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Mental illness is a term used for a group of brain disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling, and relating. They result in substantially diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life. It can affect persons of any age — children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly — and they can occur in any family. Several million people in this country suffer from a serious, long-term mental illness brain disorder. The cost to society is high due to lost productivity and treatment expense. Patients with mental illness occupy more hospital beds than do persons with any other illness.
Mental illness is not the same as mental retardation. The mentally retarded have a diminished intellectual capacity usually present since birth. Those with mental illnesses are usually of normal intelligence although they may have difficulty performing at a normal level due to their illness.
Mental illness affects 1 in 5 families in America. Mental illnesses usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. Mental illnesses are the leading cause of disability for persons between the ages of 15-44.
If your loved one exhibits any combination of these symptoms over a prolonged period of time, it is advisable to see a medical or psychiatric professional for an evaluation. If your loved one becomes violent, or is unable to care for him or herself, he or she may need involuntary care. Learn more about specific mental illnesses at Nami.org
Women and Depression: “The Baby Blues”Post-Partum Depression / Post-Partum Psychosis
The “baby blues” usually fade on their own, but a new mother can help herself by getting as much rest as she can, accepting help from family and friends and connecting with other new mothers. Post-partumdepressionis often successfully treated with medication and counseling. With the appropriate treatments usually postpartum depression goes away within a few months, but can last up to a year. Women should consult with their health care provider before taking any medications while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Treatment for those who experience post-partum psychosis requires hospitalization—for their safety. A combination of interventions such as antidepressant, antipsychotic and mood stabilizer medications may be neededto control symptoms. This form of treatment will likely interfere with a mother’s ability to breast feed, she should talk to her health care provider to work through these challenges. If a woman has a history of depression, she should discuss this with her doctor as soon as she finds out that she is pregnant. This information will help the health care provider monitor the woman closely for signs and symptoms of depression. After the baby is born an early post-partum checkup to screening might be recommended. Click here for a Depression and Pregnancy Fact Sheet from NAMI.org
Schizophrenia is one of the most serious and disabling of the mental illness brain disorders. It affects approximately one person in a hundred. The disease affects men and women about equally. Its onset is usually in the late teens or early twenties. Getting an individual to take medication for his or her illness is difficult, especially when the person does not believe they are sick.
Schizophrenia symptoms are generally divided into three categories-Positive, Negative, Cognitive.
- Positive Symptoms, or “psychotic” symptoms, include delusions and hallucinations because the patient has lost touch with reality in certain important ways. “Positive” refers to having symptoms that should not be there.
- Negative Symptoms include emotional flatness or lack of expression, an inability to start and follow through with activities, speech that is brief and devoid of content, and a lack of pleasure or interest in life. “Negative” does not refer to a person’s attitude butto a lack of certain characteristics that should be there.
- Cognitive Symptoms pertain to thinking processes. For example, people may have difficulty with prioritizing tasks, certain kinds of memory functions, and organizing their thoughts.
People with schizophrenia usually have several of the following symptoms:
- disconnected and confusing language
- poor reasoning, memory and judgment
- high levels of anxiety
- eating and sleeping disorders
- hallucinations – hearing and seeing things that exist only in the mind of the patient
- delusions – persistent false beliefs about something, for example that others are controlling their thoughts
- deterioration of appearance and personal hygiene
- loss of motivation and poor concentration
- tendency to withdraw from others
(primarily Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder)
Mood (or affective) disorders are the most common of mental illness brain disorders. They are generally less persistently disabling than schizophrenia — if the person finds and accepts treatment. The primary disturbance in these disorders is that of mood or affect. The two major mood disorders are manic-depressive illness (bipolar) in which the person swings between extreme high and low moods, and clinical depression (unipolar) in which the person suffers from persistent severe depression. About six per cent of the population suffers from an affective disorder — a major cause of suicide.
Persons diagnosed as having bipolar illness, who are in the manic phase, usually have several of the following characteristics:
- boundless energy, enthusiasm, and need for activity
- decreased need for sleep
- grandiose ideas and poor judgment
- rapid, loud, disorganized speech
- short temper and argumentativeness
- impulsive and erratic behavior
- possible delusional thinking
- rapid switch to severe depression
People who have severe depression (or the depressive phase of bipolar disorder) may have several of the following characteristics:
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of interest in daily activities
- loss of appetite
- feelings of worthlessness, guilt and hopelessness
- feelings of despondence or sadness
- inability to concentrate
- possible psychotic symptoms
- suicidal thoughts and even actions
Marijuana & Mental Health
Smoking marijuana is increasingly seen as a causal factor that can trigger onset of schizophrenia in some people. NAMI cites three studies published in February and March 2011. As an environmental factor, marijuana is believed to “trigger” genetic factors, increasing the risk of psychotic incidents and ongoing experiences.
Research literature has long shown a link between marijuana use and illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation. Beyond comorbidity, however, more recent research makes a stronger case that cannabis smoking itself is a causal agent in psychiatric symptoms, particularly schizophrenia. During the past five years a number of prominent studies have strengthened our understanding of that association and found that the age when marijuana is first smoked and the frequency of use are crucial risk factors in later development of mental health problems. Learn more at Nami.org