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Mental Health Disorders


Types of Mental Illness

There are many different conditions that are recognized as mental illnesses. The

more common types include:

 Anxiety disorders: People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or

situations with fear and dread, as well as with physical signs of anxiety or panic, such

as a rapid heartbeat and sweating. An anxiety disorder is diagnosed if the person’s

response is not appropriate for the situation, if the person cannot control the

response, or if the anxiety interferes with normal functioning. Anxiety disorders

include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and


 Mood disorders: These disorders, also called affective disorders, involve persistent

feelings of sadness or periods of feeling overly happy, or fluctuations from extreme

happiness to extreme sadness. The most common mood disorders

are depression, bipolar disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

 Psychotic disorders: Psychotic disorders involve distorted awareness and thinking.

Two of the most common symptoms of psychotic disorders are hallucinations — the

experience of images or sounds that are not real, such as hearing voices — and

delusions, which are false fixed beliefs that the ill person accepts as true, despite

evidence to the contrary. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder.

 Eating disorders: Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and

behaviors involving weight and food. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge

eating disorder are the most common eating disorders.

 Impulse control and addiction disorders: People with impulse control disorders are

unable to resist urges, or impulses, to perform acts that could be harmful to

themselves or others. Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing), and

compulsive gambling are examples of impulse control disorders. Alcohol and drug

are common objects of addictions. Often, people with these disorders become so

involved with the objects of their addiction that they begin to ignore responsibilities

and relationships.

 Personality disorders: People with personality disorders have extreme and

inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and/or cause problems

in work, school, or socialrelationships. In addition, the person’s patterns of thinking

and behavior significantly differ from the expectations of society and are so rigid

that they interfere with the person’s normal functioning. Examples include antisocial

personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid

personality disorder.

 Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People with OCD are plagued by constant

thoughts or fears that cause them to perform certain rituals or routines. The

disturbing thoughts are called obsessions, and the rituals are called compulsions. An

example is a person with an unreasonable fear of germs who constantly washes his

or her hands.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that can develop

following a traumatic and/or terrifying event, such as a sexual or physical assault,

the unexpected death of a loved one, or a natural disaster. People with PTSD often

have lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, and tend to be

emotionally numb.

 Stress response syndromes (formerly called adjustment disorders):Stress response

syndromes occur when a person develops emotional or behavioral symptoms in

response to a stressful event or situation. The stressors may include natural

disasters, such as an earthquake or tornado; events or crises, such as a car accident

or the diagnosis of a major illness; or interpersonal problems, such as a divorce,

death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a problem withsubstance abuse. Stress response

syndromes usually begin within three months of the event or situation and ends

within six months after the stressor stops or is eliminated.

 Dissociative disorders: People with these disorders suffer severe disturbances or

changes in memory, consciousness, identity, and general awareness of themselves

and their surroundings. These disorders usually are associated with overwhelming

stress, which may be the result of traumatic events, accidents, or disasters that may

be experienced or witnessed by the individual. Dissociative identity disorder,

formerly called multiple personality disorder, or “split personality,” and

depersonalization disorder are examples of dissociative disorders.

 Factitious disorders: Factitious disorders are conditions in which a person

knowingly and intentionally creates or complains of physical and/or emotional

symptoms in order to place the individual in the role of a patient or a person in need

of help.

 Sexual and gender disorders: These include disorders that affect sexual desire,

performance, and behavior. Sexual dysfunction, gender identity disorder, and the

paraphilias are examples of sexual and gender disorders.

 Somatic symptom disorders: A person with a somatic symptom disorder, formerly

known as a psychosomatic disorder orsomatoform disorder, experiences physical

symptoms of an illness or of pain, even though a doctor can find no medical cause for

the symptoms.

 Tic disorders: People with tic disorders make sounds or display body movements

that are repeated, quick, sudden, and/or uncontrollable. (Sounds that are made

involuntarily are called vocal tics.) Tourette’s syndrome is an example of a tic


 Other diseases or conditions, including various sleep-related problems and many

forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are sometimes classified as mental

illnesses, because they involve thebrain.

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