Mental disorders can afflict people of every race, creed, or gender, at literally any stage of life. There are hundreds of disorders officially recognized by the American Medical Association. Some are genetic, potentially appearing at birth as well as late in life, while others are caused by chemical interactions (including drug use), trauma, or other life events. Accurately describing every mental disorder literally requires an encyclopedia. However, it is possible to provide information in broad strokes about common disorder types, causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Many mental disorders can be categorized based on similar symptoms or causes. The most common disorder categories are:
- Dissociative Disorders – Genetic disorders where patients frequently experience episodes of mental detachment from reality, affecting behavior and memory. Such disorders are generally treated with psychiatric counseling and prescription medication.
- Eating Disorders – Disorders caused by societal pressure where patients engage in dangerous dietary behavior. These disorders are usually treated with psychiatric counseling.
- Sexual Disorders – Sexual disorders represent a wide range of both genetic and behavioral disorders where patients experience difficulty engaging in normal sexual activities, in some cases causing physical and emotional harm to others. Prescription drugs are often used to treat genetic disorders, while counseling, drugs, and in extreme cases, incarceration, are often required to treat behavioral disorders.
- Sleep Disorders – Primarily genetic disorders that involve sleeping more or less than is healthy on a regular basis. Prescription medication may be able to provide assistance, as can counseling in some cases, but sleep disorders are also often treated with diet and exercise routines.
- Personality Disorders – Generally not diagnosed until adulthood, these disorders represent a very specific difficulty when attempting to engage in normal societal interactions. Depending on the disorder, this may be treated with prescription medication, counseling, or both.
- Childhood Disorders – Almost universally genetic disorders that are diagnosed in individuals starting at birth until early teen years. These disorders usually represent a difficulty in developing a particular skill or motor function and often can be treated with tutoring and specific therapy exercises.
- Dependence Disorders – Chemically induced disorders that generally involve abuse of a mind altering substance or a socially disruptive activity. Treatment regularly involves a combination of medication, counseling, and rehabilitation services.
Additionally, some mental disorders, like Alzheimer’s Disease and most phobias, are not easily categorized. Medical professionals are able to identify symptoms, and potentially causes, but treatment usually differs case by case more significantly that it does for other mental disorders.
The options for treating a mental disorder are about as varied as the options for treating a physical ailment. A doctor wouldn’t prescribe Aspirin to treat cancer and similarly wouldn’t prescribe radiation therapy to treat a simple headache. Similarly, potential treatments for mental disorders include, but are not limited to, prescription medication, psychiatric counseling, mental exercises, physical exercises, group therapy, detoxification, rehabilitation services, tutoring, diet changes, and even potentially surgery.
While few doctors specialize in mental disorders, the average general practitioner, especially pediatric doctors, has the training necessary to identify most common mental disorders, and can even usually identify the existence of an uncommon disorder, even if the doctor can’t precisely diagnose it. Thus, the best way to get proper treatment is to be examined by a general practitioner who will then refer the patient to a specialist who can provide a more thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.