Although it isn't talked about much, most of us already understand that there's been a silent epidemic following along with the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, we're talking about the increase in mental illnesses in Canada and around the world.
Fortunately, we no longer have to suffer in silence. Help is available, but it starts with understanding the problems at hand. Let's talk about some of the most common mental disorders, their signs and symptoms, and what you can do to treat them.
What Is a Mental Disorder?
While varying in illness and severity, mental disorders as a whole are characterized as conditions that affect mood, thinking, and behaviour. While there are plenty of examples that come to mind, mental disorders cover a wide range of conditions not always linked to mental health, but also to cognitive abilities, capacities, and behavioural challenges.
For clarification, many will think of conditions such as depression or anxiety when discussing mental disorders. However, that is a sharply narrow view of mental disorders. Substance use disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and others are included under this umbrella. Anything affecting thought, mood, or behaviour will fall under the category of a mental disorder.
Fortunately, mental illnesses are covered under most health insurance policies, which means that access to mental health services is increasingly available.
Even for common, more mild disorders, treatment is critical. When left untreated, depression, anxiety, and other common mental disorders will lead to brain damage, developmental issues, and plenty of serious health risks, including suicide.
Who Is Affected by Mental Disorders?
Mental illness is extremely common worldwide. If you believe you have a mental health disorder, you're far from alone. 970 million people around the world suffer from one or more mental illnesses, including substance use disorder (SUD).
Mental illness affects huge portions of the population every year, either directly or indirectly. However, certain disorders are far more common and some people are affected more than others. Let's talk about that.
What Age Group Has the Most Mental Health Issues?
Approximately 1 in 5 teens between the ages of 12 and 18 suffer from mental illness, making them the most vulnerable age group by far. During the pandemic, numbers have increased across every demographic, with the largest increase seen among teens and young adults.
What Is the Most Diagnosed Mental Disorder?
Without a doubt, the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder is anxiety and anxiety-related conditions. While the most recent information dates back to 2013, studies showed at the time that over 3 million Canadian adults had a mood or anxiety disorder.
So, what are some common symptoms of anxiety? Well, everybody experiences mental health disorders differently, but common symptoms include:
- Restless or on-edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being irritable
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Sleep problems
The list goes on, and these symptoms can be mild to severe, and not all will be present in each individual. Some may experience anxiety attacks every day, while some may only experience attacks once a month. A medical diagnosis is needed for the treatment of anxiety.
When left untreated, anxiety tends to worsen over time. Somebody who experiences one anxiety attack is likely to experience them with increasing frequency, which can lead to worsening symptoms, other mental health conditions, and even brain damage.
The 10 Most Common Mental Disorders
After anxiety, there are many common mental illnesses people live with, and there are many common misconceptions about each of them. Here are ten of the most common examples, along with brief descriptions of their signs, symptoms, and recommended treatment options.
1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communicative, and behavioral challenges from childhood through adulthood. The keyword to understand is "spectrum", as ASD is a large umbrella term used for plenty of different developmental challenges that are often unique to the individual.
Mild cases can result in slight social challenges during development that may not be noticeable in adulthood, while severe cases could cause extreme oversensitivity to stimuli, severe developmental challenges, or even aggression.
ASD requires a diagnosis from a medical professional. Typically, ASD is diagnosed between the ages of 38 months and 120 months, but this range is far broader in certain cases, especially mild ones. Treatment is entirely dependent upon the individual, often requiring an individual education plan (IEP) for students with ASD.
2. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a very common mental disorder that was discovered in the late 18th century but has only been used in general health practices since 1980 throughout the US and Canada. However, it's a very common disorder characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and attention difficulties.
Often, ADHD is diagnosed in childhood and persists through adulthood, with cases ranging from mild to severe. A diagnosis is required for ADHD and treatment usually involved medication and/or an IEP in a school setting.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep, stay asleep, or feel restless overnight. The disorder could be caused by a number of different issues, including a lack of exercise, a side effect of medication, or a chronic illness (including mental disorders).
Usually, insomnia is self-diagnosable, but it could require medication treatment, which will require a medical diagnosis. If there is an underlying condition causing or affecting sleep, this may also require treatment.
3. Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder comes with many misconceptions among the general public, although it is one of the most common mental illnesses. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are not simply "mood swings", but instead long episodes of mania and severe depression.
Conversely, the condition is classified by stretches of either mania or hypomania (less severe mania), in which people may experience:
- Less need for sleep
- Making grandiose plans
- Have extreme, high energy
- Elevated, excitable mood
- Racing thoughts
However, the majority of cases of bipolar disorder are classified as severe, making hypomania the minority of cases. Bipolar disorder requires a medical diagnosis and is usually treated through medication and therapy.
