What are the different Types of Mental Health Conditions.￼
What is a Mental Health Condition?
Mental Illness refers specifically to a clinical diagnosis. These diagnoses usually describe various mental health symptoms which can interfere with an individual’s cognitive, emotional, or social abilities. It is these diagnoses which are referred to as mental health conditions.
A mental illness significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria. The term mental disorder is also used to refer to these health problems.” (Australia Department of Health).
Mental illness is more common than people realise. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimate that one in five Australians experience mental illness in any year. There is no single cause for mental illness, it is a mix of factors and can affect anyone.
It is also important to remember that conditions encompassed within the mental illness bracket may be intermittent, and many people will have periods of being well and periods of being unwell.
Mental illnesses are diverse, and each can occur with a varying degree of severity.
Mental Health Statics in Australia:
- Over 2 in 5 (43.7%, or 8.6 million) Australians aged 16–85 are estimated to have experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life, with 1 in 5 (21.4%, or 4.2 million) having experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months.
- Anxiety disorders (such as Social Phobia) are the most prevalent type of disorder, affecting 1 in 6 (16.8%, or 3.3 million) Australians, followed by Affective disorders (such as Depressive Episode) (7.5%), and Substance Use disorders (such as Alcohol Dependence) (3.3%).
- Almost 1 in 7 (14%) children and adolescents aged 4–17 years are estimated to have experienced a mental illness in the previous 12 months.
- 5% or 800,000 people are estimated to have a severe mental illness, of which 500,000 people have episodic mental illness and 300,000 have persistent mental illness.
- Mental and substance use disorders were the second largest contributor (24%) of the non-fatal burden of disease in Australia
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
So, with these states fresh in our mind, let’s find out a little bit more about some of the most prevalent Mental Health Conditions.
What is an anxiety disorder?
There are different forms of Anxiety and they each affect us in different ways. Whether you or your loved ones suffer from generalised anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress, illness anxiety, or other forms of anxiety, there are ample support services available to help you cope with the challenges of everyday life.
Throughout human evolution, we developed the crucial “fight or flight” response that was an essential protective mechanism when we were primal hunter-gatherers. When we encountered danger, our bodies would enter a state of hyper alertness. A boost of adrenaline increases the heart rate and increases our blood flow so we focus our energies on fighting for our lives or running from danger. Our experience of anxiety today is directly linked to this primal response, so you can imagine how it felt to face a bear or a pack of wolves when our ancestors lived in caves! As we evolved, that fight or flight mode has persisted and is frequently activated in inopportune everyday situations when stress and anxiety build up. This is anxiety as we now know it.
Anxiety affects people to varying degrees and everyone has experienced some form of anxiety at moments throughout their lives. Anxiety may be triggered by certain activities, such as an exam or a job interview, and it is completely normal to experience these feelings. While some anxiety is a normal part of being human, there is a level at which it simply becomes too much to handle.
Often, the thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety can be used positively to motivate us into action. However, some people experience anxiety on a more substantial level which severely impacts their quality of life, and it can become difficult to manage. When you experience anxiety on a regular basis, feeling anxious more often than not, even with no specific triggers, can significantly affect your daily life.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that can inflict serious disability on patients throughout Australia. People living with Bipolar Disorder experience periods of major depression as well as periods of mania or hypomania.
There are times when people living with this condition will have symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder which can include sleep disturbances, loss of interest in activities, feelings of guilt, low energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, or even thoughts of self-harm. When these symptoms have been present for 2 weeks or more, it is considered Major Depressive Disorder.
However, if a patient has ever experienced episodes where they have significantly increased energy, decreased need for sleep, reckless behaviour, their mind is racing, they talk incessantly, or abnormal self-confidence lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, this is considered mania or hypomania.
When a person has experienced one episode of depression and one episode of hypomania or mania, they are usually considered to have Bipolar Disorder. Some people only experience these symptoms once or twice, while others have recurrent episodes, possibly alternating between periods of depression and mania over a long period of time.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental illness that can cause serious disability. People living with Depression may experience a range of symptoms that affect their physical, mental, and emotional well-being to varying extents.
The primary form of depression is known as Major Depressive Disorder, though there are other related illnesses that share many of the same features with slight differences in the diagnostic criteria. Other possible mental illnesses that present with symptoms of Depression include dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizoaffective disorder.
The symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder can include depressed mood, sleep disturbances, loss of interest in activities, feelings of guilt, low energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, or even thoughts of self-harm. When five of these symptoms have been present for two weeks or more and at least one is depressed mood or loss of interest, it is considered Major Depressive Disorder.
When a person has experienced one episode of Depression, they are most likely to experience it again. When symptoms persist for more than two years most of the time, it is considered Persistent Depressive Disorder, whereas if the symptoms don’t meet the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, it may be considered dysthymia. When a patient’s treatment does not prevent recurrence of their symptoms, they can develop disabilities which limit their ability to perform usual tasks and diminish their quality of life.
What is Post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious mental health condition that can severely impact a person’s day to day functioning and quality of life. Some examples of trauma that can result in PTSD include the death of a loved one; physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; near-death experiences; severe illness; witnessing a traumatic death or accident; wartime environments; or other possible traumatising events.
People who have experienced a trauma in their lives may have recurring symptoms following the trauma that can include intrusive thoughts or memories, irritability, guilt, panic attacks, nightmares, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, or other distressing reactions. When these symptoms persist for more than a month, the patient is considered to have PTSD. Within the first month following the inciting event, patients with these symptoms are considered to have Acute Stress Disorder.
What is Schizophrenia?
People who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia may have beliefs that are not shared by other people. They may hear, see or perceive things that other people do not sense. These are referred to as delusions (beliefs that are unusual or not true) and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there).
People can also have difficulty in thinking clearly, making decisions and plans, understanding other people’s emotions and motives.
There are lots of myths and misunderstandings about what schizophrenia is. Some incorrect views are that people become violent, have multiple personalities and/or have an intellectual disability.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is … characterised by eating, exercise and body weight or shape becoming an unhealthy preoccupation of someone’s life.
People who are diagnosed with an eating disorder may spend a lot of time thinking about food. They may feel very anxious around mealtime and not want to eat around other people. They may worry a lot about their appearance and are afraid of putting on weight. They may feel the need to do large amounts of exercise.
Often, people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder experience low self-esteem, anxiety and sadness, and may:
- eat very small amounts of food. These people may be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa
- find it difficult to control the amount of food that they eat. They may eat large quantities of food and save supplies of food to eat later. After eating, they may take laxatives or vomit to prevent weight gain. These people may be diagnosed with bulimia nervosa.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
People who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder have usually experienced significant trauma, often as a child. Trauma can have a long-term impact on the way that a person feels about themselves and copes with life events. Trauma can leave people feeling unsafe in relationships.
People who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder may experience very intense emotions in response to life events and feel quickly overwhelmed. They may make quick decisions based on their immediate needs and current feelings. People who have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder often dislike themselves and can find it difficult to trust other people.
A person who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder may find relationships challenging as they can feel confused, upset or threatened by other people’s actions.
What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) “involves constant unwanted thoughts, and often results in the performance of elaborate rituals to try to control or banish the persistent thoughts. People with obsessive compulsive disorder are often acutely embarrassed and keep their rituals a secret, even from their families.” (Australian Department of Health)
Obsessive compulsive disorders are part of the anxiety disorders group:
- Obsessions are unwanted thoughts based on fears. Examples might be thoughts about dirt, disease or something bad happening.
- Compulsions are the fear-based behaviours and an overwhelming urge to do activities which can include repeating, checking and counting. Examples might be washing hands often, cleaning, putting things in a special order, checking, and constantly asking for reassurance. There can be rituals and routines that need to be followed.
- Even when the person realises that they are having problems, they are not able to stop the thinking or the need to do the tasks.
What is Psychosis?
The term psychosis is used by clinicians to describe beliefs and experiences that are not shared by other people. Beliefs that are seen as unusual or untrue are described as delusions. Hearing voices, seeing visions and perceiving things that cannot be sensed by other people are called hallucinations.
Delusions and hallucinations may add meaning and value to a person’s life and do not necessarily cause problems. For some people, delusions and hallucinations can be frightening and make it difficult for them to do the things that they want to do. People may also feel very tired and find it difficult to communicate in a way that makes sense to other people.
The experience of psychosis is associated with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. It can also be caused by substance use or medication.
If you or a loved one is experienced mental ill-health, seek help:
- Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511 Open 24/7
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
Maple Community Services and Mental Health.
Here at Maple Community Services, we provide much needs supports and services to those under the NDIS. We specialise in mental health, cognitive disability, and psychosocial disability supports.
If you have any questions around how Maple can assist you or your loved one through your NDIS journey, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Phone: 1800 780 964
Email: [email protected]