A Quick Guide To Mental Illnesses
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Only knowledge can counter the stigma that is associated with mental illnesses, without any reason!There is a lot of stigma associated with mental health and mental disorders, to the extent that people with such illnesses begin to stigmatise their very selves, beginning to consider themselves worthless, dangerous, or deserving of the disease or the mental health issues. Such patients mostly end up withdrawing from treatment, and suffering in silence. The problem is that people tend to equate any and every mental health condition to psychosis – loathing, fearing, or ostracising such individuals. And the only way to reduce this stigma, in order to increase access to mental healthcare, would be by educating people about mental health and its wellbeing, mental illnesses, and the extent to which these illnesses affect an individual.
- Depression – Also called major depressive disorder, it is a serious mood disorder that affects how an individual thinks, behaves, and handles day-to-day activities - basically, all aspects of an individual’s mental health, along with parts of their physical health too. Depression is characterised by a persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety or emptiness, irritability, decreased energy, increased or decreased appetite, difficulty in concentrating, thoughts of suicide etc. The World Health Organization puts India as one of the top depressed countries in the world, with about 36 per cent of the population experiencing severe clinical depression at some point in life.
2. Personality disorders – Not just one specific disease, but 3 clusters of multiple ‘psychopathic disorders’, or PD, that include paranoid PD, schizoid PD, and schizotypal PD (Cluster A); antisocial PD, borderline PD, histrionic PD, and narcissistic PD (Cluster B); and avoidant PD, dependent PD, and obsessive-compulsive PD (Cluster C). The symptoms vary significantly with different conditions, with anxious-avoidant and borderline disorders being most common in our country. To quote straight out of a research study by Prof. Pratap Sharan (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), “India reported personality disorder prevalence rates of 0.3-1.6%. However, the rates were higher in special populations such as university students (19.1%); criminals (7.3-33.3%); patients with substance use disorders (20-55%); and patients who attempted suicide (47.8-62.2%)”. People with personality disorders seem completely normal at first, and may not be easy to detect or diagnose, as these conditions don’t cause any major apparent impairment to one’s mental health, and come to medical attention only after incidents like suicide attempts.
3. Impulse control disorders – These disorders, that affect mental health severely, include substance abuse related disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Wikipedia divides the symptoms for this spectrum of disorders into 5 stages – an impulse, growing tension, pleasure from acting, relief from the urge, and finally, guilt (which may or may not arise). Some common, more relatable examples of these conditions are sexual compulsion, kleptomania, internet addiction et cetera. A global study by WHO had once estimated the prevalence of this disorder to be anywhere between 0.0-6.8 per cent.
4. Eating disorders – Another aspect of mental health and well-being that has been looked into extensively recently, eating disorders are written to include anorexia nervosa (where people eat very little, and thus, have a dangerously low body weight), bulimia nervosa (where people eat a lot, and then try to rid themselves of the food by vomiting or by using laxatives), pica (temptation to eat non-food items), and rumination disorder (where people consistently regurgitate food).
5. Dissociative disorders – In psychology, the term dissociation is used to describe a range of experiences that vary from mild detachment from the immediate surroundings (like daydreaming), to more severe delusional detachments. The milder form of detachment is often considered as a coping mechanism that a person develops from traumatic experiences, which can progress to acute forms that include detachment from the identity of self, as seen in multiple personality disorder. This mental health condition could be triggered by trauma, stress, psychoactive substances, and sometimes…nothing at all. The prevalence of such disorders in the Indian population is observed to be as low as 0.15/1000, which is low, but not negligible.
Takeaway message: Only severe and very rare cases of psychological disorders render an individual dangerous to the community; repudiating individuals with other mental health disorders, and leaving them without any support will only exacerbate the situation.
Let’s open our minds and build better support, because disorder or not, we are all insane – some less, some more…but all just the same.