A brief introduction to mental illness

I’m sure you’ve heard about mental health issues before. And yes, they affect millions of us every year.  But did you know that over half of us may experience some mental illness at least once during our lifetime?

Mental illness can be depicted as a disease which causes an individual to experience severe disturbances in their moods, thoughts, emotions, behaviours, or ability to function at work or home.


You may be familiar with several mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, personality disorders, etc.  Research has shown that these conditions often go undiagnosed or untreated for years.

Mental illnesses are common and can be tough to understand, and they’re also something that we don’t often talk about. We live among people who struggle with mental illness; in many cases, they have little support or understanding from those around them.

Mental illnesses affect an individual’s mind and emotions. 

Emotions play a significant role in our lives and influence our moods, behaviour, and decisions. They can impact an individual’s ability to think, process information and feelings, behave appropriately, respond to situations, and take care of oneself. Even though someone may seem functional on the outside, it might be much more challenging for them on the inside.

Mental illness can make life miserable.

For some individuals, this means they’re depressed or anxious all day long, and others may experience hallucinations or delusions.  Some people live their lives feeling trapped by these symptoms.  Many people conceal their struggles with mental illness because they are concerned about how others will view them or are fearful that others won’t understand what they are experiencing and, therefore, won’t be supportive of them.   (mental health stigma.)

This article will outline some common mental illnesses and tips for friends and family members who may be concerned about someone they know are struggling with these problems.   Many people don’t realise that there are different types of mental illnesses, some of which are just as common as depression or anxiety. But the most important thing to remember is that mental illnesses are not just a label; they are genuine and must be treated.

It is necessary to know what mental illness you might be suffering from.  Let’s take a closer look at the following eight specific Mental Health diagnoses you could observe or encounter in society these days.

1. Depression

Depression is a prevalent mental illness and affects around 16% of adults in the United States. Depression is a long-term condition characterised by sadness and hopelessness, withdrawal from social interactions, changes in appetite and sleep, loss of energy, low self-esteem, and thoughts of self-harm.

In general, people with depression are not interested in being active or going out; they may feel anxious, guilty, hopeless, worthless, angry, sad, unmotivated, lonely, or agitated. They may also experience sleep problems.

If you are worried about someone who may be struggling with depression or other mental illnesses, it is essential to remember that everyone experiences their emotions differently. Some people might feel lonely or isolated, while others might display hostile behaviours such as aggression or violence. 

It’s important to recognise the signs that someone may be struggling with these issues, so they can be supported. If you notice those signs in your friend or family member, try talking to them and encouraging them to talk about their struggles without making assumptions about what they are dealing with.

2.  Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is like being in traffic.
It feels as though everything around you is moving, yet you’re still stuck.

Anxiety disorders affect how someone feels inside, and anxiety affects a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings, physical reactions, and body. There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD involves worrying over events or activities that seem unlikely to happen or might go wrong. Worrying is the hallmark symptom of GAD. Someone who has generalised anxiety disorder may worry excessively about everyday situations. They may sometimes feel tense and restless and even have trouble sleeping. Generalised anxiety disorder can then lead to a panic attack.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder occurred when someone experiences repeated episodes of sudden fear accompanied by intense bodily sensations. A person experiencing a panic attack may suddenly become short of breath, sweaty, dizzy, weak, nauseous, or faint. If these symptoms occur repeatedly, they may develop agoraphobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Social phobia refers to excessive fears of being judged negatively by others. When social anxiety becomes severe, a person may avoid going out or interacting with others, and a social anxiety disorder may prevent them from getting a job or keeping friends.

3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is related to traumatic events, such as war, natural disasters, sexual abuse, or accidents. Trauma symptoms may last for weeks, months, or years after the event. Trauma victims may experience flashbacks, and they may also relive memories of stressful circumstances.

4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a psychological disorder that causes obsessions and compulsions and is commonly referred to as OCD. Obsessions are unwanted repetitive thoughts or images that cause distress, and compulsions are ritualised behaviours that require therapy to prevent or reduce these obsessions.

