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.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Two-Part Issue

OCD

 

Obsessions and compulsions … two preoccupations that often go hand-in-hand to form an abnormal anxiety issue called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  OCD is characterized by repetitive, ritualized behaviours brought about by unwanted and severely intrusive thoughts.  OCD behaviour is usually irrational and disruptive of the sufferer’s day -to-day living.

As the name suggests, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a conglomeration of two behaviours that are distinct yet highly synergistic.  The first part deals with obsession; the second, compulsion.  Obsession compels the mind to run certain thoughts chronically while compulsion impels the repetition of behaviour specifically intended to eradicate these obsessive thoughts.  People who suffer from suffer OCD generally have to deal with both their obsessive and compulsive tendencies; however, there are some that experience only one trait.

Obsession

Obsessions are mental images, thoughts, or urges that invade a person’s mind over and over despite the person’s desire to stop these chronic intrusions.  The obsessed individual may know these thoughts are irrational and insensible yet feel powerless to stop the constant onslaught.

Momentary high interest in something is not to be mistaken for chronic obsession.  Chronic obsession is characterized by thoughts which invade the mind all the time to the point that the obsessed negates daily tasks and even relationships in order to mull over or act on his obsession.

To illustrate the difference:  Sixteen-year-old Claire is in love at the moment with the band, One Direction.  She constantly “googles” them for personal tidbits and concert events, fills her rooms with One Direction posters, and dreams of kissing Harry Styles.  Because of her behaviour, one would label Claire as obsessed with the band.  Actually, Claire is simply infatuated with them.  She has a healthy interest normal to her age group because she can still study, go out with friends, indulge in other activities, and forget about One Direction when doing important tasks.  If Claire were truly obsessed with One Direction, her thoughts would revolve around the band, day in and day out, to the detriment of her studies, peer relationships, and other personal aspects of her life.  She will not be able to get them out of her mind even if she wanted to and would probably go through great lengths to see the band by stalking band members, stealing money to afford concert and travel tickets, and the like.

Compulsion

CompulsionsCompulsion is a behaviour usually borne out of the need to counteract obsession.  Because the need to banish the same constant thoughts is great, a person also does the same constant actions to remedy the worrisome thought.  As obsession is chronic, so becomes compulsion as it is the temporary fix of these intrusive thoughts.  Every time an obsessive thought hits, a person with OCD is driven to perform the counteracting action.  As such, compulsion disrupts daily life as the compulsive person finds the need to perform his repetitive tasks to neutralize his obsessions and make them go away.

Daily routines like prayer, personal hygienic practices, cleaning, and organizing are, although repetitive, not compulsions on their own.  If these are not done to erase obsessive thoughts nor are disruptive to daily life, then these actions are simply normal.  What makes washing hands, cleaning the kitchen, or checking on locked doors abnormal and compulsive is when these are repeated many times enough to render the behaviours, time-consuming and highly unfavourable to one’s normal functioning in his personal, work, or social life.  If a person usually gets to work an hour late because he had to check on his stove for the hundredth time before leaving, then that person can be said to have an abnormal compulsion.

General Categories of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive individuals generally fall under these OCD categories:

  1. Checkers — repeatedly check on things (door locked, pepper spray in bag, etc.) to assuage the constant thoughts of danger or harm coming their way.
  1. Sinners — are usually obsessed with following religious doctrine, traditions, and rules to the letter and doing everything perfectly right because they fear punishment, divine retribution, or bad karma. While following religious practices is generally a good thing, it becomes obsessive when the person throws out all common sense to do so or acquires great stress because of it.
  1. Washers — have the compulsion to repeatedly shower or wash their hands raw because of the obsessive fear of being contaminated by germs and getting sick.
  1. Hoarders — compulsively collect and store stuff. Hoarders cannot bring themselves to throw things away because they have thoughts that something bad will happen if they do so.
  1. Counters and organizers — are people who have a strong need for symmetry and order.  They need to constantly count and arrange things.  Some individuals may be superstitious about numbers, colours, and the order of things.

A normal person can have personality traits that fall into any of these categories.  Just because someone constantly wipes his gadgets clean of fingerprints after use does not make him obsessive or compulsive.  He is simply being clean and neat.  A person with a genuine obsessive-compulsive disorder is severely distressed by his thoughts and behaviour.  His behaviour takes up a lot of his time and interferes with his daily life and relationships.

 

Therapy for OCD

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has often proven to be effective with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  It focuses on teaching you healthy techniques and ways of dealing with obsessive thoughts without resorting to compulsive behaviour.  Although antidepressants may be prescribed in conjunction with the therapy, the medication is only a small part of the healing process.  Prescribed drugs often cannot relieve the symptoms of OCD without the partnership of cognitive behavioural therapy.