Psychological illness is a term that describes the many kinds of mental health problems. These problems can affect how a person thinks, feels or acts. The effects of these disorders can be very serious. Some mental illnesses can even threaten a person’s life. It is important to know that effective treatments are available. By seeking treatment, people with psychological disorders can reduce the impact of their condition and improve their quality of life.
Symptoms of psychological disorders can vary in intensity, but they usually have some kind of disruptive effect on a person’s daily functioning. They may interfere with work, relationships or school. They may also cause distress or anxiety or lead to self-harm. Some psychological disorders are severe, but most can be treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication.
Mental disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including genes, how a person is raised, their environment and culture. Having a family member with a mental disorder can increase the risk of having one. Certain drugs can also cause mental illness, such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, which can trigger mania or psychosis. Other conditions, such as some medical conditions and hormone changes, can also contribute to the development of psychological disorders.
The diagnosis of a mental disorder takes into account the presence of a cluster of symptoms that meet criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Each edition of the DSM is revised, taking into account new knowledge and changes in cultural norms. For example, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder until 1973, when it was removed from the DSM because of advocacy by gay rights groups and changing social attitudes.
In addition to the DSM, there are other classification systems used in non-western cultures, such as the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders. However, these other classification systems are not universally recognized and often do not have the same research and clinical standards as the DSM.
Whether or not someone needs treatment for their symptoms is determined by the severity of their condition, the amount that they disrupt daily function, the risks of possible complications and the availability of effective treatment. Medications are the most common treatment for mental disorders. Psychotherapy is also used and can be effective in some cases, although it has a long history of stigma and discrimination, and the majority of people with mental illnesses still receive little or no treatment.
When a person with a psychological disorder does need treatment, he or she will typically receive an individualized plan developed in collaboration with a mental health provider. This may include psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both. In some cases, patients will require more intensive care and be admitted to a psychiatric hospital, either because the symptoms are severe or because they pose a threat to themselves or others. In the hospital, a person can get counseling and participate in group therapy with other patients.