Millions of Americans live with mental illnesses, including panic attacks, drug addiction, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS), and personality or mood disorders. While all mental health disorders are treatable—usually through a combination of psychotherapy and medication—many sufferers still feel stigma in seeking treatment.
If you or someone you know suffers from a mental illness, you can help by learning more about the disease and its risk factors, symptoms, and treatment.
Schizophrenia is chronic and serious mental disorder that can impact how you think, feel, and act. At times, people with schizophrenia lose touch with reality. Though schizophrenic disorder is one of the least common mental illnesses, its symptoms tend to be more severe. They can include delusions, hallucinations, movement disorders, thought disorders, anhedonia, difficulty starting and sustaining activities, and difficulty showing emotion. Other symptoms affect the mind and its thought processes. They include difficulty focusing or concentrating, working memory disruptions, and difficulty understanding and integrating information into decision making and problem solving. Schizophrenia is typically treated with antipsychotic medication and psychosocial interventions.
Bipolar disorder, which may also be called manic depression, is a mental illness that causes shifts in energy, activity levels, mood, and the individual’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. There are four categories of bipolar disorder, but all of them consist of distinctive manic and depressive episodes. During a manic episode, energy and activity levels are high and intense emotions prevail. Depressive episodes, on the other hand, include periods of sadness, low energy, and hopelessness.
Both manic and depressive episodes, known as “mood episodes,” interrupt sleep and eating patterns, emotions, activity levels, and behavior, making it difficult for the individual to maintain stability. Some episodes include both manic and depressive symptoms, such as extreme feelings of hopelessness combined with excessive amounts of energy. Others experience mood swings that are less extreme in nature, such as hypomania, a less disruptive type of mania. Bipolar disorder is typically treated with medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or antidepressants as prescribed by a psychiatrist or general practitioner. Other forms of treatment can include psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), sleep medications, and lifestyle adjustments.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is one of the most common, chronic mental disorders. It involves recurrent involuntary thoughts or obsessions, as well as compulsive behaviors that the individual repeats over and over again. People who have OCD may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both. These symptoms can interfere with their ability to function at home, work, school, or in their personal relationships.
Symptoms of obsessions typically include fear of contamination, unwanted aggressive thoughts or taboo thoughts, or the need to place objects in a symmetrical or numerical order. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors, and may include handwringing, obsessive cleaning, repeated checking, or compulsive counting. OCD may be treated with medication and/or psychotherapy.
People with panic disorder suffer from repeated panic attacks. These sudden and repeated episodes involve an acute sense of fear that may last for a few minutes or more. Usually, a panic attack includes a fear of disaster or losing control, even if it is irrational or unfounded. Panic attacks can be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, breathing problems, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and others. Experiencing a panic attack can reinforce fear of having another panic attack.
Panic disorder is typically treated with medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta blockers, or benzodiazepines.