Mental Disorder

What Constitutes a Mental Disorder?

Everyone wants mental health for themselves. But it may backfire, possibly because we simply haven’t figured out what mental health is. Does not having a mental disorder equal mental health? What constitutes a “mental disorder”? Can “mental disorder” be cured?


1. What is a “disease”? What is “health”?

What is a “disease”? “Disease” is an abnormal change in the function and structure of the body’s organs due to certain reasons, and causes various symptoms and loss of ability. For example, coronary heart disease is the function of the heart due to blood vessel embolism in the myocardium, resulting in symptoms such as angina pectoris and heart failure.

And “not having disease” is not the same as having health. In 1948, the World Health Organization defined “health” as a state of harmony and tranquility in the physical, psychological and social aspects of an individual. So, being healthy is not just about not getting sick.


2. What is “mental disorder”?

While the organ involved in heart disease is the heart, the organ involved in psychosis is the brain. In psychosis, damage to a certain part of the brain produces a variety of symptoms, including abnormalities in cognitive functions, thoughts, emotions, senses, behavior, physiological functions (such as sleep, appetite), and affects how a person performs in all aspects of life. Like diseases of other organs, most mental illnesses are curable with appropriate treatment. With the development of scientific research, psychiatric treatment has been greatly improved in the last two or three decades, especially in drug treatment.

To understand mental illness, there are two important concepts to understand:


    1. The relationship between “brain” and “psychology” or “mind”;
    2. The relationship between “brain” and “body parts”.

What we call “psychology” or “mind” is actually a manifestation of brain activity, including thoughts, emotions, behaviors, senses, etc. The brain is the organ that produces the “mind”.

As one of the organs of the body, the brain is closely related to other organs. Normal brain function depends on the normal functioning of other organs. For example, if the heart fails and the brain does not get enough oxygen, the brain cannot function normally, leading to confusion. Similarly, the brain also affects the operation of other organs. For example, when the brain thinks of something frightening, the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises. It can be seen that “mental health” and “physical health” are inseparable.


Mental Disorder


3. How common is mental disorder?

Mental order is more common than many people estimate, and everyone has the opportunity to suffer from mental illness. A large survey in the UK found that one out of every six people in the working population suffers from a mental disorder, which is as common as asthma. In addition, one out of every 20 people over the age of 65 will suffer from dementia. In developed countries, about 5 percent of men and 10 percent of women will suffer from depression during their lifetime. In 2000, the World Health Organization predicted that depression would become the second most serious disease in the world after 20 years, second only to coronary heart disease.

Due to social discrimination and misunderstanding of mental order, patients are reluctant to seek medical treatment and receive treatment. Even when patients have the courage to seek medical attention, they often have to hide their illness. This has given the public the wrong impression that mental disorder is rare. So when we understand that mental disorder is not a terminal illness and is common in society, we can help ourselves and others overcome mental disorders.


4. What are the common types of mental illness?


    1. Alzheimer’s Disease
    2. Amnesia
    3. Anxiety Disorder
    4. Depression
    5. Bipolar Disorder
    6. Schizophrenia
    7. Panic disorder
    8. Obsessive compulsive disorder
    9. Bulimia nervosa
    10. Autism spectrum disorder
    11. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    12. Dementia
    13. Hypochondriasis
    14. Insomnia
    15. Mood disorder
    16. Opioid use disorder
    17. Phobia
    18. Sleep disorder
    19. Video game addiction
    20. Oppositional defiant disorder


5. What are the causes of mental disorders?

The organ involved in psychosis is the brain. Mental illnesses, like most diseases of other organs, are caused by a combination of external and internal causes.

In psychosis, the underlying cause is largely genetic. “External pressure” mainly comes from various sad and mentally exhausting things in life, such as childhood abuse, lovelorn, unemployment, work and family burdens. Mental stress causes excessive production of “stress hormones” (including “cortisol”) in the body, which damages the brain. Other external stressors can be toxic chemicals (e.g. alcohol, drugs), or direct trauma to the brain (e.g. stroke, head trauma).

If a person’s brain is inherently weaker in physiological function due to genetic factors, when facing external pressure (such as breaking up with a relationship or taking drugs), his brain can no longer bear it, and psychosis will occur. Various mental illnesses have different main symptoms. For example, the main symptom of depression is depressed mood; the main symptom of schizophrenia is abnormal thinking and senses. Symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is damaged, and which individual predispositions are inclined to the disease.


Mental Disorder


6. How do psychiatrists diagnose psychosis?

Everyone has mood swings, or some extreme thoughts. How to define an emotion or a thought as abnormal or even sick? How much depression does it take to be considered depression? In general, a mental illness has two parts – 1. the symptoms; 2. the symptoms that affect the functioning of daily life or cause distress to the individual. When identifying each symptom, a psychiatrist considers its persistence, severity, and other accompanying symptoms. For example, in depression, mood is markedly low throughout the day, lasting more than two weeks, with other symptoms (such as tiredness and loss of interest in things). These symptoms affect the patient’s function, such as the ability to work. Ultimately, identifying mental disorders requires the clinical skill and experience of a physician, so it is best to seek a diagnosis from a physician if mental illness is suspected.

When assessing a patient, a psychiatrist listens to the patient’s expressed feelings and thoughts and observes the patient’s behavior. The doctor will also collect relevant background information and living conditions of the patient, as well as the observations of the patient by relatives and friends. Doctors will use a series of internationally recognized diagnostic criteria to identify the type of mental illness a patient suffers from, and analyze how various problems in the patient’s life contribute to the occurrence of psychosis. Doctors use blood tests and computer sketches as an aid to rule out mental symptoms caused by diseases in other parts of the body. Therefore, the clinical skills of the psychiatrist and the willingness of the patient to disclose the condition are of the utmost importance for the accurate diagnosis of mental illness and the planning of treatment.

As mentioned above, the diagnosis of mental illness is mainly based on the clinical skills of doctors, and blood tests and computer sketches are auxiliary. The situation is different from the diagnosis of diseases in other parts of the body (such as heart disease, cancer). This difference is due to the fact that the organ involved in mental disorder is the brain, which is the most complex organ in the human body. Today’s general brain sketches can only show diseased tissues of no less than a few millimeters, such as brain tumors or hemorrhages. Therefore, the abnormal activity of brain cells in most mental illnesses cannot be displayed. For example, for a patient with schizophrenia, a “normal” brain sketch simply means the symptoms are not due to a brain tumor or hemorrhage, but they are definitely caused by abnormal activity of brain cells and can be treated with drugs of. In conclusion, brain lesions cause all mental illnesses.

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