A psychological illness is a disease or condition that affects the way you think, feel, and behave. It can be mild to severe, and it can vary from person to person. Mental illnesses are very common, and they can affect everyone at some point in their lives.
Psychological disorders are thought to be caused by biological, environmental and social factors. These can include a combination of genetics and aspects of life experience, including things like childhood trauma, bullying, relationship problems, poverty, abuse, and social or cultural factors. For a person to be diagnosed with a mental disorder, their inner experiences or behaviors must reflect significant disturbances from the normal range of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. These disturbances must be distressing and/or cause impairment in their daily functioning (often referred to as functional or occupational impairment).
The symptoms of mental illness often affect the mind, mood, and emotions, but they can also affect physical health. For example, some people with anxiety disorders may have trouble sleeping or eating or may start having trouble concentrating. People with depression may feel numb or have suicidal thoughts. Mental illnesses can be treated with medicine, therapy, or other treatments. Some people have psychotherapy alone, while others have it in addition to medication. There are many different types of psychotherapy, and some are more effective than others. Some types of psychotherapy are based on modifying certain patterns of thought and behavior associated with a disorder, while others are more focused on understanding and addressing underlying psychological conflicts and defenses.
Scientists are still trying to understand what causes mental illness. However, they do know that some diseases and conditions are a result of changes in brain circuits used for thinking, feeling, and behavior. They also know that some diseases are related to the level of activity or low levels of activity of certain chemicals in these circuits.
Researchers are also working to understand how social and environmental factors can both protect against and contribute to the development of mental disorders. For example, some research suggests that having a close family member with a mental illness can increase the risk that you will develop a mental disorder. However, it doesn’t always do so, and some people without a family history of mental illness develop a disorder.
Doctors can treat most mental disorders. Medications can help restore the balance of chemicals in your brain, and this often improves or eliminates the symptoms of the disorder. These medications can be either over-the-counter or prescription. Antidepressants can help with depression, and antipsychotics can be used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Various types of psychotherapy are also effective, and some of them, such as dialectical behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy, are specifically geared to people with specific disorders. Other psychotherapies, such as group psychotherapy and family therapy, are more general. These can be helpful when dealing with other difficult personal or social situations, such as employment difficulties or bereavement.