What are the types of mental illness? What causes poor mental health? Here is everything to know about the causes and types of mental health problems.
Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder.
Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health.
However, this link also works in the other direction. Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can all contribute to mental health disruptions.
Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves reaching a balance between life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.
Conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.
Although the term mental health is in common use, many conditions that doctors recognize as psychological disorders have physical roots.
In this article, TheVibely will share with you:
- What is mental health?
- What causes mental health?
- What are the types of mental health disorders?
- Frequently Asked Questions about mental health
What is mental health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The WHO stress that mental health is “more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.” Peak mental health is about not only avoiding active conditions but also looking after ongoing wellness and happiness.
They also emphasize that preserving and restoring mental health is crucial on an individual basis, as well as throughout different communities and societies the world over.
In the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that almost 1 in 5 adults experience mental health problems each year.
In 2017, an estimated 11.2 million adults in the U.S., or about 4.5% of adults, had a severe psychological condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
What causes poor mental health? Risk factors for mental health conditions
Everyone has some risk of developing a mental health disorder, no matter their age, sex, income, or ethnicity.
In the U.S. and much of the developed world, mental disorders are one of the leading causes of disability.
Social and financial circumstances, biological factors, and lifestyle choices can all shape a person’s mental health.
A large proportion of people with a mental health disorder have more than one condition at a time.
It is important to note that good mental health depends on a delicate balance of factors and that several elements of life and the world at large can work together to contribute to disorders.
The following factors may contribute to mental health disruptions.
1. Continuous social and economic pressure
Having limited financial means or belonging to a marginalized or persecuted ethnic group can increase the risk of mental health disorders.
A 2015 study of 903 families in Iran identified several socioeconomic causes of mental health conditions, including poverty and living on the outskirts of a large city.
The researchers also explained the difference in the availability and quality of mental health treatment for certain groups in terms of modifiable factors, which can change over time, and nonmodifiable factors, which are permanent.
Modifiable factors for mental health disorders include:
- socioeconomic conditions, such whether work is available in the local area
- a person’s level of social involvement
- housing quality
Nonmodifiable factors include:
The study lists gender as both a modifiable and nonmodifiable factor. The researchers found that being female increased the risk of low mental health status by 3.96 times.
People with a “weak economic status” also scored highest for mental health conditions in this study.
2. Biological factors
The NIMH suggests that genetic family history can increase the likelihood of mental health conditions, as certain genes and gene variants put a person at higher risk.
However, many other factors contribute to the development of these disorders.
Having a gene with links to a mental health disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia, does not guarantee that a condition will develop. Likewise, people without related genes or a family history of mental illness can still have mental health issues.
Mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and anxiety may develop due to underlying, life-changing physical health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, and chronic pain.
What Are the Types of Mental Health Disorders?
Mental health disorders occur in a variety of forms, and symptoms can overlap, making disorders hard to diagnose. However, there are some common disorders that affect people of all ages.
The most common types of mental illness are as follows:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders
- Psychotic disorders (such as schizophrenia disorders)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorder
- Trauma-related disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Substance abuse disorders
- Personality disorders
1. Anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorder is defined by intermittent and repeated attacks of intense fear of something bad happening or a sense of impending doom.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness.
People with these conditions have severe fear or anxiety, which relates to certain objects or situations. Most people with an anxiety disorder will try to avoid exposure to whatever triggers their anxiety.
Examples of anxiety disorders include:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
The American Psychiatric Association defines GAD as a disproportionate worry that disrupts everyday living.
People might also experience physical symptoms, including
- tense muscles
- interrupted sleep
A bout of anxiety symptoms does not necessarily need a specific trigger in people with GAD.
They may experience excessive anxiety on encountering everyday situations that do not present a direct danger, such as chores or keeping appointments. A person with GAD may sometimes feel anxiety with no trigger at all.
People with a panic disorder experience regular panic attacks, which involve sudden, overwhelming terror or a sense of imminent disaster and death.
