So many mental health disorders exist, and in today’s society, they are definitely being talked about more. Still, many people don’t really know much about different mental health disorders, especially since so many are still stigmatized, even with how far we’ve come over the years with mental health advocacy. Even though more mental health disorders are being brought to light, we still see so much misrepresentation or villainization of certain disorders in the media. So, instead of letting Hollywood do the talking, this article will teach you some actual facts about different mental health disorders- some you may know and some you may not. Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road!
For this article, we will discuss the three most common mental health disorders: depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since these are the three most common mental health disorders, you may be most familiar with the facts pertaining to each of them, but you also might learn something you never knew about them. There’s only one way to find out- read on!
Depression is a mental disorder in which a person experiences immense feelings of sadness and experiences losing interest in things they usually love or want to do. Just to give you an idea of how common depression is, “in 2019, 280 million people were living with depression, including 23 million children and adolescents” . Clearly, depression is affecting a huge amount of people, many of them being a part of the younger population. So for those who think “young people have nothing to be depressed about,” first of all, it isn’t their choice, and second of all, people of all ages can experience events that can lead to developing different mental health disorders. One thing you may not know about depression is that it’s “the leading cause of disability in the U.S.” . A lot of people don’t see mental health issues as serious as physical illnesses, but what many don’t realize is that mental health disorders, like depression, also cause physical issues. Some physical issues that can be brought on by depression include weight loss/weight gain, chronic headaches, and digestive disorders .
To round out this section, we’ll be going over the three most common depressive disorders. These include: major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. “Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. These disabling episodes can occur once, twice or several times in a lifetime” . This is what many people think of when they think of depression. This is different from dysthymia, although those with dysthymia can still go through major depressive episodes. “Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression and involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good” . Imagine living life never feeling 100%? That’s how those living with some mental disorders, like dysthymia, feel, but because they may not look as bad as they feel, their feelings get dismissed often.
Lastly, we’ll go over bipolar disorder. “Bipolar disorder involves cycles of depression and elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems. Bipolar disorder is often a chronic recurring condition” . Although this isn’t as common as the other two depressive disorders, it’s still important to know about. Manic episodes, though they can differ from person to person, can be quite dangerous due to impulsive behavior and thinking. What’s important to remember is that just because a person diagnosed with a depressive disorder doesn’t seem depressed, doesn’t mean they aren’t still dealing with symptoms of these different disorders.
Anxiety disorders are even more common than depressive disorders. “In 2019, 301 million people were living with an anxiety disorder including 58 million children and adolescents” . Now, there are a bunch of different types of anxiety disorders, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll go over generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Both of these anxiety disorders, like depressive disorders, have mental and physical symptoms that can have a harsh impact on those suffering from them. Anxiety disorders do not equate to just feeling a little anxious. Some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder that you may not be aware of include :
● Excessive worry about everyday issues for at least 6 months
● Nausea or stomach issues
● Pounding heart
● Chest pains
● Fear of dying
● Decreased energy
● Thoughts of death or suicide attempts
● Feelings of unreality
These are just a few of the symptoms one can experience with generalized anxiety disorder. “When persistent and unrealistic worry becomes a normal way of approaching situations, an individual may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. Many individuals with this disorder constantly anticipate disaster and often worry excessively about health, money, family or work” . Now, panic disorder does have similar symptoms. “Panic disorder affects between three and six million Americans. Individuals with panic disorder have sudden and repeated feelings of terror known as panic attacks. Panic attacks usually produce a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control” . All the above symptoms listed for generalized anxiety disorder are also symptoms of panic disorder, which makes sense considering generalized anxiety disorder is generalized and can encompass traits of other specific anxiety disorders. These symptoms can be very physically debilitating, and those living with anxiety disorders sometimes have no control, especially when they aren’t able to recognize any triggers that may cause their anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is commonly associated with soldiers and veterans due to trauma they may have experienced during service. A lot of films and television also tend to show PTSD in this manner, but really, anyone who has gone through anything traumatic can develop PTSD. What you might not know is that PTSD is also categorized as an anxiety disorder, so symptoms related to anxiety disorders, like the ones listed in the previous section, can show up in individuals diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD “is characterised by all of the following: 1) re-experiencing the traumatic event or events in the present (intrusive memories, flashbacks, or nightmares); 2) avoidance of thoughts and memories of the event(s), or avoidance of activities, situations, or people reminiscent of the event(s); and 3) persistent perceptions of heightened current threat” . There are so many different things that can be considered a “traumatic event”. “A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see, hear about, or that happens to you. During a traumatic event, you think that your life or others’ lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or that you have no control over what is happening” . So, if anyone felt like in their life some event that evoked these feelings happened, then that could lead to PTSD. Some examples of events that could cause PTSD include :
● Combat or military exposure
● Child sexual or physical abuse
● Terrorist attacks
● Sexual or physical assaults
● Serious accidents such as a car wreck
● Natural disasters such as a wildfire, tornados, hurricanes, floods or earthquakes
All of these mental health disorders are treatable with a proper diagnosis, so if you do think you’re experiencing symptoms of any of these disorders, please talk to a health care professional to help you figure out what may be going on. What’s important to remember when it comes to mental health disorders is that, although some disorders do have physical symptoms, you won’t always be able to actually see the suffering someone is going through in their heads. This is why it is so important to lead life with empathy; you never know what someone is going through at any given moment, and a little kindness can go a long way.
1. World Health Organization. (2022, June 8). Mental Disorders. World Health Organization. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
2. Depression. Frontier Behavioral Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://fbhwa.org/facts/mental-health-issues/depression
3. Anxiety Disorder. Frontier Behavioral Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://fbhwa.org/facts/mental-health-issues/anxiety-disorder
4. PTSD. Frontier Behavioral Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://fbhwa.org/facts/mental-health-issues/ptsd
Author: Lauryn Agron
Editor: Shandrix Ferrer
Health scientist: Abdullah Alharbi