Defining Mental Health Disorders

German Actress Eleonore Weisgerber, at a verni...

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Mental Health

It’s estimated that 26 percent of adults in the U.S. have a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders are classified into several groups including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders. Awareness of the symptoms of mental health disorders is helpful if you believe that you or someone in your family may have a mental health disorder.

Two prevalent mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by very extreme mood swings that can include manic highs and depression. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include racing thoughts, irritability, and fatigue. Depression can be mild, as in dysthymic disorder, or severe, as in major depressive disorder. Depression is characterized as persistent feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, extreme sadness and trouble concentrating. In severe cases, these symptoms may also be accompanied by suicidal thoughts.

While anxiety is perfectly normal in the face of a stressful situation, anxiety disorders can be debilitating. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is characterized by recurrent thoughts and repetitive behaviors. People with panic disorder can experience unexpected episodes in which they feel dizzy, weak and have chest pains; along with a loss of control. A combination of medication and therapy can help to treat anxiety disorders.

Individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, take worrying about their weight to an unhealthy extreme. People with anorexia often have a distorted body image and this leads them to take in far fewer calories than they need to survive. Starvation diets coupled with strenuous exercise can lead to serious illness or death. Bulimics binge on large amounts on food and then purge their bodies of the food by vomiting or taking laxatives. They also exercise a lot so that they do not gain weight. Psychotherapy, sometimes coupled with medication, can help people with eating disorders get on the road to recovery.