Welcome readers, today we are going to discuss about the following in very simple language :-
What is mental disorder or neurosis? How to assess mental health of a person? What are the symptoms and causes of mental illness? What are the treatments of mental disorders? What are our social responsibilities to take care of mentally ill people?
So let us start from the very beginning.
Mental illness is a very vital problem of our society. But most recently common people didn't give it the much needed attention.
Why? because blind-faith, superstition, irrational and unreasonable thoughts were responsible.
People used to believe that mental illness is not a problem of poor and developing countries and rather the rich and developed countries were most affected by mental illness.
This weird thought was prevalent amongst the common people of the society for many decades. Undoubtedly, these kind of funny thoughts originated from delusional beliefs and a great amount of ignorance.
Hence, mental illness could never attract attention like that of a physical illness and was mostly ignored.
You can see your body and it's parts, you also have knowledge about the functions of your body parts. You therefore are serious about your physical illness but what about mind? You can not see your mind, so how comes that a thing we can't see can have an illness.
I request you to read Definition of mind, Sigmund Freud so that you can acquire the very basic knowledge of psychology. Having read the definition of mind you can come back here and continue.
Even today, many people believe that mental illness is caused due to spirits, curse or vaastu like things which do not enjoy any scientific ground. These kind of fallacious beliefs have forced the surrounding people of a mentally ill person to visit to a shaman instead of an experienced doctor.
A shaman is basically a faith healer who acts as a religious medium between the patient and so called spirits.
Research has shown that mental illness is very common in both rural and urban areas of our society which is not at all less than the developed countries. Fortunately, modern psychology and medical science has brought kind of a revolution in treating mental disorders.
Various survey conducted in rural and urban areas has shown that at least 1 out of 100 person is under a severe mental illness and at least 10 person out of 100 need immediate medical care. The surveys have also revealed that at least 5% physical illness are actually caused due to mental disorder.
Mental health and mental disorders
What is mental health? How can we understand from the attitude and social activities of a certain person that he or she is mentally healthy?
In order to assess a good mental health we must ascertain that the person is not mentally retarded or does not have a mental disorder. It is to be seen that he or she is not addicted to alcohol like substance or other intoxicating drugs, does not have antisocial thoughts and that he or she is not sexually perverted.
Besides this the person should also have the following characteristics :-
- He does not get distracted easily and can maintain a balance in his social surroundings
- He is self-confident, realistic and can understand the capacity of himself and those who he works with
- He believes that the life is meaningful and enjoyable, he also understands the reasons to live on
- Usually he feels secured and is inclined to keep distance from legal affairs
- He can appreciate the good works of others and is not hesitant to apologize for his mistakes
- He is able to maintain his family and is happy with his married life
It's not that if a person does not possess the above traits then he is having a mental illness. These are just some guidelines from which mental state or mental health of a person can be deduced.
So, how can we detect a mental disorder, let us see. In this regard you have to know the differences between physical illness and mental illness.
In case of physical illness or disease, we often notice some unnatural changes in the body. Like wounds, infection, blockade in blood circulation, appearance of tumors etc. Some germs like malaria, typhoid, syphilis, tuberculosis are also responsible for causing physical illness which are determined by laboratory tests.
Whereas, in case of mental illness no unnatural physical change or existence of germs are found in most cases. Another problem is though we say mind, there is actually no such body part as mind.
In case of physical illness, we can say that the problem is in liver, lungs, kidneys or stomach etc. But likewise we do not know how is mind and where it is in our body. We can only feel that we have a mind but can not define mind easily. Yes, mind can be answered philosophically but then psychology is not philosophy at all, it is an exact science.
