Information for Patients
What are mental disorders?
Mental disorders (or mental illnesses) are conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.
What are some types of mental disorders?
There are many different types of mental disorders. Some common ones include
- Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias
- Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
What causes mental disorders?
There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as
- Your genes and family history
- Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
- Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
- A traumatic brain injury
- A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- Having a serious medical condition like cancer
- Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated
Mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.
Who is at risk for mental disorders?
Mental disorders are common. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some time in their life.
How are mental disorders diagnosed?
The steps to getting a diagnosis include
- A medical history
- A physical exam and possibly lab tests, if your provider thinks that other medical conditions could be causing your symptoms
- A psychological evaluation. You will answer questions about your thinking, feelings, and behaviors.
What are the treatments for mental disorders?
Treatment depends on which mental disorder you have and how serious it is. You and your provider will work on a treatment plan just for you. It usually involves some type of therapy. You may also take medicines. Some people also need social support and education on managing their condition.
In some cases, you may need more intensive treatment. You may need to go to a psychiatric hospital. This could be because your mental illness is severe. Or it could be because you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. In the hospital, you will get counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients.