Define Mental Illness
Mental illness is an illness of the mind, feeling or behavior which can significantly impact one’s social, work or family life. Just like physical illnesses, these mental health disorders can be diagnosed and treated just like any physical one.
Mental illness cannot be defined with one single term or definition that encompasses all cultures’ concepts of normal or abnormal behavior. As such, there is no consensus among experts about what constitutes mental health and what qualifies as abnormal behavior.
Psychosocial syndromes can generally be distinguished based on their symptoms, course and outcome. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) serve as two widely used manuals for this classification system.
Mental illnesses come in many forms. Common ones include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.
Characteristics of a person’s mental illness depend on many factors, including genetic makeup, early life experiences, environmental influences and social influences. Negative childhood events like abuse or neglect, trauma or a stressful life event may raise one’s vulnerability to certain types of mental illnesses.
Some mental illnesses can be made worse by substance or drug abuse. For instance, alcohol use may precipitate a manic episode in bipolar disorder or lead to psychotic episodes in schizophrenia patients.
Diagnosing mental disorders can often be the most challenging part of diagnosis; that’s why past DSMs have chosen not to specify their etiology, instead relying on descriptions and avoiding speculation as to how they occurred.