So, scientifically speaking, what is mind we do not know but what mind does we obviously know. Activities of mind can be classified in the following 3 categories :-
- Cognition - is that part of mind for which we can have a perception of the worldly things, we can imagine, do reasoning and recall memory
- Affection - this part of mind dictates our happiness, griefs, love and hate etc. towards anything
- Conation - this part of mind dictates our will and goal driven activities
Now, we shall try to see how the symptoms of mental illness are manifested for which we can detect the mental illnesses. Generally, symptoms of mental disorder are shown up in the following three ways :-
- Biologically :- sensation in chest, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, insomnia, headache, disinterest in food, fatigue, decreased interest in sex, various kind of pains and inabilities.
- Psychologically :- lack of intelligence and memory, lack of capacity to relate with space, time and persons, delusional thoughts, hallucinations, anxiety, depression etc.
- Socially : - disinterest in social intimacy, aggressive attitude, disinterest in the surrounding situations, obscene behavior etc.
In our daily life we suffer mental pains and griefs due to several reasons. Sometimes we become angry and sometimes we develop hatred against someone. Again sometime we become scared.
These type of feelings generally do not last longer. These kind of feelings do not affect our professional or social life in the long run. So, we won't call them as mental disorders because we go back to a normal state within a few days.
Suppose, someone did not do well in the examination as per expectation or someone close has expired. Under these circumstances it is very natural that we will undergo mental disturbances. But, these do not stay forever and we get back to normal life after a certain period.
If this kind of mental imbalance occurs without a concrete reason or if they stay for long then it is to be checked whether it's a mental illness.
So, let us now see the possible causes of mental disorders :-
- Hereditary :- It is hard to say whether hereditary reasons are responsible for mental illness. It has been seen that many members of a family suffer from same mental disorder. Or mental illness from any of the parents is passed to the children. Still, it's can not be said with certainty that mental illness are inherited through genes. One reason could be, the social atmosphere of a family is disturbed if a member has mental illness. If the mother is suffering from mental illness then it is very likely that she won't be able to take care of her child properly and this may also affect the mental health of the child.
- Brain and mental disorder :- Brain plays an important role in psychology. Mental activities largely depend on our brain. Again, brain activities depend on it's formation or development. If the brain is not developed properly in childhood then those children will surely lack intelligence and they will become mentally retarded. Similarly some external force or diseases may cause change in the brain structure which may consequently cause mental disorders. Damage due to accident, encephalitis, brain tumor etc. often produces mental disorder.
- Pregnancy :- when the child is still in the womb, serious illness of the mother, lack of nutrition, side effects of medicines may cause disturbance in the development of brain of the child. This may give birth to a mentally disabled child. This is why mother's health is extremely important during pregnancy.
- Birth of a baby : - during delivery, the child may get injury to head due to several reasons which may in future cause mental illnesses like retardness, epilepsy etc.
- Upbringing of a child :- lack of nutrition will affect the brain development process which may cause neurosis in future. But, proper love and care is also important for overall development of the child. Lack of proper care in childhood often causes mental disorders. Healthy environment in home is extremely important for proper upbringing of child. Readers are requested to read How to raise your child
- Harmful social atmosphere :- long term disputes with family members, threats to life also are responsible for mental disorders. Serious insult or humiliation may also cause mental illness.
We shall now see some real cases of mental disorders and their symptoms.
Case No. 1 Schizophrenia
Vijay is aged 25 years. Recently, he has developed a habit of not going outside of home. He does not meet with anyone and also speaks less. He seems to mumble and laughs without any reason. He doesn't take bath and if pressurized becomes offensive. He is also suffering from insomnia and has lost appetite.
Case No. 2 Depression
Deepika is 30 years old. She is married and is a mother of two kids. There is no scarcity in her family. Recently she has developed insomnia and has lost happiness. She has lost appetite and lost interest in almost everything. She now often things that it's hard to live like this and it's better to die.
Case No. 3 Delusion
Abhishek is 38 years old. He works as a clerk in a government office. He is good at his works but he suspects his wife of extramarital affair. In reality his wife is not at all like that, friends and family members have tried to convince Abhishek many a times. But, nothing could change his unreasonable belief.
