People with psychological illness suffer a great deal of suffering and distress from their thoughts, feelings and disordered behaviors. They often find it difficult to function in their work and other activities, which leads to an inability to earn a living or maintain relationships, and can become socially isolated. They also often feel that they are not a good person and may lose self-esteem. Psychiatric disorders may last a short or long time.
The field of psychiatry deals with the study and treatment of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, personality disorders and eating disorders. Psychotherapy, medication and various other techniques are used to treat these disorders. The diagnosis of mental illness is based on the degree to which symptoms interfere with daily functioning, and the extent to which they cause distress and distress. There are several different theories of mental health that differ in their approach and theoretical bases, but most psychiatry today subscribes to a biopsychosocial model that incorporates biological, psychological and social factors.
Traditionally, mental disorders are divided into two broad categories: psychoses and neuroses. These categories are based on the idea that disturbed inner experiences and behavior reflect some kind of flaw in internal biological, psychological or developmental processes. Psychoses are thought to involve abnormally disturbing or dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviors that can cause significant disturbances in an individual’s life and that do not fit with culturally expected responses to certain events. Examples of psychoses include hallucinations, paranoia and delusions.
Neuroses are thought to resemble the normal defensive reactions that most people use to cope with stress, but they are inappropriately severe or prolonged. Examples of neuroses are anxiety disorders, phobias, conversion disorder (formerly known as hysteria), obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depression.
These disorders are thought to be caused by an imbalance between internalizing and externalizing forces, which refers to how much we rely on our emotions to regulate our behavior. For example, a person with anxiety disorder may be more dependent on their emotions than someone with depression. This theory is also supported by studies of twins and adoption children that support heritable factors for some disorders.
Many people who have psychological disorders can be helped by medicine, therapy or a combination of both. The development of new types of antidepressants and other medications has allowed psychiatry to move away from its traditional role of treating mental illness by symptom suppression, towards the goal of helping people to recover and lead fulfilling lives. With deinstitutionalization, patients are now being moved from mental hospitals into their communities and receiving a range of support services in the community. Medications such as lithium and benzodiazepines are now being replaced by newer, more effective antidepressants and antipsychotics. Increasing awareness of the impact of mental illness on society and developments in medicine and therapy have contributed to an increase in the number of people who are diagnosed with mental disorders. This trend is likely to continue.