What is a Psychological Illness?

psychological illness

A psychological illness is a set of inner experiences and behaviors that disrupt one’s mental health. It is generally considered a disorder when the disturbances cause significant distress or impairment in one’s life and do not reflect culturally expected reactions to certain life events (for example, post-traumatic stress disorder). Psychopathology is the scientific study of mental disorders, including their causes, processes, and symptomatic expressions. Psychologists, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists all study psychopathology and use its findings to treat people with mental illnesses.

Symptoms of a mental illness can vary greatly, from feelings such as depression or anxiety to psychotic features such as hallucinations and delusions. Some people experience more than others, but all symptoms are real and should not be ignored. Symptoms can also interfere with everyday activities, such as sleeping and eating or cause difficulty working or socializing.

There are many causes of mental illnesses, including genetics and a combination of biological, environmental and life experience factors. Abuse, neglect and exposure to trauma in childhood can increase a person’s risk of developing some conditions, as can poor family functioning, living in a violent environment and social isolation. Certain medical conditions and hormone changes can also contribute to mental illness.

Some of the most common mental illnesses are anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Anxiety disorders include phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders. Mood disorders include depression and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that can lead to delusions, thought disorders and hallucinations. Schizoaffective disorder is a diagnosis used for individuals that show some of the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia and depression or other mood disorders.

Treatment for mental illnesses usually includes psychotherapy or counseling with a trained professional and sometimes medications. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, involves discussing your symptoms and their impact on your daily life with a mental health professional. Counseling with a therapist can help you learn skills to manage your symptoms and cope with stressful situations.

Medications for mental illnesses may be used to correct biochemical imbalances, to relieve depression, anxiety and other symptoms, or to control psychotic episodes. Psychiatric drugs include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications.

Despite the stigma attached to mental illnesses, most people can recover from their symptoms and live full lives. There are a wide range of treatment options, including psychotherapy, medication, support groups and complementary and alternative medicine. A good treatment plan should be tailored to your unique situation and will depend on the severity of your symptoms, how long you have had them and other factors. It is important to remember that mental illness is not your fault and that recovery is possible, especially when you take a proactive role in your own care and stick with it.