Mental Health Conditions
Mental health conditions are comparable to physical health conditions in many ways: they take many forms, they are distinct from the people who experience them (so we refer to “an individual with schizophrenia” rather than “a schizophrenic”), and they are treatable.
We all feel nervous or worried at times. This anxiety can be a helpful feeling when it motivates us or warns us of danger. An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.
Mood disorders are conditions that cause people to feel intense, prolonged emotions that negatively affect their mental well-being, physical health, relationships and behaviour. In addition to feelings of depression, someone with bipolar disorder also has episodes of mania. Symptoms of mania may include extreme optimism, euphoria and feelings of grandeur; rapid, racing thoughts and hyperactivity; a decreased need for sleep; increased irritability; impulsiveness and possibly reckless behaviour.
Concurrent disorders describes a condition in which a person has both a mental illness and a substance use problem. This term is a general one and refers to a wide range of mental illnesses and addictions. For example, someone with schizophrenia who abuses cannabis has a concurrent disorder, as does an individual who suffers from chronic depression and who is also an alcoholic. Treatment approaches for each case could be quite different.
A major depressive disorder — usually just called “depression” — is different than the “blues”. Someone experiencing depression is grappling with feelings of severe despair over an extended period of time. Almost every aspect of their life can be affected, including their emotions, physical health, relationships and work. For people with depression, it does not feel like there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” — there is just a long, dark tunnel.
Dual diagnosis usually refers to an individual with a mental illness and a co-occurring developmental disability.
When someone has an eating disorder, their weight is the prime focus of their life. Their all-consuming preoccupation with calories, grams of fat, exercise and weight allows them to displace the painful emotions or situations that are at the heart of the problem and gives them a false sense of being in control.
Everyone experiences “highs” and “lows” in life, but people with mood disorders experience them with greater intensity and for longer periods of time than most people.
Recovery is the personal process that people with mental health conditions experience in gaining control, meaning and purpose in their lives. Recovery involves different things for different people. For some, recovery means the complete absence of the symptoms of mental illness. For others, recovery means living a full life in the community while learning to live with ongoing symptoms.
Schizophrenia is a complex biochemical brain disorder which affects a person’s ability to determine what is reality and what is not. It is as though the brain sends perceptions along the wrong path, leading to the wrong conclusion. People with schizophrenia are affected by delusions (fixed false beliefs that can be terrifying to the person experiencing them), hallucinations (sensory experiences, such as hearing voices talking about them when there is no one there), social withdrawal and disturbed thinking.
Self-injury, also called self-harm and self-abuse, refers to deliberate acts that cause harm to one’s body, mind and spirit.
A suicidal person is feeling so much pain that they can see no other option. The suicidal state of mind has been described as constricted, filled with a sense of self-hatred, rejection, and hopelessness.