Mental disorder | Definition, Types, Treatment, & Facts

Mental disorder | Definition, Types, Treatment, & Facts

What is Mental Disorder?

A mental disorder is a medical condition that disrupts the brain’s function. People who have mental disorders may experience difficulty with relationships, work, or school. They also often experience negative thoughts and feelings about themselves, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

Many individuals suffer from mental health problems on a regular basis. The treatment of mental health problems is often complex and difficult to understand.

A mental illness may make you feel terrible and lead to difficulties in your daily life. While mental disorders are common, it is important to note there are treatments. There may be a significant stigma around mental illness, but treating the root causes of your symptoms can make a dramatic difference in your life.

What is Mental Disorder

Types of Mental Disorder:

There are many different types of mental disorders, just as there are various conditions that can result in physical illness. Some examples include schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and personality disorders.

Mental disorder can be categorized into three groups: mental illness, severe disturbances of emotions or behavior that are caused by irregular functions in the brain; mild to moderate problems with symptoms similar to mental illnesses but causing less extreme effects on day-to-day life;  and pervasive developmental disorders including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which may have difficulties in communication, behavior or social interactions.

Types of Mental Disorder

Symptoms of Mental Disorder

Mental disorders are thought to be caused by different factors, which may include chemical imbalances, genetic predispositions, traumatic life events, stress, or social pressures. Mental illness symptoms vary depending on the person and the type of disorder they have.

Major symptoms of mental disorder include:

changes in mood or behavior: these changes may include feeling sad or hopeless, loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and change in sleep patterns.

changes in thoughts: such as racing, repetitive negative thoughts about yourself; feelings of guilt or self-blame; difficulty concentrating on school work and completing tasks.

changes in physical sensations: these can also be related to your body. People suffering from mental disorders may experience headaches, fatigue, or changes in appetite.

Withdrawal from friends and activities: when someone is suffering from a mental illness it becomes difficult for them to participate in their usual activities.

Difficulty in functioning: when someone has a mental disorder, they may have trouble working or going to school and/or carrying out everyday tasks such as housework or cooking.

Lack of motivation: this symptom also varies depending on the type of disorder. For example, if someone has depression they may find it difficult to do anything and motivation is low but in some cases, the opposite can happen. Someone with bipolar disorder may have an increase in energy or activity levels which means that their need for sleep decreases during this time.

Suicidal thinking: these thoughts occur in many different mental disorders. Someone who has a mental disorder may have increased suicidal thinking or behavior, even if they didn’t before the illness developed.

Treatments for Mental Disorder:

The treatments of mental disorders are different depending on the type and severity of your condition. Most people who suffer from mild to moderate conditions can benefit greatly from psychotherapy with a specialist called a psychiatrist that has training in both medication management and psychotherapy.

Treatments for Mental Disorder

If you have one of the more severe mental disorders, your treatment will likely include medication as well as therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist who has specialized training in that disorder. Also known as a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP).

If your condition is so serious it affects how you can function at home and work, you may need inpatient treatment. This is best when you are at risk of hurting yourself or others, cannot provide your basic needs for food and shelter, or when the disorder causes psychotic symptoms that interfere with insight into illness or refusal to take medication.

When to see a doctor

If you are concerned about any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advised that you see your doctor. If they think there might be a problem, they can refer you to other professionals who will assess whether or not you have a mental disorder.

If you have suicidal thoughts

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention. This is a free hotline. People who take part in this crisis counseling program can be seen for up to 24 hours and will work with your insurance provider if necessary.

Risk factors

Certain risk factors make it more likely for someone to develop a mental disorder:

  • Family history of mental disorders (parents or siblings)
  • Exposure to traumatic events during childhood such as abuse or neglect
  • Unstable environment; moving home frequently or having parents with marital problems
  • Personal history of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse during childhood
  • Lack of access to quality health care and support networks
  • Exposure to certain substances such as alcohol in the womb (fetal alcohol syndrome) or use of recreational drugs during adolescence. People who take part in these activities must understand how it can affect their mental health.

People who have experienced one of the above factors may be more susceptible to developing mental disorders, but it is not a guarantee that they will develop them.


Mental disorders cause a significant amount of suffering to those who have them and their families. They can also lead to complications such as:

  • Self-harm; taking part in activities that hurt yourself or injure yourself on purpose
  • Alcohol or drug abuse leading to addiction (dependency)
  • Unprotected sex, which increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or getting someone pregnant
  • Unemployment, which can lead to financial problems and loss of self-esteem. Loss of employment may also be due to the individual not being able to perform their job role properly because of symptoms caused by a mental disorder such as low energy levels or poor concentration. This is known as work disability.

Mental disorders can also lead to other mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder. This makes the treatment more complicated because you will likely need medication for both conditions. You may even need hospitalization if your symptoms are very severe or trigger suicidal thoughts.


Mental disorders are not always preventable, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing them.

  • Protecting yourself from traumatic events during childhood and adolescence
  • Taking part in physical activity that increases blood flow such as running or playing sports; will help with stress management
  • Eating healthy foods (e.g. fruits and vegetables) as well as limiting your intake of alcohol, caffeine, or sugar; will help with regulating mood
  • Taking part in activities that increase social interactions such as joining a club or taking part in volunteer work

Helping a loved one with mental illness

If you know someone who might be struggling with a mental health problem, it can be difficult to figure out what to do. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides an excellent guide for helping loved ones cope with different types of mental disorders.

If you notice indications of mental illness in your loved one, talk to him or her about your concerns. Don’t be afraid of upsetting them or causing a conflict, as this can allow the person to open up about their feelings and emotions for the first time.

Remember that you don’t need to have all the answers – sometimes just being there is enough. Let him or her know that they are not alone in dealing with mental illness.

Conclusion: Mental disorders are serious health issues that can have an impact on your mental health, physical well-being, and relationships. Luckily, there are many things you can do to help prevent developing them in the first place or help loved ones cope with different types of mental illness. If you’re looking for more information about how to help someone who is struggling with a mental disorder or want tips for preventing yourself from getting one, contact our doctors today. You don’t need to be alone in dealing with this difficult topic – get educated today!

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