Mania is then followed by periods of severe depression, where suicidal or self-destructive thoughts and actions are likely to occur. Both periods are equally dangerous and require medical attention right away.
5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is another mental disorder riddled with misconceptions. OCD does not require someone to be overly clean, require specific organization, or be otherwise concerned with specific organizational details.
Instead, it's a chronic, long-lasting disorder that affects many around the world, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. In most cases, a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts, obsessions, or behaviours that they feel the urge to repeat routinely.
However, there are no set rules as to what those routines may be, and they may not interfere with their lives at all. You may never know that you or somebody close to you has OCD, even if they've experienced symptoms for their entire lives.
OCD requires a medical diagnosis and treatment could range from psychiatric therapy to medication treatment, depending on the severity of the condition.
6. Eating Disorders
Whether it involves eating too little or overeating, it will be classified as an eating disorder, nonetheless. Two of the most common examples include anorexia; when people severely undereat, and bulimia; when people intentionally regurgitate their food to avoid gaining weight.
Often, those suffering from eating disorders find it challenging to view their body positively and continue to undereat. In many cases, this is to the detriment of their physical and mental health, as it can lead to malnourishment and other conditions.
When overeating, eating disorders can lead to diabetes, obesity, and other serious health conditions. Either way, psychological treatment is necessary along with possible medication treatment, depending on the severity of the case.
7. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a very common disorder, affecting millions worldwide, that is brought on after experiencing a traumatic event. To clear up some misconceptions, not everybody who experiences trauma will experience PTSD, it is not a sign of weakness, and military personnel are not the only ones who experience it.
PTSD can arise after grief, assault, abuse, or any perceived trauma. Somebody who experienced a scary (but benign) experience where they thought something bad was going to happen to them may experience PTSD, while somebody who had a more traumatic experience may never show signs of the disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD range from mild to severe, with anxiety disorders like panic attacks being common. However, everybody will experience these symptoms differently. The symptoms will also last for different periods from person to person.
Consequently, PTSD requires a medical diagnosis, and treatment varies depending on severity. Everything from medication to talk therapy or even intensive psychiatric care is common for those with PTSD.
8. Addiction and Substance Abuse
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a very common mental disorder affecting around 35 million people worldwide while only 1 in 7 receive treatment. SUD is defined as a chemical imbalance in your brain leading to intense cravings for a particular substance.
For example, when a person uses cocaine, the active ingredient's chemical composition is very similar to that of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. When your brain is flooded with this chemical, it stops producing dopamine at normal levels, creating a chemical dependency on the substance.
Usually, these conditions form due to use as a coping mechanism, a form of self-medication, or a prescription to an addictive substance like opioids.
Unlike some illnesses on this list, SUD is not curable. Once somebody has developed an addiction, they will have it for life. From there, ongoing treatment is always necessary.
Consequently, it's highly advised to seek inpatient (residential) treatment during early recovery, followed by plenty of ongoing outpatient treatments including therapy, group meetings, and doctor visits.
Schizophrenia is relatively rare compared to others on this list, affecting roughly 20 million people worldwide. The condition affects people's ability to think, feel, and behave clearly.
Essentially, schizophrenia is a dissociative disorder that leads people to feel out of touch with reality. Unfortunately, this leads people to make decisions based on an alternate sense of reality, which can be very dangerous. In severe cases, untreated schizophrenia will result in hallucinations, both auditory and visual.
Treatment is critical for people with schizophrenia, and it usually involves therapy, medication, and medical oversight. In more severe cases, patients will need inpatient rehabilitation at one point or another.
10. Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is often confused or used interchangeably with bipolar disorder, even though the two are entirely unrelated. BDP is characterized by unstable moods, behaviour, and relationships, and the instability tends to be greater than patients with bipolar disorder.
Instead, those with BPD may experience intense mood swings that are far more frequent and unpredictable, often leading to insecurity, feelings of hopelessness (or worthlessness), impulsivity, and hindered social relationships.
Those with BPD will require a medical diagnosis, usually in early adulthood, and treatment, which often includes talk therapy and medication treatment.
Seeking Help for Mental Disorders
Now that you know more about the most common mental disorders, it's important to take care of yourself and your loved ones.
Mental health is a rising concern around the world, which (fortunately) comes with a rise in consciousness and available treatment options for those in need. Stay up to date with our latest health news, know that Insurdinary is here to help with any of your needs.
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