Major Mental Disorders (MMD)

The acronym MMD stands for Major Mental Disorder of which there are five broad categories:  anxiety disorder, mood disorder, psychotic disorder, dementia, and eating disorder.  These mental illnesses are not a result of one cause but rather an interplay of a variety of factors which include environment, genetics, and lifestyle.

mmd

Anxiety Disorders

An anxiety disorder is positive in a diagnosis if the patient has any of these three symptoms:

  • illogical or inappropriate fearful and anxious response to objects, events, people, and situations
  • inability to control these fear responses
  • having no control over anxious feelings so much so that it disrupts normal functioning

Anxiety disorders are specifically manifested by these mental sub-illnesses:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) — GAD is characterized by excessive or chronic worrying about one or many areas of life such as family, income, career, friends, and school, among other things.  The fears may often be unfounded and skew off tangent; if there is some basis, the amount of worrying is excessively way out of proportion to the real situation.  A person afflicted with GAD may find himself unable to go about his life normally because of excessive dread.
  • Panic Disorder — characterized by feelings of terror and fear which may or may not occur suddenly.  These are repeated panic attacks accompanied by physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, chest pain, sweat, tremors, and disorientation.
  • Phobias — intense fear, often irrational, of something that actually does not pose any immediate or even potential danger.  Ex.  fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); fear of crowds (agoraphobia);  fear of darkness (achluophobia)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  — often characterized by emotional numbness and recurring vivid memories of traumatic incidents.

 

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are known as a set of mental illnesses that involve a distortion of reality.  To someone plagued with psychosis, delusions (assignations of unreal meaning to normal and innocent events) and hallucinations (experiences of non-existent things that are not connected to any genuine sources such as hearing voices) are perceived to be as real as normal people see things to be.

Mental maladies under psychotic disorders are:

  • Schizophrenia — a serious mental disorder that is marked by distorted thought patterns, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, all of which lead the individual toward strange, irrational behaviours.  Schizophrenics may hear voices not attached to any source or may believe in delusions such as being a real princess or warrior.
  • Schizo-affective Disorder — a variant of schizophrenia mixed with mood disorders such as mania or depression.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are also known as affective disorders.  Persistent feelings of sadness or abnormal elation over a certain period of time may qualify under this mental malady.  Extreme emotional fluctuations also characterize this category under which these illnesses belong:

  • Bipolar Disorder — a disorder identified by extreme changes in mood from mania (“high” mood state) to depression (“low” mood state).     major mental disorder
  • Clinical Depression — surpasses the normal feelings of sadness and puts one in a chronic state of pessimism, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, anxiousness, and other severely low mood situations.  Patients cannot just bounce back from their low moods, unlike unafflicted individuals who have the abilities to cope with abysmal feelings.  Clinical depression has been known to be the cause of some suicide cases.
  • Dysthymic Disorder — an illness marked with constant low-grade depression for more than two years.  Symptoms include low energy, feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem, sleep and appetite problems, poor focus, and indecisiveness.

The danger to these depressive mood disorders is that the risk for suicide among sufferers is high.

Dementias

Dementia refers to a slew of mental health problems symptomised by rapidly declining memory and other cognitive functions.  Dementia is diagnosed when the one or more of the following are impaired:

  • Memory
  • Ability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Visual perception
  • Language and communication abilities
  • Judgement and reasoning

The cause to all these impairments are brain cell damages which hinder these cells from communicating adequately with each other.  Alzheimer’s disease makes up a large percentage of dementia cases, followed closely by vascular dementia and dementia due to medical problems such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.  Toxic substances such as drugs, alcohol, mercury, lead, etc. can contribute to the development of dementia as well.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme thoughts, attitudes, and behaviour towards food and weight.  These disorders manifest as either of these issues:

  • Anorexia Nervosa  — a condition that is indicated by an overwhelming and all-consuming dread of being fat.  Anorexics have a distorted body image and obsessive thoughts about food, calories, and weight on which they impose severe restrictions.  For sufferers, one can never be too thin.  Anorexia is dangerous because the condition can cause death from suicide, cardiac arrest, starvation, and other medical complications.
  • Bulimia Nervosa —  an eating disorder in which the sufferer chronically binge eats and then frantically purges the calories consumed as an attempt to lose weight or not gain the pounds from overeating.  Bulimics, like anorexics, have an obsession with food; only they overeat with the thought that they can purge their “sins” later.  A person with bulimia can consume between 3,000 – 5,000 calories in a short hour.  In the next, he often guiltily purges what he has consumed by inducing vomiting, applying enemas, exercising voluminously, or going on crash diets.  The constant binge-and-purge cycle wreaks havoc on the metabolic system, forcing bulimics to gain weight over time.
  • Binge Eating Disorder — chronic overeating without any purging involved.  The cycle moves around binge eating, feeling guilty and ashamed for gluttony,  then emotional eating again to assuage the guilt.  Binge eaters are usually obese and may suffer from hypertension, cardiovascular disease, depression, and anxiety.

 

These major mental illnesses are treatable but need the help of professional mental health practitioners.  The stigma associated with mental maladies however is the main cause of why  people avoid treatment or fail to recognize that they need treatment.  More information and education about mental illnesses should be provided so that early stages may be recognized and tended to correctly.

