Living with a mental illness can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life. In addition to changing how the mind functions, mental health disorders can also affect an individual’s social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and occupational wellbeing. Mental illness can also lead to physical and environmental harm. Mental illnesses can be so debilitating that many people turn to unhealthy behaviors to try to escape or relieve the symptoms associated with mental health disorders. Generally, these attempts are often futile at best and harmful at worst. That’s why many people wonder: can mental illness be cured?
What Is Mental Illness?
Mental disorders are conditions that affect how we think, feel, and behave. These conditions also affect our mood. For the most part, mental illness falls into one of two categories: occasional or chronic. As the name suggests, occasional mental illness comes and goes. Individuals with this type of mental illness may be overcome with debilitating symptoms for short periods of time. Chronic mental illness typically occurs and lasts for a prolonged period of time and affects an individual’s ability to relate to others, complete tasks, and function on a daily basis.
Even though research consistently shows that there isn’t a single cause for mental illness, there are a number of factors that can increase the likelihood of mental illness. Some of these risk factors include:
- Genetics and family history
- Life experiences such as stress or a history of abuse, especially in childhood
- Chemical imbalances in the brain
- Traumatic brain injury
- A mother’s exposure to viruses and toxic chemicals while pregnant
- Use of alcohol and recreational drugs
- Having a serious medical condition like cancer
- Feeling lonely or isolated
Regardless of how or why mental illness occurs, mental health disorders are not caused by any type of character flaws and have nothing to do with being lazy, weak, or incapable.
Types of Mental Illness
Even though most people are fairly familiar with mental illness, most people do not know that more than 10 different types of mental illnesses exist. Depressive and anxiety disorders, for example, only make up two types of mental health disorders. Mental illness also includes trauma, dissociative, sleep, and elimination disorders.
Some of the main classes of mental illness include:
- Neurodevelopmental disorders. These illnesses usually begin in infancy, childhood, or before a child begins grade school. Common examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning disorders.
- Psychotic disorders. Psychotic disorders cause a detachment from reality. This can look like delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking and speech. Examples of psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and delusional disorder.
- Bipolar and related disorders. These disorders typically cause alternating episodes of mania — periods of excessive activity, energy, and excitement — and depression.
- Depressive disorders. These disorders affect how we feel emotionally. Examples include major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
- Anxiety disorders. Anxiety occurs when we anticipate danger, threats, fear, or misfortune on a regular basis. Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. People with anxiety disorders have anxiety that does not go away, can worsen over time, and interferes with relationships and daily life. Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
- Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders. These disorders cause preoccupations, obsessions, and repetitive thoughts and actions. Examples include obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding disorder, and trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder.
- Trauma and stressor related disorders. Individuals with these disorders have a hard time coping during or after stressful life events. The most common examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder.
- Dissociative disorders. These disorders disrupt the sense of self and typically involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self. Symptoms of these disorders can include feelings of detachment, memory loss, and amnesia. Dissociative identity disorder, dissociative amnesia, and depersonalization are common examples of dissociative disorders.
- Eating disorders. These conditions cause disturbances related to eating and usually impact nutrition and health. Examples include anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and bulimia.
- Sleep-wake disorders. Common examples include insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
- Impulse-control and conduct disorders. These disorders typically cause emotional and behavioral problems. Common examples include kleptomania, intermittent explosive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.
- Personality disorders. These disorders cause people to think, feel, and behave in ways that deviate from cultural norms. When individuals act this way, they experience distress and emotional instability that often affects an individual’s life and relationships. Common examples include borderline, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders.
Is Mental Illness Curable?
When most people think of the word “cure,” they mean that an illness or ailment is gone forever. Because it is considered a chronic condition, mental illness doesn’t work that way. But there’s hope. Like diabetes, arthritis, and other chronic physical ailments, mental illnesses have to be continuously managed with medications and lifestyle changes. In other words, even though mental illnesses can not be cured, they can be treated. This means that individuals living with mental health disorders can have thriving, meaningful, and purposeful lives.
Treatment For Mental Illness
Different mental illnesses require different types of treatments, but the goal of each treatment regimen is the same: to decrease the severity of symptoms and develop a plan that helps individuals manage their illness so it doesn’t continue to disrupt their daily life.
Some of the most common treatment methods include:
- Medications. Even though medication doesn’t cure mental illness, it can significantly improve symptoms. Medication can also help make other treatments such as therapy more effective.
- Therapy. Therapy can help individuals manage symptoms, regulate distressing emotions, and learn healthy coping and stress management skills, which can, in turn, help them live a satisfying life despite their illness.
- Brain-stimulation treatments. Generally, this type of treatment is reserved for situations where medication and therapy were unsuccessful. This causes changes in the brain that can improve and even reverse troubling symptoms.
- Support groups. These groups can help individuals better understand their condition and provide them with friendship, support, resources, and tips on how to live with their condition.
Helping You Live A Manageable, Productive, Thriving Life
Learning you have a mental health condition can be upsetting. Luckily, there are a variety of treatments available for mental health conditions. Let us help you or someone you love develop a treatment plan that can result in a healthy, productive, thriving, satisfying life. Contact us today to learn more.
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Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.