Like all other parts of the body, the brain is also susceptible to various illnesses that negatively affect an individual’s daily life. However, they usually manifest in behavioral, mood, and personality changes instead of physical modifications. Although there are more than 200 forms of mental illness, some of the most famous and commonly-occurring mental disorders include:
Although nearly everyone experiences some form of anxiety at multiple instances in life, clinical anxiety is difficult to control, out of proportion with the situation or interferes with daily activities. Moreover, various other medical conditions, like depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, cancer, or heart diseases often occur alongside an anxiety disorder, examples of which include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Exaggerated concern over daily-life events, anticipating worst-case scenarios and recurrent anxiety attacks.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: A constant fear of embarrassment, humiliation, and being negatively judged by others.
- Phobias: An extremely disabling and life-limiting fear of certain things, which may or not be rooted in a past unpleasant experience.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Ritualistic repetition of certain practices to get rid of certain anxiety-inducing thoughts, images, or impulses.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing, anger, irritability and distraction due to a past traumatic experience.
Although mood variations are common and usually tend to last for short periods of time, they last for much longer in people suffering from mood disorders, often impairing daily-life functioning, and might even lead to suicide. While Major or Clinical Depression is the most commonly diagnosed mood disorder, examples of other disorders include:
- Bipolar Disorder: Alternating depressive and manic (hyperactive) episodes that may last between a few days to many months and have a drastic impact on social and work life.
- Dysthymic Disorder: A lower-grade and chronic version of depression, with symptoms such as poor concentration and indecisiveness, that seem like a part of an individual’s personality.
Named after their primary symptom ‘psychosis’, psychotic disorders encompass conditions that affect the mind to distort the general idea of reality via hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there) and delusions (false beliefs), paranoia, and disorganized thoughts. While psychosis experienced during manic episodes crosses into the realm of psychotic disorders, schizophrenia is the flag-bearer of psychotic conditions.
- Schizophrenia: Commonly recognizable as ‘voices inside the head’ (hallucinations) and delusions, other symptoms include a complete lack of emotions, disordered thoughts, and a lack of desire to even move (catatonic schizophrenia).
These chronic disorders target food and eating habits to deal with emotional distress and social insecurities, usually brought on by socially projected ideals and personal misconceptions of beauty, weight and ideal body shape. They commonly affect adolescents and young adults, and usually start out as eating less or more than usual, later turning into uncontrollable self-starvation or binge-eating.
- Anorexia Nervosa: A misguided belief that control over eating habits will reciprocate into control over life-situations, commonly through self-starvation.
- Bulimia Nervosa: With body image beliefs similar to anorexia, it is characterized by alternating episodes of eating and pur ging through induced vomiting and other means.
- Binge-Eating Disorder: Eating large amounts of certain foods, usually to counteract stress, followed by immediate purging via vomiting, excessive exercise, etc.
Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events or disasters can lead to overwhelming stress in some individuals, which then manifests in their personalities and everyday lives as severe disturbances, or changes in memory, consciousness, and identity. Some common dissociative disorders include:
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Presence of two or more different personalities (alters) that alternately take over the body of an individual that might or might not be detectable as starkly contrasting personalities, and usually forms due to past trauma. Previously known as ‘multiple, or split personality’ disorder.
- Dissociative Amnesia: An inability to remember either a specific event or chain of events from a specific time period, an entire time period, or rarely, a complete loss of identity and life history, usually due to a traumatic or stressful event.
A mental illness with roots in physical medicine, dementia commonly affects older individuals and is characterized by a disturbance of consciousness and gradual physical and mental decline. Dementia may either be induced via long-term substance abuse, toxin exposure (mercury, lead, etc.), or due to medical conditions such as head trauma, HIV, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. Common examples of dementia include Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia.
Autism Spectrum Disorders:
Disproving previously held beliefs, autism is a group of multiple conditions that are characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication in children, and is usually diagnosed at 2-3 years of age, or as early as 18 months. Often, sensitive children with ASD may be greatly trouble-sometimes even pained-by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that are normal to others.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
Known previously as ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, this condition, like autism, primarily affects children and displays itself as hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsive behavior. The condition usually continues on into adulthood. Though it can result in learning difficulties, ADHD is not a learning disorder.
People with this disorder have difficulty reading and writing due to not being able to efficiently process and recognize different sounds that makeup words. However, unlike general ‘learning disabilities’, dyslexia does not affect overall intelligence, but a specific aspect of learning, such as reading and writing, hence known as a ‘Specific Learning Disability’. Dyslexic individuals are also often highly skilled in creative thinking, problem-solving, and other areas that do not generally require visual cues.
If you or someone you care about displays signs of any of the above conditions, do not ignore them and consult some specialists like a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]