The Unvarnished Facts of Anorexia Nervosa

i wont eat

 

When anorexia starts looking glamorous, I say we are in big trouble.  While many of us cannot believe how scary thin a lot of people can desire to be, know that there are a proliferation of blogs today that support, understand, and encourage anorexia nervosa.  Yes, it’s the “You go girl!” type of posts that leave many open-mouthed at how an eating disorder can be twisted around as the ultimate beauty make-over.  Even scarier are the numerous positive responses these blogs get from empathisers who equally believe in their “Think thin! Starve on!” motto.

There is a rising worrisome trend of personal blogs that paint eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia as desirable aspirations or ideal lifestyles.  In fact, terms have been coined for these blogs to specifically describe their reader niche:  the pro-anas and the pro-mias.  “Pro-ana” bloggers glorify anorexia; “pro-mia” bloggers extol the virtues of bulimia.

There are about 1.6 million people in the U.K. that have some sort of eating disorder.  The Health and Social Care Information Centre disclosed about an 8% increase of hospital treatments for eating disorders in 2013.  Blogs that make mental illnesses like these sound cool are bound to or have already exacerbated the difficulties of fighting the evils of eating disorders.  Experts believe that there is a silent epidemic of anorexia that is sweeping through Britain’s schools today.

Anorexia is a health evil indeed.  It is an illness that gradually devastates both a person’s mental and physical well-being.  Anorexia is fatal.  Fortunately, there is hope in its chances of being a treatable illness, one in which full recovery is even possible.

Facts of Anorexia Nervosa

An eating disorder is a complex psychological issue.  As anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder, it also has its convoluted roots with three main distinguishing features:

  1. Intense fear of weight gain
  2. Absolute refusal to maintain or exist at a healthy weight range
  3. Distorted perception of one’s body   — Anorexics perceive their body as grossly fat despite being painfully skinny or severely underweight

Serious and potentially fatal, anorexia affects men and women of varying ages; although, the young are more susceptible.  The modern beauty norm, “Thin is super in” often lures young girls to anorexia’s promise of a rail thin physique.  Of course the promise is nothing but a distorted reality of emaciation and consequent unattractiveness; yet, many anorexics do not see what healthy individuals normally perceive.  This is why those who are afflicted with anorexia nervosa often fail to recognize just how thin is too thin and at what level does skinny start becoming unattractive, let alone unhealthy.  No matter how much the scale confirms an anorexic’s severe weight loss, those lost pounds are just never enough.  More always have to go.images

Anorexia, however, is not just about obsessions over weight and food per se.  These are just the surface symptoms.  The core of the problem goes quite deep as causes of eating disorders often do.  As discussed in my other article on eating disorders, anorexia can come about as a response deep-seated emotional issues of powerlessness, low self worth, perfectionism, and the like.  Extreme control on one’s diet may engender feelings of having command of at least something like one’s own body.  Moreover, just like many illnesses, anorexia can be hereditary especially if one has a family history of eating disorders.

Do I Have Anorexia

You may be anorexic and not know it.  You also may know of someone whose behaviour mirrors an anorexic.  The best way to tell whether one is simply a healthy but determined dieter or someone way too obsessed with weight loss is to take a good hard look at your intentions and the whys behind the behaviours.  Here are the differences:

An anorexic would:

  • Go on an extremely calorie restrictive diet despite being already at the low end of or under the normal weight range
  • Obsess about every calorie, and every fat and carbohydrate gram to the point of eking out a nutritionally unbalanced meal so ridiculously low in calories.  Anorexics do not care about eating for health.  Anorexics are consumed by eating foods with the lowest energy inputs; macro and micronutrients do not matter.
  • Chronically think of food.  They may cook for others, collect myriad cookbooks, and make meal plans; yet, will eat air if they simply can.
  • Hide the fact that they are eating too little with strange behaviours such as always eating privately, chewing food just to get its juice and spitting it out after, playing with food, throwing food away when no one seems to be looking, etc.
  • Use laxatives and abuse weight loss drugs
  • May secretly vomit food they have eaten after meals in the bathroom
  • Follow a gruelling exercise regimen with the simple aim of burning calories despite negative workout conditions like bad weather, injury, and illness.  If one chronically punishes one’s self for eating “bad” (high calorie) food with compulsive exercising, anorexia could be an issue.
  • Constantly feel and declare being fat despite being obviously underweight
  • Always stand in front of a mirror, seeing only the flaws.  An anorexic would always see himself as fat despite admonitions to the contrary.
  • Have drastic, unhealthy drops in weight which do not seem to abate
  • Obsessed with scale readings down to minute changes in weight

On the other hand, a healthy dieter would:

  • Eat and plan meals around the aims of both weight loss and a balanced nutrition
  • Not regard slimness and weight loss as the holy grail to happiness.  Weight loss is just a way to improve health and appearance.
  • Diet to lose weight only,  not to compensate for emotional deficiencies
  • Have a sense of self esteem that is not based on weight or how one’s body looks like
  • Have normal eating habits

How to get help for Anorexia Nervosa

Fortunately, there is hope for many anorexics.  The first healing step one must do is to admit that a serious eating problem exists.  Getting professional help is another.  Quality guidance and treatment from qualified counsellors, nutritionists, and medical doctors can help tremendously to get one back on track to a healthy weight and an equally healthy mindset.  Emotional and financial support from family and friends are invaluable as well on one’s road to recovery.

While getting outside help is a huge boost towards wellness, one must also help himself.  This means avoiding triggers like pro-ana sites, fashion magazines, and groups that talk mostly of diets.

The road back to health will be steep and difficult; but the climb will be worth its weight in health gold.