All You Need to Know about the Most Prevalent Mental DisordersMental illnesses can affect anyone. No matter the age, race, or sex. According to the worldwide illness prevalence research by WHO psychological and behavioral disorders constitute nearly 20% of all diseases in the region of Europe. Mental disorders not only negatively affect the life of the afflicted but also society’s productivity as a whole. The degree of those disorders can range from minor, less impactful on a daily activity, to very severe, largely affecting one’s actions. Just like any other illness, they can stem from various factors — biological, psychological, or social — and they will show various symptoms. To recognize a mental illness is no easy a task as the line between behaviors pertaining to one’s character and those that emerge as a result of a disorder, is very thin.
SchizophreniaSchizophrenia is one of the most prevalent and severe mental illnesses. It is one of the most severe as its symptoms disrupt the afflicted person’s ability to function, they are hard to bear for the patient and their circle. The course of the disease often lasts very long and sees both periods of improvement and exacerbation. Exacerbations are unrelated to any external or internal factors which can make the disorder unpredictable and it’s hard to keep it under control. Some of the typical symptoms of schizophrenia, crucial for diagnosis, are:
- the “ambi” symptoms: ambivalence or the coexistence of conflicting, mutually exclusive feelings, ambivalence of judgment, that is, the coexistence of conflicting judgments, and ambitendency — the coexistence of conflicting goals
- autism or self-closure, reversing reality and focusing on the inner life
- blunted affect which manifests as a failure to express emotions or inner life
- dissociative disorder, that is the lack of cohesion and coherence, while the patient is conscious and intellectually able.
DepressionDepression is a serious disease that 350 million people around the world currently struggle with. Most often diagnosed between the age of 20 to 40 years, and according to statistics, women suffer from it twice as often as men. It’s the organism’s way of reaction toa factor such as stress which weakens our nervous system. The quality of every aspect of patient’s life and their ability to function is significantly lower.
Symptoms of depression are a tremendous feeling of sadness, loss of previous interests and feelings of pleasure, sleep and appetite disorders, general fatigue, loss of concentration. The patient very often does not have the strength to get out of bed in the morning, wash or dress. Experiencing a general lack of motivation, lack of meaning in life, feeling hopeless and useless after a while can lead to increasingly frequent thoughts about death and then to thoughts of suicide. Depression is a disease that can be treated, and the advancements availability of its treatment in both pharmacology and psychotherapy, make for the fact that more and more people are starting to fight depression with the help of specialists.
Anxiety disordersFear is an emotional state that occurs in the daily life of each of us. It is the body’s natural response to an objective threat or rational stress, such as an important exam or a public speech. However when it occurs in irrational situations, unrelated to a real threat or a justified stressor and is created or exaggerated by our mind — we deal with anxiety. It becomes a disorder when it begins to have a paralyzing effect on a person’s life, thereby reducing their quality of life and ability to function.
Anxiety disorders are very diverse, and we they occur both in adults and children. However, women are more often the patients of anxiety disorders. They comprise of e.g. anxiety disorders in the form of phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder, PTSD, dissociative disorders and disorders in a somatic form. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder, the patient will experience different symptoms. In the case of social phobia there is a growing fear e.f. from being judged or ridiculed by other people in social situations where the patient believes that the attention of others is focused on them. The patient fears that in social situations they will not be able to say anything or that what they will say will be inappropriate. Anxiety is also often accompanied by somatic symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, feeling of hot flashes, sweating, turning red, tremors of the hands and muscles.
In turn, the main feature of obsessive-compulsive disorder is the repeated occurrence of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive, unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that the patient cannot control and are a source of severe stress to him, even if the person experiencing these thoughts realizes that they are irrational. Their nature focuses on disturbing, disgusting, meaningless content such as dirt, germs, unacceptable sexual behavior, or the need for order. Compulsions usually appear in response to obsessions, and they are rigid, repetitive rituals that a person feels forced to perform to reduce the tension caused by obsessive thoughts. The most common compulsions include hand washing, object arrangement, and mental activity such as repeating certain phrases or counting.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop as a result of experiencing a traumatic event (war, assault, transport accident, physical or mental abuse). Symptoms can include constant tension and difficulty in relieving it, nightmares, recurring memories of a traumatic event, and persistent attempts to avoid everything associated with it. A person suffering from this disorder has problems remembering the course of traumatic events, suffers from insomnia, has difficulty concentrating or feeling positive emotions, gets irritated quickly and it is easy to scare them. Anxiety disorders usually require complex treatment. The basis for its treatment is psychotherapy along with psychoeducation, and the type and duration of the treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the patient’s expectations.
Eating disordersNowadays, social media has a significant impact on the lives of everyone of us and, in particular, on the lives of young people. One of the messages that the media is currently spreading seems to be the belief that being slim is a remedy to everything, guarantees happiness and success, and seems to be a value in itself. The two main eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia sometimes caused by socially agreed “ideal standards”. Statistics show that these disorders are relatively more common in teenage-hood than in adulthood. It is believed that these are diseases affecting girls and women, however, according to the data it is also a problem with which, boys and men also struggle, yet it occurs much less frequently. Anorexia nervosa consists of the desire to reduce body mass and the inaccurate perception of one’s own body. A person with anorexia has the feeling that by controlling their weight, they control their life. The main action with the aim of losing weight is limiting the amount of food consumed, but there are also other common actions, like excessive physical activity, cleansing (provoking vomiting, use of laxatives), as well as behaviors associated with controlling the image of one’s own body (looking in the mirror, frequent weighing and measuring), which should confirm that it is possible to maintain a slim figure. The main symptom of anorexia is a decrease in body weight, BMI lasting below 17.5.
Bulimia is a disease in which actions aimed at weight loss, such as, for example, provoking vomiting, are preceded by episodes of gluttony. It’s associated with a complete loss of control over food. Bulimic patients can consume even a couple of thousand calories in a very short period of time. After such an episode comes a sense of shame, which is associated with the need to “get rid of” the food consumed and weight loss. Complications of bulimia can involve, in particular, electrolyte disorders, defects in tooth enamel, damage to the throat and esophagus. In both these diseases, patients need specialized medical care and psychotherapy to change cognitive patterns regarding body image, its weight and self-esteem.
Can they be prevented?The mental illnesses listed are just some of those that many people struggle with every day. According to statistics from Statistics Poland, one in four Poles experiences mental disorders at least once in their lives. Increasing stress and fast life, affect the incidence of mental disorders not only in Poland, but also around the world. Quick access to a psychiatrist – especially in a situation of mental crisis, is key to the diagnosis and effectiveness of treatment of these diseases. It should be remembered, however, that it is important not only to treat diseases that we already have. Prevention of mental disorders is of vital importance.