A psychological illness is a mental disorder that negatively affects an individual’s ability to function well in his or her everyday life. Unlike the normal emotions that everyone experiences from time to time, such as feeling sad or being angry, a psychological disorder is more serious and persistent and can have a significant impact on your daily activities such as sleeping and eating, working and concentrating and your relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
It is not known exactly what causes most mental disorders. However, researchers have found that many are linked to abnormal circuits in the brain. For example, there may be too much or too little activity in parts of the brain that control thinking and mood. Certain genes and environmental factors can also increase the risk of a mental disorder. Many people who have a mental illness have a family history of the condition. However, it is important to note that just because someone in your family had a mental illness does not mean you will get one too.
There are 300 or so disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that are considered to be serious. A person is considered to have a severe mental health problem, or SMI, if the disorder causes substantial distress or impairment in his or her daily functioning.
Some examples of a serious mental disorder include bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. Another example is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, which can develop after experiencing a terrifying event such as a sexual assault, the death of a loved one or a natural disaster.
If you have a mental disorder, there is treatment available. Treatment options include psychotherapy or talk therapy and medications. Your healthcare provider will work with you to create a treatment plan that is right for you.
Sometimes, you might need to go to a psychiatric hospital for more intensive treatment. This may be because your symptoms are so bad that they interfere with your daily functioning or because you might hurt yourself or someone else. During your stay at the hospital, you will receive counseling and medicines.
Psychotherapy is the main treatment for most mental disorders. It involves talking with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. There are several different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. You might also try family psychoeducation, which teaches you and your family about the disorder. You can also learn about self-help groups, which are formed by other people who have the same condition.