What Is Psychological Illness?

Mental illness is a condition that can affect a person’s emotions, thoughts and behavior. While these conditions can be life threatening, they can be treated with psychotherapy and medications. Mental health professionals use a set of diagnostic guidelines called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to help determine whether or not a patient has a mental disorder. While some people are afraid to seek treatment for fear of social stigma, getting a diagnosis can be an important first step in finding effective care.

Psychiatric disorders can be caused by a number of things, including infection, brain damage and prenatal injury. Some conditions are hereditary, while others can be triggered by stress, anxiety, poor nutrition or exposure to certain substances. Psychologists and psychiatrists can diagnose a mental illness based on a person’s symptoms, their severity and how long they have been present. Generally, a doctor will run tests to rule out any medical problems that can cause psychological symptoms.

In order for a mental illness to be diagnosed, there must be a significant disturbance in a person’s thoughts and feelings and a change in a person’s normal behavior. These changes can be so severe that they impair a person’s ability to function in everyday life. These symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thinking. A mental illness may also lead to extreme agitation or distress.

Some of the most common psychological disorders are phobias, depression and bipolar disorder. Anxiety and panic disorders are also quite common, along with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Some of these disorders can be treated in outpatient settings, but some are more serious and require inpatient hospitalization.

People with untreated mental illnesses are more likely to experience unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness and inappropriate incarceration. They may also have a lower quality of life and be at greater risk for suicide. Fortunately, the treatments that are available today are very effective. With a combination of psychotherapy, medication and other types of treatment, people with mental illness can recover and live full lives.

Psychological illness is receiving more attention than ever before, in part because of recent research that shows that mental illness is more common — and much more serious — than was once believed. It is no longer acceptable for a person to be told to “just get over it” when they have a mental illness.

When a mental illness is left untreated, it can have devastating effects for the individual and society as a whole. With the eradication or successful treatment of many of the serious physical illnesses that once afflicted humans, the focus has turned to the fact that mental illness is just as serious and needs to be treated with the same urgency and skill as any other medical disorder. This is why the current national conversation about mental illness is so important. In addition, a new awareness is emerging about the importance of prevention. Taking action now to prevent mental illness can save lives and improve the overall well-being of our nation.