Examples of obsessive-compulsive disorders include contamination fears, hoarding, sexual obsessions, symmetry, and religious obsessions. Almost 40% of adults with OCD  only seek treatment until their condition worsens.

5. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterised by hallucinations and delusions. People with schizophrenia often hear voices or have visual hallucinations, and sometimes they may also believe things that aren’t true, like people talking behind their backs.

Schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide. Currently, available drugs can only help control a portion of these symptoms. In America, only one in 100 people are diagnosed with schizophrenia yearly. These individuals often have difficulty identifying symptoms of this condition, which means they might not seek treatment early enough or consistently enough to prevent severe problems. 

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.   Although schizophrenia is not contagious, it is provoked by brain abnormalities. These abnormalities make it difficult for some people to think clearly and behave normally.

The exact cause of schizophrenia isn’t known. But scientists do know that genetics play a role. Scientists also know that environmental factors—such as viral infections, head injuries, or certain recreational drugs—may trigger schizophrenia.

Some studies suggest that a combination of genetic and environmental factors causes schizophrenia. Other studies show that schizophrenia is due to various genes and environments, but only about half of cases involve both.

6. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and other Dissociative Disorders is a term that refers to the presence of two or more distinct personality states. These states may alter, and each change is a different individuality, memory, and way of functioning in the world. 

In many cases, one alter takes on dominant control over the other. Dissociative Identity Disorder is complicated to understand and can overwhelm those affected.

Individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder (often feel fragmented or detached from themselves or their surroundings. They might feel like different people with different thoughts, feelings, or motives at different times. 

They may have difficulty understanding their own emotions and what they are experiencing because the person with Dissociative Identity Disorder (may alternate between controlling personalities.

This can lead to feeling overwhelmed by their internal thoughts and poor self-care, such as avoiding situations that trigger their symptoms because they don’t want to feel the negative emotions associated with them.

7. Co-occurring Disorders

A co-occurring disorder is any mental illness that coincides with a substance use disorder, and a comorbid disorder can be a chronic physical or neurological condition during addiction. The fact remains that one can not ignore these disorders that sometimes underlie the most foundational causes of addiction.

What is comorbidity?

Comorbidity describes two or more disorders or illnesses occurring in the same person, which can co-occur or one after the other. Comorbidity also implies interactions between diseases that can worsen the course of both.

8. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by periods of mania and depression. During the manic phase, a person may experience an unusual increase in energy, activity, thoughts, and emotions. 

In the depressive phase, individuals can feel hopeless, guilty, or worthless. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2.6 million people in the United States alone.

Famous people who have had a mental illness

Abraham Lincoln (depression)

The revered sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating depressions that occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies by Carl Sandburg.

Virginia Woolf (Bipolar disorder)

The British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando experienced the mood swings of bipolar disorder, characterized by feverish periods of writing and weeks immersed in gloom. Her story is discussed in The Dynamics of Creation by Anthony Storr.

Lionel Aldridge (Schizophrenia)

A defensive end for Vince Lombardi’s legendary Green Bay Packers of the 1960’s, Aldridge played in two Super Bowls.

In the 1970’s, he suffered from schizophrenia and was homeless for two and a half years. Until his death in 1998, he gave inspirational talks on his battle against paranoid schizophrenia. His story is the story of numerous newspaper articles.

Ludwig van Beethoven (Manic Depression)

The brilliant composer experienced bipolar disorder, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb.

Gaetano Donizetti (Bipolar disorder)

The famous opera singer suffered from bipolar disorder, as documented in Donizetti and the World Opera in Italy, Paris and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century by Herbert Weinstock.

Winston Churchill (Bipolar disorder)

Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished, wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill’s bipolar disorder in Churchill’s Black Dog, Kafka’s Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.

Charles Dickens (Depression)

One of the greatest authors in the English language suffered from clinical depression, as documented in The Key to Genius: Manic Depression and the Creative Life by D. Jablow Hershman and Julian Lieb, and Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph by Edgar Johnson.

