Psychological illness can be a serious mental health condition that affects your ability to function and maintain healthy relationships. Psychotherapy (often combined with medication) can help you learn to manage symptoms and lead a productive, fulfilling life.
A psychological disorder is a complex problem with many factors. Protective and risk factors combine at the individual, family and community levels to promote or undermine mental well-being. These factors can also be affected by biological processes and underlying brain structure or dysfunction.
Generally, psychologists have defined mental disorders by the types of disturbances they cause in thinking and behavior. Inner experiences and behavior are considered to be disturbed when they reflect some kind of dysfunction in normal mental functioning, and when they interfere with daily living, as measured by the standards of that person’s culture.
Some of the most common mental illnesses include anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and specific phobias; mood disorders, which range from depression to extreme highs or lows (cyclothymic disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder); attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which is characterized by trouble paying attention or concentrating; and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia elavida.
In addition to these disorders, some people may have problems with their emotions, such as depressive and manic episodes, or the way they perceive the world around them, like hallucinations or paranoia. Such disorders are called personality disorders, and they include borderline, narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. Other disorders are more serious, such as schizophrenia and severe depression with suicidal thoughts.
The good news is that effective treatments exist for most of these conditions, including psychotherapy and medicines. Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that involves talking with a trained therapist, often for a number of months. Your therapist will decide which approach to take, depending on the condition you have and the reasons behind it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an important psychotherapy for many disorders. It helps you identify and change inaccurate or harmful patterns of thought and behavior. It can also improve your communication skills, so you can deal with relationship difficulties and other problems that make it hard to cope. This type of therapy is used by psychiatrists, psychologists and some primary care physicians.
Other types of psychotherapy include interpersonal therapy, which helps you improve your communication skills with those closest to you; and group psychotherapy. These can be helpful in addressing issues such as unemployment and bereavement.
If your illness is severe, you may need to be treated in a hospital, either in an acute care unit or a psychiatric hospital. Intensive treatment typically includes therapy and medications, along with social support and education. Sticking with your treatment plan is essential. If you stop your treatment, your symptoms can return and you could become very ill again. Talk to your therapist and keep your primary care physician informed. They can help you safely adjust your medications as needed. They can also help you find the right support and encouragement.