It can sometimes be difficult for a layperson to tell the difference between a mental disorder and normal feelings or behavior. For example, how do you tell the difference between normal sadness and depression? Normal mood swings and bipolar disorder? Winter blahs and seasonal affective disorder?
Mental illnesses/disorders affect a person’s behavior, feeling, mood, or thinking in a negative way. They also tend to have an adverse effect on a person’s functioning. In other words, the mental illness gets in the way of a person’s normal activities, relationships, etc.
Mental illness is a broad category that includes many different conditions. These may be further classified into subcategories of disorders that have similar traits.
1. Addiction/Impulse Control Disorders
These occur when individuals are unable to control his or her impulses to behave in a way that may cause harm to those around them, or themselves. Even the knowledge that the behavior may be harmful is not enough to prevent the behavior. Common objects of addiction include drugs and/or alcohol, for which substance abuse treatment Benton may prove helpful. People also commonly become addicted to gambling.
2. Mood/Affective Disorders
These involve persistent and often inappropriate feelings of extreme happiness, extreme sadness, or extreme apathy. They can also involve unpredictable fluctuations between the two. Bipolar disorder and depression are examples of mood disorders.
3. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders involve uncontrollable, often irrational, fear of specific situations or objects. The feelings of fear and anxiety can be so severe as to inhibit normal functioning. Phobias are examples of common anxiety disorders. However, a disorder can be less specific and still qualify, as in the case of generalized anxiety disorder. Some may classify post-traumatic stress disorder, which stems from a specific negative event, as an anxiety disorder, while others may categorize it separately.
4. Psychotic Disorders
Psychosis can distort a person’s awareness and thinking. This distortion often takes one of two common forms. The first are delusions, which are beliefs that are demonstrably untrue but which the individual holds with fervent tenacity. The second are hallucinations, in which the individual perceives things (often through sight and/or sound) that are not actually there.
5. Eating Disorders
People with eating disorders demonstrate extreme attitudes about body weight and food, accompanied by compulsive and unhealthy behaviors. For example, people who are bulimic go through cycles of binging and purging, while people with anorexia nervosa just stop eating altogether.
Mental illnesses are extremely common, although sometimes people try to hide their symptoms due to a sense of shame. Fortunately, treatment is usually available for those who seek it.