There are different types of phobia:
- Simple phobias: These might involve a disproportionate fear of specific objects, scenarios, or animals. A fear of spiders is a common example.
- Social phobia: Sometimes known as social anxiety, this is a fear of being subject to the judgment of others. People with social phobia often restrict their exposure to social environments.
- Agoraphobia: This term refers to a fear of situations in which getting away may be difficult, such as being in an elevator or moving train. Many people misunderstand this phobia as a fear of being outside.
Phobias are deeply personal, and doctors do not know every type. There could be thousands of phobias, and what might seem unusual to one person may be a severe problem that dominates daily life for another.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
People with OCD have obsessions and compulsions. In other words, they experience constant, stressful thoughts and a powerful urge to perform repetitive acts, such as hand washing.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a deeply stressful or traumatic event.
During this type of event, the person thinks that their life or other people’s lives are in danger. They may feel afraid or that they have no control over what is happening.
These sensations of trauma and fear may then contribute to PTSD.
2. Mood disorders
People may also refer to mood disorders as affective disorders or depressive disorders.
People with these conditions have significant changes in mood, generally involving either mania, which is a period of high energy and elation, or depression. Examples of mood disorders include:
- Major depression: An individual with major depression experiences a constant low mood and loses interest in activities and events that they previously enjoyed. They can feel prolonged periods of sadness or extreme sadness.
- Bipolar disorder: A person with bipolar disorder experiences unusual changes in their mood, energy levels, levels of activity, and ability to continue with daily life. Periods of high mood are known as manic phases, while depressive phases bring on low mood.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Reduced daylight triggers during the fall, winter, and early spring months trigger this type of major depression. It is most common in countries far from the equator.
3. Schizophrenia disorders
Schizophrenia is defined by a lack of ability to differentiate reality. Schizophrenia can cause paranoia and belief in elaborate conspiracies. Schizophrenia is not, as commonly thought, solely about hearing voices or having multiple personalities.
Mental health authorities are still trying to determine whether schizophrenia is a single disorder or a group of related illnesses. It is a highly complex condition.
Signs of schizophrenia typically develop between the ages of 16 and 30 years, according to the NIMH. The individual will have thoughts that appear fragmented, and they may also find it hard to process information.
Schizophrenia has negative and positive symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, thought disorders, and hallucinations. Negative symptoms include withdrawal, lack of motivation, and a flat or inappropriate mood.
4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by an inability to remain focused on the task, impulsive behavior, and excessive activity or an inability to sit still. Although this disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, it can occur in adults as well.
5. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes periodic cycling of emotional states between manic and depressive phases. Manic phases contain periods of extreme activity and heightened emotions, whereas depressive phases are characterized by lethargy and sadness. The cycles do not tend to occur instantly.
Depression covers a wide range of conditions, typically defined by a persistent bad mood and lack of interest in pursuing daily life, as well as bouts of lethargy and fatigue. Dysthymia is a milder but longer-lasting form of depression.
7. Eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a serious mental health condition that involves an unhealthy preoccupation with eating, exercise, or body shape.
Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of cultural background, gender, or age. Eating disorders are estimated to affect approximately 4 in every 100 people in Australia (or about 1 million people in Australia). About 1 in 7 people experience disordered eating in their lifetime.
If you have an eating disorder, you may experience any of the following:
- A preoccupation and concern about your appearance, food and gaining weight.
- Extreme dissatisfaction with your body — you would like to lose weight even though friends or family worry that you are underweight.
- A fear of gaining weight.
- You let people around you think you have eaten when you haven’t.
- You are secretive about your eating habits because you know they are unhealthy.
- Eating makes you feel anxious, upset or guilty.
- You feel you are not in control around food.
- You keep checking your body — for example, weighing yourself or pinching your waist.
- Making yourself vomit or using laxatives in order to lose weight.
What are the common types of eating disorder?
There are several types of eating disorders, including:
Binge eating disorder (BED): BED makes up almost half of all cases of eating disorders in Australia. People suffering from this disorder will frequently consume very large quantities of food, even when they are not hungry (known as ‘binging’). They often feel shame and guilt after an eating binge; however, unlike people with bulimia nervosa (see next section), they do not purge their food. It is common for people with binge eating disorders to fast or go on diets in response to the way they feel after a binge.
Bulimia nervosa: People with this disorder have frequent eating binges, often in secret, then get rid of the food through vomiting, laxatives, or diet pills (known as ‘purging’). People with bulimia often feel out of control. About 1 in 10 people with eating disorders have bulimia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa: Less than 1 in 100 people in Australia has anorexia nervosa. People with this condition can be severely underweight, are preoccupied with food, and fear putting on weight. They often have a distorted body image and see themselves as fat. People living with anorexia nervosa may create extreme rules and restrictions about their diets and exercise schedules.
Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED): A person with OSFED has many of the symptoms of other eating disorders but their condition doesn’t align with any specific disorder. People with OSFED commonly have very disruptive eating habits and can have a distorted body image. Around 1 in 3 people who seek treatment for an eating disorder have OSFED.
What causes eating disorders?
It is unlikely that an eating disorder has one single cause. It’s normally due to a combination of many factors, events, feelings, or pressures. A person might use food to help them deal with painful situations or feelings without realising it.
These factors may include low self-esteem, problems with friends or family relationships, problems at school, university, or work, high academic expectations, lack of confidence, concerns about sexuality, sexual assault, or emotional abuse.
Traumatic events can trigger an eating disorder, such as the death of someone special (grief), bullying, abuse, or divorce. Someone with a long-term illness or disability (such as diabetes, depression, vision impairment, or hearing loss) may also have eating problems.
Studies have shown that genetics may also be a contributing factor to eating disorders.
Treatments for eating disorders
Starting treatment as early as possible is important because there can be long-term health consequences for people with chronic eating disorders.
There is no ‘one size fits approach to treating eating disorders since everyone is different. Often a team of health professionals is involved in an individual’s treatment, including a psychologist, dietitian, and doctor.
Some of the treatment options include counseling, nutrition education, family approach, person-centered, medication, and stopped care.
8. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a treatable anxiety disorder affecting around 3 million Australians at some time in their lives.
It happens when fear, anxiety, and memories of a traumatic event don’t go away. The feelings last for a long time and interfere with how people cope with everyday life.
If a person with PTSD has feelings of self-harm or suicide, this is a medical emergency. Dial triple zero (000) for an ambulance, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Everyone is affected differently by PTSD. Symptoms can range from subtle changes in day-to-day life, withdrawal, and numbness, to distressing flashbacks or physical anxiety.
Symptoms of PTSD may appear in the month after the traumatic event, but sometimes they can stay dormant for years.
Some symptoms of PTSD include:
- re-experiencing the trauma
- repetitive memories (or flashbacks) that are hard to control and intrude into everyday life
- extreme distress caused by reminders of the trauma
- memories or disturbing thoughts that can be prompted by smells, sounds, words or other triggers
- staying away from places, people or objects that may trigger memories of the traumatic event
- changing a normal routine to avoid triggering memories
- not wanting to talk about or think about the event
- feeling numb
Negative thoughts and mood
- feeling a sense of hopelessness about the future
- negative beliefs about yourself or the world
- blaming yourself or others unreasonably
- intense worry, depression, anger or guilt
- not being able to remember the traumatic event
- no longer enjoying favourite activities
- becoming emotionally detached from others
- not being able to experience positive emotions
Children or teenagers with PTSD may have similar symptoms, but with some differences. Symptoms of PTSD in children include:
- new onset of bedwetting when previously dry at night
- being unusually clingy with parents or carers
- acting out the event during play
- forgetting how to talk
- distressing dreams
- being more irritable, angry or aggressive — such as having extreme temper tantrums
- having problems with concentration
- not being able to sleep
A teenager may experience any of the adult symptoms but may be more likely to:
- have a desire for revenge
- behave in a destructive, disrespectful or violent way
- increase risk-taking behaviour
What causes PTSD?
PTSD can be caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event — an event that was potentially life-threatening or involved serious injury or sexual violence. The kinds of experiences that can potentially cause PTSD are:
- serious accidents
- natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and earthquakes
- living in a war zone, as a victim of war or a soldier
- sexual assault or threatened sexual assault
- serious physical assault
- seeing people hurt or killed
9. Substance abuse disorder
Using drugs can affect the lives of those caught up in it in ways they might not expect. It can affect health, relationships, jobs, and education. Recognising whether you or someone close to you has a problem with drugs is an important first step in seeking help and treatment.
Drug dependence or addiction can be treated, but it’s important that the person who is experiencing these problems seeks help and support to figure out the next steps, rather than trying to deal with it on their own.
Harmful drug use is often associated with illicit drugs such as speed, ice (crystal meth), or heroin, but prescription or over-the-counter medicines can also be used in a harmful way, as can alcohol.
More than 3 million Australians use an illicit drug every year and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs is an ongoing public health problem in Australia. More than 4 in 10 Australians over 14 have used an illicit drug in their lifetime, and illicit drugs are used by more than a quarter of people in their 20s each year.
People from all walks of life take illicit drugs, and the type of drug they use can depend on their socioeconomic status including things like their cultural background, where they live, and what their income is.
Risks associated with using drugs include physical and mental health problems, personal relationship issues, work, and financial problems, drug addiction, and drug overdose.
10. Personality disorder?
A personality disorder refers to a long-term pattern of thinking, behavior, and emotion that is dysfunctional, extreme, and inflexible. It causes distress and makes it difficult to function in everyday life. People with personality disorders find it hard to change their behavior or adapt to different situations. They may have trouble sustaining work or forming positive relationships with others.
There are many different types of personality disorders. Some people with a personality disorder may appear withdrawn, some dramatic and emotional, and others odd or eccentric. The one thing they have in common is that their symptoms are severe enough to affect many different areas of life.
People often develop the early signs of a personality disorder in adolescence. The exact number of Australians with personality disorders is not known. People with a personality disorder also have high rates of coexisting mental health conditions such as depression and substance abuse.
What causes personality disorders?
The causes of personality disorders are not fully understood.
We know that personality, in general, is formed in childhood and is a combination of how you are born and your environment in early childhood. There is no single gene for personality or personality disorders — multiple genes are involved. Having a secure bonding process or attachment between a parent (or another caregiver) and an infant provides a positive environment in which their personality can develop.
People with personality disorders (particularly certain types, such as borderline personality disorder) have higher rates of childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect.
It is thought that personality disorders may occur due to a complex interaction between negative early life experiences and genetic factors. Disruptions to the attachment between parents and infants can happen due to mental or physical illness or substance abuse in the parent, or long separations between parents and infants. A lack of positive caregiving in early childhood can also have a negative impact on personality development.
Mental Health FAQs
What Are the Signs of a Mental Health Disorder?
Mental health disorders exist in broad categories: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and impulse control disorders. If someone you know experiences erratic thought patterns, unexplained changes in mood, lack of interest in socializing, lack of empathy, inability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, or a seeming lack of control, that person may have a mental health disorder. This is, by no means, a complete list of symptoms.
Emotional Symptoms of Mental Health Problems
Mental health problems can cause a wide variety of emotional symptoms, some of which include:
1. Changes in mood
2. Erratic thinking
3. Chronic anxiety
4. An exaggerated sense of self-worth
5. Impulsive actions
Physical Symptoms of Mental Health Problems
Mental health problems typically do not cause physical symptoms in and of themselves. Depression, however, can indirectly cause weight loss, fatigue, and loss of libido, among others. Eating disorders, a separate class of mental health disorders, can cause malnutrition, weight loss, amenorrhea in women, or electrolyte imbalances caused by self-induced vomiting. This makes eating disorders among the most deadly of mental health disorders.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Mental Health Instability
In the short-term, mental health problems can cause people to be alienated from their peers because of perceived unattractive personality traits or behaviors. They can also cause anger, fear, sadness, and feelings of helplessness if the person does not know or understand what is happening. In the long term, mental health disorders can drive a person to commit suicide. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, over 90 percent of suicides have depression or another mental disorder as factors.
