Serious mental illness

November 12, 2012

Serious mental illness

Mental illness is usually defined by how an individual feels, thinks, behaves or understands in and around their normal everyday life situations. Mental illness is a psychological pattern, often associated with distress or disability, which is not considered to be part of normal development. Mental illness maybe associated with particular brain regions or function or with the rest of the nervous system.

Serious mental illness

Serious mental illness is a mental health disorder which may require high levels of care or even hospitalisation of the individual affected. Diagnoses of serious mental illness are usually the result of psychotic episodes where the individual may appear to have lost touch with reality or be experiencing delusions. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the two most common serious mental illnesses.


Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects the way a person thinks and also alters their understanding of reality; which in turn affects their emotional and behavioural well being. Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed during the late teens or early twenties but has also been known to develop in older individuals.

Causes of schizophrenia

several triggers for schizophrenia have been identified by researchers; these include traumatic experience, injury to the head, abnormal brain development.


there are two categories of symptoms associated with schizophrenia,

  • Positive symptoms, usually occur in the very early stages of the disease they tend to be more extreme in nature and involve psychotic or delusional episodes.

    • Delusions – are incorrect, personal beliefs, firmly held despite evidence to the contrary.

    • Hallucinations – A hallucination is something that the sufferer believes to exist – he or she will hear, see or smell the subject of the hallucination as if it is entirely real.

    • Disturbance in thought processes, such as a sudden loss of the train of thought or a constant stream of widely differing thoughts causing chaos and confusion in the mind of the sufferer.

  • Negative symptoms are usually longer term and involve deterioration in normal function. These negative symptoms may include -

    • Lethargy, lack of emotion

    • Fatigue

    • Feelings of isolation

    • Withdrawal from normal life, lack of interest in what is going on around them.

    • Lack of concentration

    • Disrupted sleep pattern


schizophrenia, despite being a serious mental illness, is easily treated with medication to target the positive symptoms. Antipsychotic medication is frequently prescribed some of which may cause unacceptable side-effects in some patients – options should be thoroughly discussed with the medical practitioner.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder causes alternating, recurring episodes of mania and depression throughout the patient’s life – the periods between these episodes may well be symptom free.


faulty genes are known to be involved in the development of bipolar disorder as it seen to run in families.


  • Symptoms associated with manic behavior include -

    • Continual euphoria

    • Irritability and restlessness

    • Increased energy with little need for sleep

    • Inflated sense of self

    • Talkativeness

    • Increased sex drive

    • Racing thoughts

    • Lack of concentration and focus

    • Increased risk taking

    • High levels of spending

  • Symptoms associated with depressive behavior include -

    • Anxiety

    • Continual sadness

    • Loss of interest and pleasure in normal life

    • Change in eating habits and body weight

    • Erratic sleeping patterns

    • Fatigue

    • Lack of sex drive

    • Self harm, suicidal thoughts, feelings of guilt and worthlessness

    • Difficulty concentrating

A person may well exhibit symptoms of both manic and depressive behavior at the same time, psychotic episodes can occur during either of these types of episodes.


treatment of bipolar disorder usually combines medication with psychosocial therapy and is generally very effective. During the manic phase mood stabilizing medications may be prescribed, whereas depression may be treated with anti-depressants and counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Any mental health disease needs to be properly diagnosed and a complete treatment program should be implemented which takes into account the whole person and their quality of life.


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