A psychological illness is a complex disorder that affects how you think, feel and behave. It may cause you distress and interfere with your ability to function at home, at work and in social relationships. Mental disorders are usually treated by psychotherapy and sometimes medications. In addition, people with psychological disorders may need support from family and friends.
Mental disorders are classified according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). Psychiatrists who treat patients use these two classification systems. These systems list categories of disorder and set standardized criteria for diagnosis. There are also alternative classification schemes, such as those used in non-western cultures.
Generally, for something to be considered a mental illness, it must cause significant distress or impairment in daily functioning and require treatment. These experiences or symptoms must be different from normal and have lasted for at least six months. They must also be disabling and interfere with work, school, or social activities. Some examples include depressed mood, anxiety, phobias, psychotic illnesses and other disorders that interfere with perception, thought or memory.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by a pattern of intense fear or worry that is different from ordinary feelings of nervousness or dread. They are a common group of conditions and include specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are other disorders in this category. Schizophrenia is a severe, disabling condition that can cause unusual beliefs, hallucinations and disturbed emotions. It is also associated with difficulty understanding others and feeling empathy for them. Other psychotic disorders in this category are bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and schizotypy.
Personality disorders include narcissistic personality disorder, which is a lasting pattern of self-centeredness and indifference to others. Paranoid personality disorder is a persistent pattern of mistrust of others, even close friends and family. Other personalities in this category are avoidant personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder (formerly called sociopath disorder).
Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy that helps people deal with problems such as anxiety, depression and grief. It aims to change problematic patterns of thinking, behavior and relationship. It includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectic behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. In the past, psychoanalysis, which involves exploring underlying psychic conflicts and defenses, was a major form of psychotherapy.
Psychological disorders are not curable, but effective treatments can reduce or eliminate many of the symptoms. Some of these are medication, psychotherapy and self-management strategies. In more severe cases, some people need to be hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. People hospitalized for psychiatric illnesses receive counseling and treatment with other patients. They learn how to manage their symptoms and develop a plan for living the kind of life they want.