MENTAL HEALTH INFORMATION

Common mental health disorders and their symptoms

Information regarding the disorders described below was obtained from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Mental Health. For more information on these disorders and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site.

Helping a Loved One

If you are concerned that a loved one may be experiencing a mental illness, remember that listening, not necessarily giving advice, may be what they need. However, if problems seem to be interfering with your loved one's ability to get through a day, encourage them to seek professional help. Encourage them to talk with their family physician or local community mental health center therapist about their concerns.

Parents and guardians may make appointments for their children. While adults will make their own appointments, you can assist your loved one with the telephone call and get them connected with a Mankato Psychology Clinic staff member. Offer to go with them to the appointment, if that would be helpful. If your friend or loved one talks about wanting to give up, wanting to be dead, saying that it's too hard to go on, he or she may be suicidal. Please don't underestimate the seriousness of his or her despair. Please get help by calling 911. If your friend or loved one is willing, you can take them to the nearest Emergency Room and ask for assistance.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are marked by feelings of overwhelming anxiety and fear and are considered to be serious medical illnesses. There are several anxiety disorders, and while the symptoms for each disorder vary, they share in common the theme of excessive worry and fear.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic, exaggerated sense of worry and dread--more than the normal stress people experience on a daily basis. Individuals often experience excessive worry or tension about school, health, money, family, or work, and often anticipate disaster. Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, irritability, nausea, or difficulty sleeping. GAD often occurs with other disorders, including other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse. GAD occurs twice as frequently in women than men.

Panic Disorder is marked by feelings of terror that strike without warning and occur repeatedly. When people experience a panic attack, it may feel like a heart attack. The heart pounds, and one feels sweaty, weak, faint, flushed, chilled, nauseated, or experiences tingling sensations in the hands. The attacks feel so frightening, many times the individual worries excessively about when and where the next one will occur. Panic disorder occurs twice as frequently in women than men.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is marked by persistent thoughts or images (obsessions) or the urgent need to engage in certain rituals (compulsions). For people with OCD, their need to perform rituals, such as repeated hand washing or counting, consumes hours each day and interferes with daily life, even though they are aware that what they are doing is senseless. OCD strikes men and women equally, normally appearing in childhood or early adolescence.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs following a traumatic event, such as child abuse, rape, serious accidents, natural disasters, or torture. Persistent thoughts or flashbacks of the trauma recur frequently and may interfere with daily life. Women are more likely than men to experience PTSD.

Social Phobia, also called Social Anxiety Disorder, involves overwhelming anxiety regarding everyday social situations. There is a persistent fear that the person is being watched and judged by other people present, and individuals frequently fear they are embarrassing or humiliating themselves. Social phobia may be limited to one situation, such as a fear of public speaking, or it may be severe enough that anxiety exists any time one is around other people. Social phobia exists equally among men and women.

Specific phobias are intense fears of something that poses little or no danger, and may include fears of closed-in places, heights, dogs, flying, or water. Phobias occur in twice as many women as men, and usually appear during childhood. Some may feel treatment is not necessary because contact with the feared thing can be avoided; however phobias can become so extreme that they interfere with daily life or important personal decisions.

Anxiety disorders can be treated effectively with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. For more information on anxiety disorders and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site. Contact us for more information.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders among children, affecting 3%-5% of all children, and it often continues into adolescence and adulthood. ADHD is marked by an inability to sit still, plan ahead, complete tasks, or be fully aware of what's going on around them. Many individuals feel easily bored, and are easily distracted. The most common symptoms or behaviors of ADHD fall into the categories of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.

ADHD can be treated with medication and therapy. Education for parents of children with ADHD is an important part of helping them understand and respond to their children's illness. For more information on ADHD and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site. Contact us for more information.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as Manic-Depression, causes dramatic mood swings and severe changes in energy and behavior that correspond with changes in moods. Those with bipolar disorder experience symptoms of depression and mania and sometimes experience periods of normal moods in between.

Symptoms of mania include increased energy and activity, excessively "high" or euphoric mood, racing thoughts or talking very fast, distractibility, little sleep needed, unrealistic beliefs in one's own powers or abilities, or poor judgment. One may also go on excessive spending sprees, abuse drugs, or experience an increased sexual drive.

Symptoms of depression include a lasting sad or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, decreased energy or fatigue, change in appetite, difficulty making decisions, or thoughts of death or suicide. One may also experience an inability to sleep or be sleeping too much, or they may experience chronic aches and pains not caused by any physical illness or injury.

Fortunately, bipolar disorder is treatable with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. For more information on bipolar disorder and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site. Contact us for more information.

Depressive Disorders

In any given one-year period, 9.5% of the population suffer from a depressive illness. Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment, although the great majority can be helped with effective treatment. Depressive disorders come in different forms, but three are most commonly found and can vary in symptoms, severity, and persistence.

Major Depression interferes with a person's ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Symptoms include a lasting sad or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, decreased energy or fatigue, change in appetite, difficulty making decisions, or thoughts of death or suicide. One may also experience an inability to sleep or be sleeping too much, or they may experience chronic aches and pains not caused by any physical illness or injury. Episodes of major depression are extremely disabling and may occur several times over the course of one's lifetime.

Dysthymia is marked by chronic symptoms of depression which do not severely disable, as in major depression, but prevent one from feeling good or functioning at an optimal level. Some individuals with dysthymia experience occasional episodes of major depression.

Finally, bipolar disorder is a more rare depressive disorder marked by extreme mood swings.

Women experience depression twice as frequently as men, and depression can strike children and the elderly. Men and women often experience different symptoms. Depression can run in families for several generations, although many individuals with depression do not have a family history. Depression is believed to be caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals, and can also be linked to hormonal changes.

Fortunately, depression is treatable with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. For more information on depression and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site. Contact us for more information.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic, disabling brain disease that affects men and women equally. Their perception of reality is much different from those around them, and it causes them to become frightened, anxious, and confused. Schizophrenia is not the same as having a split personality, or Multiple Personality Disorder, as is often portrayed in the popular culture.

"Psychosis" is a common condition in schizophrenia, and it is a state of mental impairment marked by hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are sensory experiences that occur without a source, such as hearing voices that others do not hear. Delusions are false personal beliefs, such as believing others are reading their minds or believing that one is an important or famous figure. Some individuals with schizophrenia experience only one psychotic episode, while others have several episodes in their lifetime, leading relatively normal lives in between. Still others experience chronic psychotic episodes.

The cause of schizophrenia is not yet known, but studies suggest it is linked to imbalances in brain chemistry and brain formation and it does run in families.

Research continues on effective medications and other treatments for schizophrenia. For more information on schizophrenia and other mental health concerns, go to the National Institute for Mental Health's "For the Public" site. Contact us for more information.