In a culture that looks at enduring struggles as a noble act, the message to many people suffering silently from mental health issues is to just stay strong and deal with it. Buying into this thinking can contribute to a sense of isolation and powerlessness. With several mental health disorders common across numerous ages and genders, getting acquainted with the most frequently occurring ones can give you a clearer sense of perspective. So let’s look at the most common mental health issues and how to respond to them with treatment.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly one in five Americans is living with some form of mental health disorder. It may be a type of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, paranoia, dissociation, psychosis, schizophrenia, or another illness. When left untreated, mental health disorders can impact physical health and contribute to the development of substance use disorders. Treatment for mental health is available and especially recommended for people who have a history of substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, legal issues, or violent acts towards others.
The most common mental health disorders are anxiety disorders. People with anxiety may be able to identify what’s creating their symptoms or be unaware of the cause. Generalized anxiety can start in childhood, and women get diagnosed with it at a higher rate than men. Anxiety can appear after separation or through social contact with either familiar people or strangers. Anxiety can induce panic attacks that last several minutes. Medical conditions or procedures can produce feelings of anxiety, too.
Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Depression tends to be misunderstood and has become a misused term for feeling sad. Depression is actually more complex and comes in multiple forms. It includes major depressive disorder, accompanied by a loss of interest in things, a sense of worthlessness, and sleep issues. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts can be part of depression as well.
Bipolar disorder is a type of depression with three categories: Bipolar I, the most intense with manic-depressive symptoms and potentially psychotic episodes, Bipolar II, with alternating depressive and manic episodes; and Cyclothymic Disorder, with brief episodes of depression and hypomania. Excessive talking, racing thoughts, and excessive tearfulness are among its symptoms.
Two types of depression that affect women specifically are premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and postpartum depression. With PMDD, women experience the onset of depression symptoms a week prior to a monthly period. Postpartum depression occurs when hormone changes following childbirth affect a woman for longer than two weeks.
A few other types of depression include seasonal affective disorder (SAD), persistent depressive disorder, and atypical disorder.
- SAD is connected to a change in seasons, typically with the onset of winter.
- Persistent depressive disorder is a type of long-term depression that can last for months or even for years.
- Atypical depression is less severe than other types but can be elicited by both negative and positive experiences.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can begin when a person experiences a type of trauma at an early age or in adulthood. They feel unable to respond to feelings of distress and panic in healthy ways. They may feel trapped in situations and unable to escape. It can take a toll on their mind and body and compel them to avoid connecting with others. An episode of PTSD can be caused by an environmental factor that reminds them of a traumatic experience or seem to have no connection at all to the original trauma.
Paranoia isn’t a specific diagnosis but can occur as part of specific mental health disorders, including one where substance abuse is happening. Certain drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, can create a sense of paranoia. Recognizing the symptoms of paranoia can be a clue to your mental health status. Symptoms can be defensiveness, hostility, and aggression, believing you’re always right, being unable to compromise, and not being able to trust others.
A loss of connection to thoughts, feelings, memories, or identity is a characteristic of dissociative disorders. You may feel like you’re watching someone else’s life or you’ve taken over someone else’s body. Your sense of reality gets altered, and severity and duration can vary. A short-term dissociative experience could last several hours or a few days. A longer-term dissociative experience may last weeks or months. In many cases, a person’s past trauma can lead to dissociation as a defense mechanism against emotional pain they feel they can’t handle.
Psychosis is a loss of connection with reality. A person may hallucinate and see or hear people around them who aren’t really there. They may have delusions about their accomplishments, their identity, or their relationships. Their delusions may be about being the target of someone’s plot to harm or shame them.
Hallucinations and delusions also affect people with this mental health disorder. They interpret the reality around them in an abnormal way. Their thinking is highly confused, and they may exhibit sudden mood swings. This could be considered the most intense mental health disorder on the list, and treatment is a lifelong process.
Treatment for Mental Health Disorders
Treatment for each mental health disorder will vary from person to person, but there are some shared elements of any treatment. A proper diagnosis is one of them. Individual therapy is another and facilitates a patient being educated about how their particular disorder affects them.
Treatment is designed to help a person learn to live with a mental health disorder rather than attempting to “cure” it. Patients in treatment can learn strategies for coping with symptoms and practice replacement behaviors that are positive and productive. A residential program, with individual therapy and group sessions, also can provide multiple evidence-based therapies to help in the healing process. They include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and trauma therapies, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness.