How different mental illnesses are diagnosed and treated (2023)

Mental illness is a disturbance in a person's thinking, feeling or behavior (or a combination thereof) that reflects a problem in mental functioning. They cause stress or impediments to social, professional or family activities. Just as the term "physical illness" is used to describe a range of physical health problems, so too is the term "insanitycovers a variety of mental illnesses.

Is mental illness genetic? What the research says

What is insanity?

The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as a health condition involving "changes in emotions, thinking, or behavior - or a combination thereof".If left untreated, mental illness can have a tremendous impact on daily life, including your ability to work, care for your family, and relate and interact with others. Similar to other conditions like diabetes or heart disease, there is no shame in having a mental illness and support and treatment is available.


Mental illness is incredibly common in the United States. Each year:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the US suffer from a mental illness
  • 1 in 25 adults in the US live with a serious mental illness
  • 1 in 6 American youth ages 6 to 17 have a mental illness

Severe mental illness (MSD) is a term used by health professionals to describe the most serious mental illnesses. These illnesses significantly impair or limit one or more important life activities. Two of the most common SMIs arebipolar disordereschizophrenia.

The type

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the Diagnostic Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 categorizes diseases based on their diagnostic criteria.

anxiety disorders

This group of mental illnesses is characterized by significant feelings of anxiety or anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and dizziness.

The three main anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Syndrome
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Bipolar and related disorders

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating episodes ofMania,hypomania, emajor depression.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • cyclothymia

How Mania Differs Between Bipolar Types

depressive disorders

The common feature of all depressive disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms.cognitive changesthat significantly impair a person's functional capacity.

Examples include major depressive disorders andPremenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

Disturbing disorders of impulse control and behavior

A group of psychiatric disorders that involve problems with controlling emotions and behavior.

Disorders in this group include:

  • intermittent explosive disorder
  • Cleptomania
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Pyromania

dissociative disorders

This group of psychiatric syndromes is characterized by aseparationbetween consciousness, memories, emotions, perceptions and behaviors - even identity or sense of self.

elimination disorders

Children with voiding disorders repeatedly urinate or defecate at inappropriate times and places, involuntarily or not.

Nutrition and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are characterized by a persistent disruption in eating behavior that results in physical and mental health problems.

The three main eating disorders are:

  • anorexia
  • binge eating disorder
  • bulimia

gender dysphoria

Formerly known as Gender Identity Disorder,gender dysphoriaIt occurs when a person experiences extreme discomfort or stress because their gender identity conflicts with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Neurocognitive Disorders

These disorders are characterized by a decrease in the previous level of a person's cognitive function. In addition to Alzheimer's disease, other disorders in this category include:

  • Huntington's disease
  • Neurocognitive problems due to HIV infection
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Drug- or substance-induced neurocognitive disorder

neurodevelopmental disorders

These disorders usually manifest themselves early in development, often before a child enters elementary school. They are characterized by impairments in personal, social, school or professional performance.

Examples of neurodevelopmental disorders are:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • autism
  • Intellectual disability and learning

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders

As the name suggests, these disorders are characterized by the presence of obsessions and/or compulsions.

Examples of OCD and related disorders include:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  • hoarding disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

paraphilic disorders

Describes intense or persistent sexual interests that cause distress or distress. This may include recurrent fantasies, urges, or behaviors that involve unusual sexual interests.

personality disorder

These disorders are characterized by a persistent and unrelenting pattern of experience and behavior that causes distress or impairment. 10 are currently recognizedpersonality disorder.

Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders

These disorders are defined by abnormalities in one or more of the following areas:

  • delusions
  • disorganized thinking
  • Disorganized or abnormal motor behavior
  • hallucinations
  • negative symptoms

sexual dysfunctions

This diverse group of disorders is characterized by a person's inability to fully engage or experience sexual pleasure.

Some of the most common sexual dysfunctions are:

  • delayed ejaculation
  • erectile dysfunction
  • female orgasm disorder
  • Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder

sleep-wake disorders

There are different types of sleep disorders and all involve problems falling asleep or staying awake at desired or socially appropriate times.

These disorders are characterized by misalignment of circadian rhythms with the environment or abnormalities of the circadian system itself. Common sleep-wake disorders are, for example,insomniaenarcolepsy.

Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders

People with these disorders experience extreme and exaggerated fear of physical symptoms such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath. This concern is so intense that it interferes with the person's daily life.

Substance-Related Disorders and Addiction

All substance-related disorders are characterized by a variety of behavioral and physical symptoms that can include withdrawal, tolerance, and cravings.Substance Related Disorderscan result from the use of 10 different classes of drugs.

Trauma and stress-related disorders

This group includes disorders related to exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. The most common isPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Signs and symptoms

Everyone experiences ups and downs in their mental health. A stressful experience, such as the loss of a loved one, can temporarily affect your psychological well-being. In general, to meet criteria for a mental illness, your symptoms must cause significant distress or interfere with your social, occupational, or academic skills and persist for a period of time.

Each disorder has its own set of symptoms, which can vary greatly in severity, but common signs of mental illness in adults and teens can include:

  • Excessive anxiety or discomfort: Anxiety, restlessness, nervousness or panic
  • mood swings: Deep sadness, inability to express joy, indifference to situations, feelings of hopelessness, laughing at inopportune moments for no apparent reason, or suicidal thoughts
  • problems with thinking: Inability to concentrate or problems with memory, thinking or language that are difficult to explain
  • sleep or appetite changes: Sleeping and eating dramatically more or less than normal; noticeable and rapid weight gain or loss
  • withdrawal: Sitting and doing nothing for long periods of time or giving up previously enjoyed activities

It is important to note that the presence of one or two of these signs alone does not mean that you have a mental illness. However, it does indicate that you may need further evaluation.

If you experience several of these symptoms at the same time and they prevent you from going about your daily life, consult a doctor or psychologist.


There is no single cause of mental illness. Rather, they are believed to be due to a variety of factors (sometimes in combination). The following factors can influence whether someone develops a mental illness:

  • Biology: Brain chemistry plays an important role in mental illness. Alterations and imbalances in neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain, are often associated with mental disorders.
  • environment pollution: Children exposed to certain substances in utero may be at greater risk of developing mental illness. For example, if your mother drank alcohol, used drugs, or was exposed to harmful chemicals or toxins during her pregnancy, she may be at greater risk.
  • Genetic: Experts have long recognized that many mental illnesses tend to run in families, suggesting a genetic component. For example, people who have a relative with a mental illness – such as autism, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia – are at greater risk of developing it.
  • life experiences: The stressful life events you've experienced may contribute to the development of a mental illness. For example, ongoing traumatic events can cause a condition like PTSD, while repeated childhood changes in primary caregivers can influence the development of attachment disorder.

To diagnose

Diagnosing a mental illness is a multi-step process that may involve more than one healthcare professional, often starting with your family doctor.

Physical exam

Before a diagnosis is made, you may need to undergo a physical exam.rule out physical illness. Some mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, can have physical causes. Thyroid problems and other physical ailments can also sometimes be misdiagnosed as mental health disorders due to overlapping or similar symptoms; For this reason, a complete physical examination is essential.

Your doctor will take a long medical history and may order lab tests to rule out physical problems that could be causing your symptoms. If your doctor can't find a physical cause for your symptoms, you'll likely be referred to a mental health professional to be evaluated for a mental illness.

Is there a blood test for depression?

psychological assessment

a psychiatrist likepsychiatrist or psychologist, will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and family history. You can even ask one of your family members to participate in the interview so they can describe the symptoms they are seeing.

Sometimes the psychotherapist will do thisTesting and other psychological assessment toolsto determine your exact diagnosis or determine the severity of your condition. Most psychiatrists and psychologists use the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose mental illness.

This guide contains descriptions and symptoms for all the different mental illnesses. It also lists criteria such as: B. which symptoms must be present, how many, and for how long (along with conditions that should not be present) to qualify for a specific diagnosis. This is called a diagnostic criterion.

It is not uncommon to be diagnosed with this.more than a mental illness.Some diseases increase the risk of other diseases. For example, sometimes an anxiety disorder can develop into a depressive disorder.

The difference between preliminary and differential diagnoses


Most mental illnesses are not considered “curable”, but they are definitely treatable. Treatment for mental health disorders is highly dependent on the individual diagnosis and severity of symptoms, and results can vary widely between individuals.

Some mental illnesses respond wellmedicine. Other disorders respond better to psychotherapy. Some research also supports the use of complementary and alternative therapies for certain disorders. Treatment plans often involve a combination of treatment options and require some trial and error before finding what works best for you.

A Word from Verywell

Living with a mental illness can be very difficult, whether it affects you or a loved one - but help is available. If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from a mental illness, speak to your doctor, who may refer you to a mental health professional for further evaluation, evaluation and treatment. You can alsoCommunicate directly with a psychotherapist.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, please contactSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) National 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities near you.

For more mental health resources, visit ourNational Database of Support Lines.

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