Is There a Test or Self-Assessment I Can Do?
It is hard, bordering on impossible, to accurately diagnose yourself for mental disorders with an online questionnaire. You do not have an objective view of yourself and are bound to answer questions inaccurately. Also, online tests are not comprehensive, so they do not check for all possible symptoms. Only a face-to-face session with a qualified mental health professional can begin to diagnose a mental health disorder with any degree of accuracy because that professional has an outside viewpoint and can pick up on subtle cues.
Medication: Drug Options for Mental Health Issues
Fortunately, prescription drugs can be used to treat mental health disorders in conjunction with behavioral therapy or cognitive therapy. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are the broad types of medication prescribed to treat mental illness.
Mental Health Drugs: Possible Options
Depending on the disorder, different medications will be prescribed. Antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, and a variety of SSRIs, SNRIs, and MAOIs can be used to treat depression. Mood stabilizers such as lithium tablets are used to treat bipolar disorder, as are anticonvulsants like Depakote. Antipsychotics like olanzapine or clozapine are used to treat schizophrenia or psychotic depression.
Medication Side Effects
Some of the side effects of mental health medication include nausea, headache, changes in appetite, dry mouth, increased urination, change in libido, irritability, blurred vision, and drowsiness. Other side effects can occur; each person’s body and brain chemistry is unique, and it is impossible to predict with certainty how a given medication will affect you or how well it will work. People who are prescribed these medications should regularly communicate with their doctors and notify them of any side effects.
Drug Addiction, Dependence, and Withdrawal
Some mental health medications are known to cause physical and psychological dependency due to their changes in brain chemistry. Over time, dependency can become an addiction if the person isn’t careful. The withdrawal process can exacerbate the original mental illness because of the brain’s sudden loss of some chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and other endorphins. In severe cases, the person may need to be placed in a drug rehab facility to detox from prescription medication.
It is possible to overdose on medication in an effort to get the same effects as initially received, and this is more common when users are dependent on medications. Some signs of overdose can include seizure, coma, slowed heartbeat, or extreme paranoia. If these signs are present, immediately call 911 or your local Poison Control Center and have the prescription on hand if possible.
Depression and Mental Health
Depression often coexists with other mental disorders, or certain disorders may have caused depression in the first place. For example, 40 percent of people with post-traumatic stress disorder also have depression.
Dual Diagnosis: Addiction and Mental Health Disorders
In drug rehab facilities, counselors are usually trained to identify dual diagnosis issues. This is because addiction is itself a type of mental health disorder, or the addiction can be the symptom of some other disorder. People may, for instance, turn to recreational drugs to combat depression or to help stabilize mood swings associated with bipolar disorder.
Getting Help for a Mental Health Issue
It’s important that you or your loved one should seek help to treat mental health issues. First, a physical checkup can rule out physical illnesses. An appointment with a mental health professional will usually include an interview and subsequent evaluation to determine the most obvious symptoms and to ascertain the type and severity of the mental disorder. In certain cases, an intervention may be required from family and friends.
Mental health problems can cover a broad range of disorders, but the common characteristic is that they all affect the affected person’s personality, thought processes, or social interactions. They can be difficult to clearly diagnose, unlike physical illnesses. According to data from SAMHSA, 20 percent of people in America suffer from a form of mental disorder, and 5 percent suffer from a disorder severe enough to affect school, work, or other aspects of daily life.
Hence, it is advisable to see a doctor when you begin to feel the above signs and causes of any form of mental illness.