9 Mental Disorders and How to Spot Them

Mental illnesses can appear over time. Not every person who has a mental illness is born with the signs and symptoms of one. Some appear at certain times in one’s life. Here are 9 mental disorders, when the signs and symptoms are most likely to appear, and how to spot them.

Ages 0-18

Autism: Autism is a neural developmental disorder. It affects the way people socialize and communicate by causing the person to use restrictive and repetitive behavior. People with autism are often withdrawn, do repetitive motions (called stimming), and, in many cases, do not communicate verbally. There is no known cause for autism, but it is believed to be related to nerve cell synapses to the brain. Symptoms usually begin to appear in infancy and develop over the first few years of the person’s life. Symptoms include: impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, restricted interests and repetitive behavior, atypical eating. Many parents first report a “blank expression” as being the first sign of an autistic child. The child does not react normally to stimulants— such as not laughing at funny faces, staring past people, not focusing on objects or faces, and not mimicking the faces of others. It may take years to properly diagnose autism, as doctors must study the child’s behavior. There is no known cure, but early intervention can help an autistic child succeed.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD): ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) manifest in one’s school years, ages 6-18. Symptoms include trouble focusing on tasks, hyperactivity, unexplainable behaviors (such as creating trouble without knowing why they did it), easily distracted, poor grades on tests, and not completing tasks appropriately. ADHD and ADD are considered behavioral disorders, not neurological. Doctors diagnose this disorder by testing the client on various levels of activity and attention. Treatment includes medications (such as stimulants), behavioral interventions, and therapy. Often symptoms suppress after the child reaches adulthood, although many adults face the challenges of ADD and ADHD.

Tourette Syndrome: Tourette Syndrome (also known as Tourette’s) is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder. The external signs of this disorder is a combination of physical and verbal tics. A tic is a movement or sound that occurs unpredictably and intermittingly with normal activity. Some tics include: eye blinking, twitching, coughing or throat clearing, and saying certain words randomly. A tic is actually a conscious effort, such as scratching an itch, to relieve whatever sensation the person is feeling. Tourette Syndrome may be diagnosed if a person experiences a motor tic with at least one vocal tic over the course of a year, without a period of more than three months devoid of a tic. These symptoms can be seen in children at an early age. Tics can come and go throughout one’s life; in severe cases, if the symptoms are disruptive to the person’s life, medication may be prescribed.

Ages 18-50

Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and emotional responsiveness. Early symptoms include auditory hallucinations, paranoid activity, delusions, and disorganized thoughts. As these symptoms progress the person may begin to withdraw from normal social activity and have difficulty working or sustaining a job. Symptoms begin to manifest in early adulthood, usually between the ages of 17 to 30 years old. Despite popular belief, Schizophrenia does not lead to multiple personality disorder, nor do people with Schizophrenia have multiple personalities. Schizophrenia can be caused by genetics, environment, drug abuse, and viral exposure in utero. A doctor can diagnose the disease and may prescribe medications and therapy to help manage it. Life expectancy is approximately 12-15 years after the symptoms manifest, with a high suicide rate because of the troubles noted with the disorder.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): PMDD is a disorder that affects only women. It is similar to PMS, but has more severe, lasting symptoms. The symptoms of PMDD include: feeling deep sadness or depression the week before and throughout your menstrual cycle, suicidal ideation, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, insomnia or over sleeping, binge eating, uncontrollable crying or emotions, severe mood swings, the feeling that everyone is against you, and disinterest in relationships. These symptoms coincide with a woman’s menstrual cycle and do not persist more than a few days after the cycle ends. Unlike PMS, PMDD occurs regularly, with similar symptoms and lasts through the cycle. PMDD can be diagnosed by a doctor and medications, such as certain birth control pills, can be prescribed to lessen the severity of the symptoms. Therapy may also help, as well as the knowledge of the regularity of these symptoms as a reminder that they will pass with the menstruation.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD was once known as shell-shock and thought to only occur in soldiers returning home from war. Doctors have since realized that similar symptoms occur in people of all backgrounds who experience a serious traumatic event. Although children can get and exhibit PTSD, it is most commonly found in adults. PTSD occurs after exposure to a traumatic event, such as war, rape, and lose of property or someone close. Symptoms include: reliving the experience, depression like symptoms, withdrawal from social activities, persistent numbing of the incident, and persistent arousal not found before the incident (such as not sleeping, overt sexual activity, etc). Symptoms must last over a month in order for PTSD to be the diagnosis. Therapy is used to aid people with PTSD.

Eating Disorders: Eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating, stem from a mental disorder that causes the person to view themselves as having a different (often larger) body type than he/she actually does. Although some people develop eating disorders over time, many people who suffer from them are genetically predisposed to the disorder. Often people with eating disorders feel a lack of control in their own lives, and so they control what they eat as a way to feel they can manage something. Many people also have body dysmorphic disorder, a mental disorder that alters the way the person views him/herself. Eating disorders are often treated with psychological assistance, such as councilors or group therapy.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: This psychiatric disorder is also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. A person with this disorder has many personalities, or identities, with distinct characteristics and ways of seeing and interacting with the world. Causes include severe stress, insufficient nurturing in childhood, and dissociation of memories from consciousness. Some people experience uncommon memory loss and a fading sensation between two or more personalities. Generally each personality has its own background, name, characteristics, and likes and dislikes. These personalities may not be at all correlated—one may love fish, smoking, and drinking, while the other may despise seafood and vices. In order to diagnose, personalities must exhibit for over a long period of time and include memory lapses. A psychiatrist can diagnose this disorder. Therapy is offered to clients with multiple personalities in order to try to reconnect these identities to the original host.

Ages 50-End of Life

Dementia: Although people of all ages can be struck with dementia, for various reasons, it is commonly seen amongst the elderly. Some causes of elderly dementia include slowing nervous system, loss of brain mass, and degeneration of brain neurons. Symptoms include forgetfulness, an inability to communicate properly, slowed or stumbling steps, falls, repetition of words or phrases, and short term or long term memory loss. People with dementia may believe they are able to do things they cannot do, such as walk even though their leg was amputated, or drive a car. The may lose the ability to recognize family members, or may think that they are younger than they actually are. Dementia can be diagnosed by a doctor and certain medications can help slow the process. Adjustments to surroundings and social settings may be made in order to maintain the safety of a person with dementia. The number one adjustment made when a person is diagnosed with dementia is on the family, which must be counseled to understand the progression of the disease and how to adjust accordingly.

Science is presenting new research on many of these disorders all the time. It is important to remember that early detection is vital in treating all of these disorders. If you think that you or someone you know has a mental disorder, please contact a physician and get help. Many of these disorders are correctable or treatable. It is possible to be diagnosed and continue your quality of life.

Posted in Mental Health