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What are the main types of mental illness?

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Our mental health is like our physical health. That means we need to look after it.

Just as with our physical health certain things can happen that badly affect us. But also as with a physical injury we can take specific actions that will enable recovery.

Physical injuries such as a cut or broken bone will heal, so long as we patch them up in the right way. Then make sure we do what we need to allow them to heal.

It’s very similar when our mental health is damaged.

In common with our physical health we need to maintain certain things that keep us mentally healthy. We may get to a good point mentally but then stop doing what has worked.

This is the equivalent of going to the gym for six months and getting fit. Then stopping going and starting to eat unhealthily – and wondering why we’re losing all that fitness we gained.

Being mentally in good health means being able to think, feel and respond in the right manner.

But even if all seems well, there has to be maintenance to stay that way. Most often that means doing certain beneficial things every day as well as not doing anything that’s detrimental to us.

This is why such as alcoholics who have been sober for decades still talk about being “in recovery” rather than “recovered”. Their mental wellbeing and sobriety is dependent on doing certain things one day at a time.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. There are many ways that people are affected, but generally mental health issues can be put into these categories. 

Many people struggle with more than one of these. For instance, many alcoholics also suffer from anxiety and depression. There are also some crossovers in the categories.

Addiction

With addiction many people think of someone who is addicted to “hard” drugs such as heroin or cocaine. But anything that can change the way someone feels has the capacity to become addictive.

This change of feeling might be a high or it could be to numb and mask someone’s emotional state. That includes substance abuse to such as solvents, alcohol and other drugs (illegal and/or prescribed when they are taken in the wrong way) like cannabis, cigarettes and crystal meth.

There is also behavioral addiction that is when people use an activity to change the way they feel. Common behavioral addictions are gambling, sex, love and relationships, pornography, the internet, shopping, work, exercise, food and gaming.

As with drug and alcohol addiction a person with a behavioral addiction cannot quit even when it’s damaging to themselves and/or those around them. This means their family, friends, colleagues and their community.

All addictions features impulsivity – a failure to resist a temptation or urge. This is known as an impulse-control disorder (ICD).

Problem behaviors that come under this are compulsive gambling, kleptomania (stealing), pyromania (fire starting), trichotillomania (pulling one’s hair) and intermittent explosive disorder (inability to stop aggressive outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation and that can lead to assault or damaged property).

Mood disorders

Also called affective disorders, this means someone has persistent feelings of despondency or periods of feeling overly happy, or shifts from extreme happiness to intense sadness. The most common mood disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.

Anxiety disorders

People suffering from an anxiety disorder live much of their life in a state of dread, fear and focussing on worst-case scenarios. Someone is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder if their response to something is not appropriate, if they cannot control their reaction and if their anxiety negatively affects their daily lives.

Usually there are physical symptoms as well such as a rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating and/or difficult swallowing. Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and certain phobias.

Personality disorders

This is when a deeply ingrained pattern of behavior significantly deviates from the norms of behavior that’s generally accepted. It is usually apparent by the time someone’s a teenager.

A personality disorder will cause long-term problems in relationships and/or in taking part in society. There are several types of personality disorders that are grouped into three categories.

These are “suspicious” that includes paranoid personality disorder; “emotional and impulsive” that has under it borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD); and “anxious” with such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD).

Eating disorders

An eating disorder is diagnosed when someone has abnormal eating habits that badly affect their physical and/or mental health. A person with a eating disorder can have various symptoms that most often include such as severely restricting food, food binges, and/or vomiting.

The most common eating disorders are bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (BED). Most experts believe eating disorders are due to a complicated association of psychological, environmental and biological factors.

Psychotic disorders 

These are severe psychological disorders that lead to abnormal thinking and perceptions. Someone suffering will often lose touch with reality – known as psychosis. They will often experience hallucinations and delusions.

There are different types of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, delusional disorder and substance-induced psychotic disorder.

Trauma- and stressor-related disorders 

These happen to someone following a traumatic or stressful incident. Common symptoms include an inability to feel pleasure in normally enjoyable activities, a state of unease or generalised dissatisfaction with life (dysphoria), dissociation, aggression and anger. 

It includes acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are similar but acute stress disorder begins immediately or very shortly after a traumatic event and lasts less than a month. PTSD can start up to half a year after the trauma and affects someone for more than a month.

Trauma- and stressor-related disorders were previously thought of as anxiety disorders. Now they are considered differently as many people with them do not have anxiety.

What can someone do to avoid mental health problems?

Thankfully there are some key lifestyle choices people can choose to help their mental wellbeing. These can help someone get back on track as well as keep in an all-round healthy state. These are:

  • Being kind, giving to others.
  • Being physically active.
  • Learning new skills and taking up new hobbies.
  • Connecting with other people.
  • Living in the moment, being mindful.


Our professional team has considerable experience of helping people with all mental health problems. Find out how we can help you or someone you care about by contacting us today.

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Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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