Case No. 4 Mania
Shalini is just 19 years old and is a college student. She is quite good in studies. For the last few days she is talking too much. She is even trying to talk with unknown people. She is trying to show herself superior than others and is getting angry on little things. She has also become quite offensive and tries to harm others.
Case No. 5 Epilepsy
Sanjana is only 8 years old. She is going senseless for last couple of days. This stage stays for 2-3 minutes and is happening both in school and home.
Case No. 6 Anxiety
Sunil is 22 years old. Suddenly he has become restless and is unable to concentrate on his studies. He is also having insomnia. He is feeling fatigue and is thinking that masturbation and nightfall are the reason for his weakness.
Case No. 7 Mental Retardation
Ismail is aged 9 years. He is not going to school. Hw took so much time learning to walk and talk. Even now he can't speak clearly.
Case No. 8 Phobia
Arun is 32 years old. He is a banker. He can not go anywhere alone. Without a company he becomes afraid, feels sensation in his chest and also sweats excessively.
Case No. 9 Hysteria
Promila is aged 19 years and is married. Whenever she becomes depressed or scared she goes faint. Her upper and lower teeth gets sticked together and her body bends like a bow. This stage stays for 30-60 minutes.
Case No. 10 Dementia
Ramshankar is 56 years old. He is educated and was a teacher. Being not able to work efficiently he took volunteer retirement from service. Since last one year he is making too much mistakes. He can't remember things, he even forgets about yesterday's events. He is not able to remember many known persons. A few days back he went outside and forgot his way to home.
Case No. 11 Obsessive Compulsive Neurosis
Rina is 22 years old and she is married. She has a son of 2 years. Since last few days everything is appearing dirty to her. She is washing things repeatedly and also washing her hands too frequently. She has been told several times that there is no dirt, she also understands this but can't really get rid of her obsessive habit.
Mental disorders are primarily classified in the following two categories :-
- Organic mental disorder
- Non-organic mental disorder
Organic mental disorder
Symptoms of these kind of diseases originate from pathological condition. Human body part which has the closest relation with our mind is brain. This is why mental disorder often occurs when there is some problem with the brain.
Suppose a man has sustained serious brain injury due to an accident. He has been treated well and his life is saved. But, it is seen that he has lost his memory, power of judgement etc. This is easy to understand that in this instant case the brain injury is responsible for the mental disorder.
There are many diseases which do not directly affect the brain but they influence our internal system in such a way that eventually the brain gets affected. For example, if the lungs can not work properly then the human body suffers from lack of oxygen and lack of oxygen will disturb the normal brain functions.
There are also many glands in human body which are called ductless gland. Like, pituitary, thyroid, suprarenal etc. Secretion caused by these glands are closely related with the functions of our brain. If for some reasons these glands do not perform in the normal way then also the brain will be disturbed which in turn may cause mental disorder.
Organic mental disorders can again be classified in two categories based on their intensity and onset or start :-
Acute organic mental illness
These kind of mental illnesses occur suddenly, grows fast and lasts for a shorter period of time. Generally these diseases are cured faster.
Chronic organic mental illness
These mental illnesses appear much slowly. They also grow slow and last for a longer period of time.
Non-organic mental disorders
These kind of mental diseases are not at all related with physical reasons. These are also known as functional mental disorders. Functional mental illnesses can again be classified in two categories :-
Amongst non-organic mental disorders neurosis are relatively mild in nature. Based on different symptoms neurosis are defined as the followings :-
- Anxiety neurosis
- Obsessive compulsive neurosis
- Depressive neurosis
Amongst non-organic or functional mental diseases psychosis are more complex and severe. Following diseases are some most common stage of psychosis :-
- Schizophrenic disorders
- Delusional or paranoid disorders
- Depressive psychosis
- Manic psychosis
It is hard to differentiate neurosis and psychosis with minute details. However the most important difference between them is psychosis can not be cured only by psychotherapy whereas in neurosis psychotherapy plays the most vital role and can cure in most cases.
So, up to this point of study, we can classify mental disorders in the following categories :-
- Organic mental disorders
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