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Overview of mental disorders

Mental disorders are illnesses that affect The main psychotic disorders are or persistent emotional states that affect
or are manifested in the brain. They may schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder how a person acts, thinks and perceives
impact on the way a person thinks, and the delusional disorders. his environment. People with mood
behaves, and interacts with other people. disorders often suffer from overwhelming
• Schizophrenia is a serious mental
The definition ‘mental disorder’ feelings of sadness (depression), while
disorder characterised by delusions,
encompasses numerous psychiatric others suffer from alternating periods of
hallucinations, agitation, blunted
disorders that can vary in severity.1 mania and depression (bipolar disorder).
affect, social withdrawal, apathy,
A mental disorder has a major impact on anhedonia, and poverty of thought
a person’s wellbeing. It may interfere and content of speech. Eating disorders
directly with their daily functioning (at Eating disorders are characterised by a
• In schizoaffective disorder, both
home, work and socially) and adversely marked disturbance in eating behaviour.
affective illness and schizophrenia
affect quality of life. Mental disorders are The two major eating disorders are
symptoms are seen. The person’s
caused by a complex and poorly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
premorbid adjustment is usually
understood interaction between genetics,
good; there is usually a sudden
learned behaviour, personality, past onset of illness after a specific Substance-use disorders
psychological influences, physical health, stressor. The prognosis of patients
present situation and coping skills. These are clinical syndromes that occur
with schizoaffective disorders is
Mental disorders can have a as a result of using substances that act
better than that of patients
physiological basis and arise from on the central nervous system (CNS).
with schizophrenia.
changes in brain chemistry. Substance abuse causes decreased work
• Delusional disorder, formerly or school performance, accidents,
Today most people who suffer from a known as paranoid disorder, is intoxication, absenteeism, and social
mental illness — including those that characterised by persistent consequences include violent crime and
can be extremely debilitating, eg nonbizarre delusions. theft. Adolescents are the most vulnerable
schizophrenia — can be treated age group and men are more at risk of
effectively and lead full lives. substance abuse than women. This
Recognised mental illnesses are 15 category includes disorders related to
described and categorised in the alcohol, amphetamine, cocaine, cannabis
1-year prevalence (%)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of 12 and caffeine abuse and dependency.

Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-
IV). This book is compiled by the 9 Alcohol, a CNS depressant and intoxicant,
American Psychiatric Association and is is the most commonly abused
updated periodically (see fact sheet 6 psychoactive substance. Alcoholism is
‘Diagnosis of mental disorders’ for the excessive use of ethanol-containing
more information on 3 beverages and its effects range from
the DSM-IV). alcohol intoxication to withdrawal,
0 withdrawal delirium and hallucinosis.
r r I II
Mental disorders can be divided into rde rde lar lar
d iso diso Bipo Bipo Alcohol abuse and dependence can
various classes. r
ola oo
nip M lead to behavioural disorders and
other persistent problems due to
Psychotic disorders chronic use eg persisting amnestic
Figure 1. One year prevalence rates for
The main characteristics of these mood disorders2
disorders are loss of insight and reality
testing. People with psychotic disorders
experience delusions and hallucinations
Mood disorders
and do not understand that these Mood disorders are clinical conditions
thoughts are abnormal. characterised by a disturbance of mood

disorder, Wernicke’s encephalopathy state (generalised anxiety disorder). References
and Korsakoff’s syndrome. Anxiety symptoms include emotional
(fear), cognitive (anxious thoughts) and 1. American Psychiatric Association.
bodily symptoms (increased heart rate), Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Somatoform disorders Mental Disorders, fourth edition.
the latter being caused by stimulation of
Somatoform disorders are the repeated the autonomic nervous system. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric
presentation of physical symptoms with Association; 1994.
persistent requests for medical Anxiety disorders also include:
2. US Department of Health and Human
investigations in spite of negative findings • Phobias Services. Mental Health: A Report of
and reassurances by doctors that the
• Social phobia (social anxiety disorder) the Surgeon General —Chapter 2: The
symptoms have no physical basis. If any
fundamentals of mental health and
physical disorders are present, they are • Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) mental illness. Rockville, MD: U.S.
insufficient to explain the severity of
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Department of Health and Human
symptoms or patient distress. Services, Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration, Centre
Personality disorders Dissociative disorders for Mental Health Services, National
Personality disorders are deeply ingrained, People with dissociative disorders present Institutes of Health, National Institute
maladaptive patterns of behaviour. The with episodes during which they are of Mental Health, 1999.
initial signs of personality disorders can unable to recall important personal
be recognised in adolescence or earlier information. These episodes of
and symptoms often continue forgetfulness are too extensive to be
throughout adult life. Personality explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
disorders can have an adverse effect
both on the individual and on society. Impulse control disorders
This is a group of disorders characterised
by a patient’s failure to resist an impulse,
drive or temptation to perform some
1-year prevalence (%)

act that is harmful to him/herself

or to another.
9 Common impulse control disorders:
6 • Kleptomania: inability to resist
impulses to steal objects that are
3 not needed for personal use or for
monetary value
ers CD der bia bia AD nia osa • Pathological gambling: inability to
ord O disor c pho l pho G phre nerv resist placing a bet
dis i a o
ty nic cif ci hiz xia
xie Pa Spe So Sc nore
An A • Trichotillomania: irresistible urge to
pull out one’s own hair
Figure 2. One year prevalence rates for
major anxiety disorders2 • Intermittent explosive disorder:
characterised by irresistible
aggressive impulses
Anxiety disorders
• Pyromania: deliberately and
Anxiety disorders include various purposefully setting fires
combinations of mental and physical
manifestations of anxiety not attributable • Compulsive buying: irresistible
to real danger and occurring either in urge to spend money on items
attacks (panic disorder) or as a persisting that are not needed.