Mental health is becoming a much more prominent aspect of our wellness these days. From job-related stress to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders, mental health disorders are fast becoming treatable illnesses like the common cold and the flu. Among Americans, depression is the number one treated and untreated mental health disorder in this country. As many as nineteen million people suffer from depression each year. The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that four of the top ten causes for disability are caused by some form of mental illness. That forty percent figure is quite high when you consider that the other sixty percent is accounted for by things like cancer, short term disability, amputation, injuries, and dependents who are disabled.
The number one mental health disorder is depression, which is classified as a mood disorder. Often depression is coupled with another disorder like generalized anxiety disorder. Depression is multi-faceted, meaning that it has multiple causes, and often requires multiple types of treatment in order to find a successful “cocktail.” Depression often runs in families; patients whose parents have a history of mental health disorders seem to be at a higher risk for developing their own at some point in their lives. But often depression can occur where there is no history of mental illness; stressful events, major life changes, and hormonal changes can all trigger depression in anyone, of any age. Alcohol and drug abuse can also bring on depressive episodes, and require a unique approach to treatment that is referred to as “dual diagnosis.” The question, “Which came first, the depression or the drug abuse?” is an elusive one for those treating this disorder. Often treating the drug abuse and confronting the person in sobriety will reveal a severe depressive disorder. In this case, the depression is the underlying cause of drug abuse. But sometimes, people become depressed because of drug abuse. Depression also manifests itself differently in men versus women. Where women are often emotional, weepy, and withdraw into themselves, men are the counterpart to this. They become angry, strive to achieve or otherwise “prove” themselves, and that all is normal.
Schizophrenia and anxiety disorders follow closely behind depression in the top five mental health disorders affecting many Americans. While Schizophrenia is its own animal, anxiety disorders account for many “lesser” disorders like panic disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and PTSD. These are all types of anxiety disorders that may manifest themselves independently or in conjunction with other mental health disorders.
Following closely behind these is eating disorders. Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating account for a large diagnosis base among women. Approximately 8 million Americans have some form of an eating disorder, and the majority of these are women. Anorexia is reported to be the third most common chronic illness among teenagers. Eating disorders are made even more complex by the bizarre sensationalizing they receive from the media. Personality disorders bring up the rear for the top five mental health disorders in the United States. These include issues like dissociative disorders, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
Understanding mental health issues among the population is a challenging job for professionals. Demographic studies have shown us that those who are challenged by poverty struggle more with drug abuse, personality disorders, and depression, while the “middle class” seems to struggle more with anxiety disorders. The cause of many mental health disorders is still unknown, but with further research and development, understanding the disorders will lead to better and more effective treatments.