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Mental illness

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A mental illness is a psychiatric disorder that results in a disruption in a person's thinking, feeling, moods, and ability to relate to others. Psychiatrists generally attribute mental illness to organic/neurochemical causes that can be treated with psychiatric medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle adjustments and other supportive measures. Compare rational-emotive therapy[?].

Mental illness is distinct from the legal concept of insanity.

Mental health, mental hygiene and mental wellness are all terms used to describe the absence of mental illness.

Advocacy organizations have been trying to change the common perception of psychiatric disorders as a sign of personal weakness and something to be ashamed of to an affliction akin to physical diseases (like the measles).

Mental illness is one of the most common causes of disability in the Western World. According to NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) an American advocacy organisation, twenty-three percent of North American adults will suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental illness in a given year, but less than half of them will suffer symptoms severe enough to disrupt their daily functioning. Approximately nine percent to 13 percent of children under the age of 18 experience a serious emotional disturbance with substantial functional impairment, and five percent to nine percent have a serious emotional disturbance with extreme functional impairment due to a mental illness. Many of these young people will recover from their illnesses before reaching adulthood, and go on to lead normal lives uncomplicated by illness.

Major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder all feature in the 'top ten' list of causes of disability in the Western World[?].

The treatment success rate for a first episode of schizophrenia is 60 percent, 65 percent to 70 percent for major depression, and 80 percent for bipolar disorder.


At the start of the 20th century there were only a dozen recognized mental illnesses. By 1952 there were 192 and the DSM-IV today lists 374. Depending on your perspective this could be seen to be

  • due to some causative agent such as diet or the ever-increasing stress of everyday life, leading to a highly increased incidence of mental illness;
  • an over-medicalisation of human thought processes, and an increasing tendency on the part of mental health experts to label individual 'quirks and foibles' as illness; or
  • improved diagnostic and clinical ability on the part of the professionals.

The subject is profoundly controversial, e.g. homosexuality has been considered such an "illness" from time to time, and obviously this perception varies with cultural bias and theory of conduct. Some psychiatrists, notably Doctor Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Syracuse, are profoundly opposed to the practice of labelling "mental illness" as such. "There is no such thing as mental illness" is not an uncommon statement at gatherings of therapists emphasizing patient care and self-control, often decrying labels as suitable only for pill salesmen. This movement, known as anti-psychiatry gained populatiy in the 1970s, but is now less popular, largely due to recent discoveries in neurochemistry[?].

Neurochemical studies have proven that there are systemic lacks of certain neurotransmitters in the brains of certain individuals. Also, some structural differences between brains of people with behavioral differences can be detected in brain scans[?]. Routine tests for these conditions are, however, not generally required for prescription of drugs, and are not always employed in law either.

These many mental illnesses have been categorised into groups according to their common symptoms, in a diagnostic manual called the DSM-IV. There are thirteen different categories. Some categories contain a myriad of illnesses and some with only a few:

See also:

External links



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