Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

The types of mental illness and categories of mental illness

To detect and diagnose a mental illness, you have to depend almost entirely on what people tell you.The main tool in diagnosis is an interview with the person. Mental illness produces symptoms that sufferers or those close to them notice. There are five major types of symptoms:

• Physical – ‘somatic’ symptoms. These affect the body and physical functions, and include aches,tiredness and sleep disturbance. It is important to remember that mental illnesses often producephysical symptoms.

• Feeling – emotional symptoms. Typical examples are feeling sad or scared.

• Thinking – ‘cognitive’ symptoms. Typical examples are thinking of suicide, thinking that someoneis going to harm you, difficulty in thinking clearly and forgetfulness.

• Behaving – behavioural symptoms. These symptoms are related to what a person is doing.

Examplesinclude behaving in an aggressive manner and attempting suicide.

• Imagining – perceptual symptoms. These arise from one of the sensory organs and include hearing voices or seeing things that others cannot (‘hallucinations’).

In reality, these different types of symptoms are closely associated with one another. See thefigures, for example, of how different types of symptoms can occur in the same person.

There are six broad categories of mental illness:

• common mental disorders (depression and anxiety);

• ‘bad habits’, such as alcohol dependence and drug misuse;

• severe mental disorders (the psychoses);

• mental retardation;

• mental health problems in the elderly;

• mental health problems in children.


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