling between bouts of binge eating and the use of compensatory behaviours (self-induced vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, diet pills, etc.) in order to avoid gaining weight. These episodes occur relatively frequently and for an extended period of time. These behaviours are complicated by a disproportionate importance placed on weight and body shape.

Binge eating disorder features the binge eating seen in bulimia but without the compensatory behaviours. Individuals with this disorder often feel deep embarrassment about these episodes and feel that their eating has gone out of control.

If you or your friend have experienced symptoms of disordered eating or suspect the presence of an eating disorder, then you may want to learn more by speaking with a health professional.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).Washington, DC: Author.

 

PSYCHOSIS


Psychosis entails abnormal thinking and perceptions, whereby a person with psychosis loses touch with reality. People experiencing psychosis may hear voices that other people don’t hear, or believe other people are reading their minds or controlling their thoughts. You can imagine how this may terrify the person living with psychosis, potentially leading them to withdraw or become more agitated. The most notable example is schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia involves a range of symptoms including:

  • Delusions: These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are false or illogical.
  • Hallucinations: These impact the senses, whereby a person may see, hear, feel, taste, or smell things that aren’t really there. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
  • Disorganized thinking (speech): The person may have trouble organizing their thoughts or connecting them logically. Communication may be impaired and responses to questions may be partially or completely unrelated.
  • Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behaviour: The person may appear to have agitated body movements. They may repeat certain motions or become catatonic, meaning the person does not move and does not respond to others.
  • Negative symptoms: This refers to the reduced or lack of ability to function. For example, the person appears to lack emotion (i.e. lack of eye contact and/or facial expressions, monotone speech), neglects personal hygiene, loses interest in everyday activities, and/or socially withdraws.

It is important to remember that not everyone with schizophrenia will experience symptoms in the same way. Several factors have been identified to increase the risk of schizophrenia, including genes, environment, and brain chemistry and structure.

Treatment includes antipsychotic medications and a range of psychosocial treatments. Psychosocial treatment can help people with schizophrenia manage and cope with symptoms, such as difficulty with communication, self care, work, and building and maintaining relationships.

If you or your friend have experienced symptoms of psychosis, then you may want to learn more by speaking with a health professional.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Mayo Clinic. (2015). Diseases and conditions: Schizophrenia. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/basics/definition/con-20021077

National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). Schizophrenia. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml