Mental illness is a serious condition that affects thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It may also interfere with a person’s ability to work or live with others. Treatment is available for most people with psychological disorders. It may include psychotherapy, medication or other treatments. Alternative treatments, such as yoga and acupuncture, are sometimes used in addition to standard care.
The causes of psychological illness are not fully understood. But researchers do know that a combination of factors is involved, including genes, brain circuitry, environment and lifestyle. Some psychiatric disorders have been linked to particular environmental factors, such as trauma or drug use. Some disorders have a biological basis, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Other mental illnesses have a more complex history, such as dissociative identity disorder or schizoaffective disorder.
Many people with mental health conditions don’t seek help because they don’t think their symptoms are real or that they deserve treatment. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Others are afraid of what might happen if they get treated, such as being put in a psychiatric hospital or being diagnosed with a mental disorder. Some believe that they’re somehow responsible for having a mental illness, because of past experiences or their beliefs. They might also have the impression that a mental illness is contagious or that it will affect their job, school or social life.
Those with mental illness are not weak, lazy or bad. They don’t choose to have a mental illness. In fact, most people who have a mental illness can recover, especially when they receive treatment. But they need to stick with their treatment plan, avoid alcohol and drugs and eat foods that are good for the brain. They should also try to reduce stress in their lives.
The first standardized system of classification for mental disorders was developed in the 19th century by Emil Kraepelin, with clear descriptions of certain syndromes. His classification scheme helped lead to the American Psychiatric Association’s 1952 publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Other classification schemes have been created, but these are generally not used by most mental health providers.
Psychotherapy is the main form of treatment for most psychological disorders. It involves talking with a professional therapist in a safe and confidential setting about problems, feelings and behavior. Therapists can teach coping skills and provide emotional support. They may also recommend other types of treatment, such as medication or family therapy.
The needs of each individual are considered to determine whether or not a person requires hospitalization. The decision is made based on the severity of the person’s symptoms, how they affect daily functioning and the risks and benefits of different treatment options. People with severe mental illness often require psychiatric treatment in hospitals. They may be admitted if they are at risk of hurting themselves or others, have difficulty living independently, or have dangerous behaviors that threaten their own or someone else’s well-being. In some cases, psychiatric hospitalization is needed to closely monitor and accurately diagnose a person’s symptoms or to make sure that their medications are effective.