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.
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)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) — characterized by repetitive, ritualistic behaviour
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — often characterized by emotional numbness and recurring vivid memories of traumatic incidents.
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 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).
- 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.
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:
- 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 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.