Mental illnesses are biological brain disorders that many people suffer from, through no fault of their own. They cannot be wished away or combated through will power. While there are very real stigmas associated with these illnesses, the best way to get by is to diagnose the problem, study mental health treatment options and seek social support.
One group of mental illnesses is centered on serious depression. The World Health Organization reported that Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar is the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada.
Many people wonder how to tell the difference between serious mental illness and just having "the blues." The American Psychiatric Association characterizes clinical depression by time endured. If "the blues" don't go away within two weeks, then there may be a more serious underlying problem.
Other symptoms prey upon the body and make the simplest of day-to-day tasks almost impossible. These include decreased energy and motivation, loss of pleasure in hobbies, social withdrawal, thoughts of death or suicide, feelings of helplessness, guilt and worthlessness, irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite and persistent emptiness.
It is believed that most depression is caused by the lack of naturally-occurring monoamines like serotonin, norephinephrine and dopamine. Antidepressants can help stimulate production of monoamines and psychotherapy can further prevent relapses.
Another group of mental illnesses are the personality disorders. These involve ongoing patterns of thoughts and actions and create social impairment for the sufferer. For example, the person with Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) withdraws from social contact and has an intense fear of inadequacy and being disliked.
There are extreme fears of being rejected or of being in social situations, making it much like a chronic phobia or panic disorder at times. In fact, research suggests that approximately 50% of the people who have agoraphobia (fear of open spaces, public settings) also suffer from APD.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of those mental illnesses that leads to a pervasive pattern of instability and failed interpersonal relationships. People with mental illness like BPD may exhibit a wide array of strange behaviors, from self-mutilation, to preoccupation with sex, binge eating, drinking, substance abuse, reckless driving, inappropriate explosive anger, an unstable self image and patterns of anxiety or moodiness that last a few hours at a time.
BPD sufferers are thought to be on the borderline between psychosis and neurosis, and behavior therapy is traditionally used, with other cases requiring medical intervention. Recent research suggests that 56% of the people diagnosed with BPD can show big improvement within one year of mental health treatment.
Schizoid Personality Disorder is fairly rare and occurs in 1% of the population, but results in coldness towards others, lack of emotion, indifference to social norms, odd behavior, indifference to praise or criticism and preoccupation with fantasy. The Schizoid has no sexual drive; few close relationships and may feel superior to others or extremely independent.
Some schizoids may give an outward appearance of giving and receiving, but may in fact give or receive very little because they are merely "playing a part." Schizoids are an interesting breed of people with mental illness because they seldom care to resolve it and feel quite comfortable in their own dueling loneliness and superiority. However, long term mental health treatment can be done through therapy, which involves adopting a whole new way of thinking.
The road to recovery starts with admitting that you may have a problem. Once diagnosed, there are a variety of books you can read, medications you can take or mental health association professionals with whom you can discuss your illness. You may not be able to "wish away" mental illnesses, but you can certainly understand more about them, treat the symptoms and work through your innermost fears and unhappiness.