What is Mental Illness


What is Mental Illness

What is mental illness?

Every organ in the human body has a function.  Numerous problems can arise with each organ.

The specific problem with the organ and the resulting disorder determines the appropriate treatment.

Mental illness is a brain dysfunction.  Your brain is an organ of the body.

The dysfunction (malfunctioning) affects:

Perception – May experience the world with their senses in an unusual/strange way.  (senses: Vision, Smell, Taste, Touch, Hearing).  e.g. hearing voices, seeing things that others do not see.

Thinking – Thoughts may occur very quickly or slowly, may be poorly organized, confusing, illogical, irrational, etc.

Mood – All human beings experience a variety of moods and mood changes, such as depression, anxiety, mania.  Mental illness can emerge when symptoms cause significant distress over time and impair ability to function in daily life.

Behavior – Behavior may be bizarre and confusing for those who do not understand mental illness.  e.g. an individual with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) hiding in the closet when he/she hears helicopters, with obsessive-compulsive disorder checking the oven 20 times before leaving the house, with depression lying in bed for days at a time.

Many different classification systems exist for mental disorders, here is a general list:

Major Depressive Disorder

Manic-Depressive Disorder (Bipolar)

Anxiety Disorder, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Substance-Use Disorders

Organic Disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease)

Personality Disorders

Dimensions of mental illness that need to be addressed (causes):

Take inventory of → Refers to → Treatment

Biology → structure of the brain, chemicals in the brain, genes inherited from parents… → medication, nutrition, general physical health

Psychology → personality, personal beliefs, thoughts, experiences… → education, psychotherapy, coping

Sociology → environmental stress, cultural factors, discrimination… → environmental management, stigma of mental health, advocacy

Treatment of mental illness includes several elements:

Medications, healthy life style, consumer and family education, job training/coaching, peer support, and psychotherapy (treatment of mental and emotional disorders through the use of psychological techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and insight into problems, with the goal being relief of symptoms, changes in behavior leading to improved social and vocational functioning, and personality growth) such as group therapy, behavioral therapy, etc.

Paraphrased from Source:
Reference: SafeProgram, Department of Veteran Affairs, Support & Family Education

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