What is Mental Illness?

29953374 - mental health (orange-white crossword puzzles series)

Many people are still unclear about what mental illness is. The mere mention of the words mental illness can conjure up a host of extreme images in many people’s minds. But similar to cancer, there are different kinds of mental illness that can affect anyone, at any time, for a variety of reasons, and they may present at different levels of severity. Some mental illness may be mild, like a mild phobia, which many of us have, while other times mental illness may result in severe challenges in day-to-day functioning.

So what IS mental illness? Also known as mental health disorder or behavioral health disordermental illness is a term used for a broad spectrum of disorders, many of which might surprise you.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” With proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope and/or can recover completely from a mental illness.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) explains that, “A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events, like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.” Unlike cancer, however, currently, there is no blood test or x-ray used to confirm an existing or pre-existing condition.

Below is a list of mental illnesses, or behavioral health disorders, with links to more information:

Anxiety Disorders

    • Panic Disorder
    • Phobias
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Attention-Deficit Disorder/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
    • Asperger’s Disorder*
    • Autistic Disorder*
    • Conduct Disorder
    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
    • Separation Anxiety Disorder
    • Tourette’s Disorder*
* In Maryland, treatment for these disorders falls under the responsibility of Maryland State Department of Education and the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa

Mood Disorders

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) (BPD)
  • Cyclothymic Disorder
  • Dysthymic Disorder

Cognitive Disorders 

  • Delirium
  • Multi-Infarct Dementia
  • Dementia Associated With Alcoholism
  • Dementia of the Alzheimer Type
  • Dementia

Personality Disorders

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Schizophrenia & Other Psychotic Disorders

  • Schizophrenia
  • Delusional Disorder
  • Brief Psychotic Disorder
  • Schizophreniform Disorder
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Shared Psychotic Disorder

Substance-Related Disorders

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