Chrissy Teigen (post-partum depression)

As a successful model, television host, and wife of multi-platinum recording artist John Legend, Teigen, a Utah native, went public in a candid essay published in the April 2017 issue of Glamour Magazine. “I had everything I needed to be happy,” she wrote. “And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. 

Demi Lovato (bipolar disorder)

Twenty-four-year old Lovato has been a public figure and performer since her teens. At eighteen, she came forward with her story of bullying, addiction, an eating disorder, cutting, and depression. During a television interview, Lovato explained that it was during her treatment for addiction and eating disorders that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Donny Osmond (social anxiety disorder)

Another local celebrity who suffers from social anxiety disorder, Donny Osmond has been battling social anxiety while performing since he was a child. It was in 1994 while performing in the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat that he realised he needed help.

Since 2004, Osmond has been an honorary member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “I want to let people know that they are not alone and that help is available,” he said.

Michael Phelps (ADHD)

Michael Phelps is an American swimmer, who has won a record-breaking 19 Olympic medals during his swimming career. He also lives with attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder.

For Phelps, a gangly, hyperactive child who was diagnosed with the condition aged nine, the swimming pool was a sanctuary, a place to burn off excess energy, writer Patrick Barkham says. “The concept of role models can seem an overused cliché, but the Olympians with ADHD may really inspire a generation of athletes who once would have been written off.”

Leonardo DiCaprio (Obsessive-compulsive disorder)

The Oscar-winning star admitted he feels compelled to walk through doorways numerous times and step on pavement stains left by used chewing gum. But DiCaprio has managed to keep his OCD tendencies under control, saying, “I’m able to say at some point, ‘OK, you’re being ridiculous. Stop stepping on every gum stain you see. You don’t need to do that.’”

Daniel Radcliffe (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

The boy who made Harry Potter a household name at the age of ten has been struggling with OCD since he was five. According to writer Alexandra Daluisio, “Dan decided to seek help when his anxiety prevented him from turning off a light for five minutes.” Even at such a young age, Radcliffe knew something had to be done.

Lady Gaga (PTSD)

Despite her success in both music and acting, Lady Gaga spoke openly in December 2016 about her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. Gaga admitted in a 2014 interview that she is the victim of a rape that happened when she was 19 years old. “My own trauma in my life has helped me to understand the trauma of others,” she says.

Adele (post-partum depression)

This Grammy award-winning artist opened up to Vanity Fair last year about her battles with postpartum depression following the birth of her son. “I had really bad post-partum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me,” she says. She admits she didn’t take any medication for it, she also didn’t talk to anyone about it. “I was very reluctant,” she said.

Vincent van Gogh (Comorbidity)

It is argued by some that painter Vincent van Gogh had suffered a battle with schizophrenia following an addiction to alcohol.  Though, his symptoms also drew parallels with a bipolar disorder.

John Forbes Nash Jr (schizophrenia)

If you’ve seen or read “A Beautiful Mind” by Sylvia Nasar, you know who this man is John Forbes Nash Jr., who died in 2015.  He was a prolific mathematician and economist, earning a Nobel Prize for the latter in 1994 for his work on game theory along with two other theorists.   In the book, Nasar profiles his lifelong battle with schizophrenia.




Mental health and mental illness are not the same thing.

The term ‘mental health’ implies the absence of illness or disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mental illness refers to “conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behaviour.” These can include but aren’t limited to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Mental health reflects “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.” Affecting “how we think, feel, and act,” mental health has a strong impact on the way we interact with others, handle problems, and make decisions.  This misunderstanding can be problematic, leading us to sometimes overlook signs that someone needs help. 

Many individuals with poor mental health have not been formally diagnosed with a mental illness.

In Conclusion

Therefore, in conclusion, mental health issues affect millions every year. The first step toward recovery is to recognise the problem exists. You don’t need to suffer alone.

Supports people who live with mental illness by providing them with educational materials, counselling services, and social networks.

We should always strive to love ourselves as much as possible, which means caring for our minds, bodies, and souls. If we take time out to look after ourselves, we’ll be better able to handle life’s challenges. 

Nobody should be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their mental health. Staying silent and not getting help can be the difference between life and death.