Contrary to what might be expected in the medical world the most common illness in the developed world is not cancer or heart diseases – it’s mental illness. The scope of mental illness in America can be assessed by referring to data from a 2005 survey that is in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The survey estimates that in a given year over 26% of Americans aged 18 and over suffers from a mental disorder that can be diagnosed as such. That’s tens of millions of people and does not take into account that there are also many people under the age of 18 who also suffer from mental illness.
Mental illness takes a variety of forms; there are now many different treatments depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, and some of these will be discussed here. An illness can affect anyone at any time, though often they can arise through long periods of stress, perhaps after bereavement or when under intense pressure at work. They also arise in people who have drugs or alcohol addictions and are no respecter of age, ethnicity or race.
There is still a stigma attached to mental illness, harking back to the terrible times when sufferers were branded as lunatics and locked away in the infamous mental hospitals. The stigmatization of mental disorders means that people suffering from one or more may be reluctant to confide in anyone, be it a medical professional, family or friends, and is probably the most unhelpful reaction for people to endure. It may be as well for those who stigmatize sufferers to remember this phrase: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The commonest types of mental illness can be bracketed under mood disorders and probably the most well-known of these is depression. The condition affects people in different ways and its severity can vary considerably. Major depression is frequently recurrent throughout a person’s life and brings deep feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. People find it hard to function normally, with sensations of tiredness, an inability to focus, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.
A less severe form of depression is dysthymia, but the symptoms tend to last for longer, often for two years or more. While both forms of depression can develop at any age, the median age for the onset of major depression is 32 and for dysthymia it is 31.
Schizophrenia is another common mental disorder, a long-term condition that causes a number of different psychological symptoms. These include delusions, where unusual beliefs that have no base in reality often contradict evidence; hallucinations, where things that don’t exist are seen or heard; changes in behavior and muddled thoughts that are based on delusions or hallucinations. The condition can appear in the late teen years or early twenties for men, with women more generally being affected in their twenties and early thirties.
Anxiety disorders include a variety of conditions and include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias such as agoraphobia and social phobia. Nearly 75% of those suffering from an anxiety disorder are likely to have had their first episode by the beginning of their twenties.
Treatments For Mental Illness
There are both medications and psychosocial therapies available to treat a wide number of mental disorders, and any treatments must be carried out with the advice of a medical professional. Many people with these illnesses have had their lives changed for the better and are able to continue working and socializing without the debilitating effects of their disorder.
It is important to stress here that treatments are not cures, but they can make very significant differences to the way sufferers are able to lead their lives.
Depression is frequently treated with antidepressants that work on balancing some of brain’s natural chemicals, called neurotransmitters. These affect a person’s mood and emotional responses, and the antidepressants work on these to help alter the way the brain operates.
Medications for schizophrenia are generally known as anti-psychotics and since the 1950s there has been a range of them successfully helping to treat the condition. A number of effective atypical anti-psychotics have been developed to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia, with many choosing to buy Abilify as their medication of preference.
Anxiety disorders and phobias can be helped with medications that include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. They may also be treated with beta-blockers that assist in blocking adrenaline release in parts of the body.