Descriptions of Mental Illnesses

Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome through willpower and are not related to a person's character or intelligence. They are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, daily functioning and ability to relate to others. People affected can be of any age, race, religion or income.

Mental illness comes in a variety of forms and is accompanied by a number of related symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Some general symptoms that may suggest a mental disorder include:

  • Confused thinking
  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Excessive fear, worrying or anxiety
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
  • Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Many unexplained physical problems
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or know someone who is, make an appointment with a health care professional. Early diagnosis is key. Most people diagnosed with a mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in individual treatment plans.

The brief descriptions included below are for informative purposes only. For a qualified, professional diagnosis, please schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.

Anxiety Disorder

This is the most common of all mental illnesses and the most treatable. Anxiety disorder leaves a person unable to cope with daily life due to abnormal fears of life. Anxiety in moderation is a perfectly normal response because it prepares you for any action that might be threatening; however, anxiety disorders cause overwhelming fear and an inability to cope with daily chores. In fact, anxiety disorder can completely paralyze and disable a person. It produces unrealistic fears, excessive worry, flashbacks from past trauma leading to easy startling, changes in sleep patterns, intense tension and ritualistic behavior. Anxiety disorder also results in a slew of related physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, racing heart, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, etc.

Psychotic Disorders

Psychosis occurs when a person is detached from reality. In general terms, psychosis is a mental illness that markedly interferes with a person’s capacity to meet life’s everyday demands. The signs and symptoms include hallucinations, delusions or certain types of very abnormal behavior. Other symptoms might include paranoia, mania, depression, emotional changes or personality changes.

Mood Disorders

Feelings of sadness and discouragement are normal emotional reactions to difficult situations. However, if these feelings last more than a few weeks or get so bad that they begin to control a person's life, it could be a sign of a mood disorder. A high percentage of people who suffer from mood disorders can be effectively treated, but many go untreated because they do not recognize the illness or notice the patterns. They might blame what they are feeling on the flu, stress, lack of sleep or poor diet. People who have mood disorders may display one or more of the following behaviors: feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, total indifference and/or extreme guilt; prolonged sadness; unexplained crying spells; jumpiness of irritability; inability to concentrate; loss of appetite or great increase in appetite; constant fatigue or insomnia or thoughts of death or suicide attempts.

Cognition Disorders

This mental illness category involves disturbances in the mental processes related to thinking, reasoning and judgment. Although symptoms of these disorders vary, they are generally marked by impaired awareness, perception, reasoning, memory and judgment. Other symptoms include the inability to concentrate, altered sleep patterns, motor system impairment, disorientation and personality or emotional changes.