Psychological Disorders: Understanding the Diagnosis

psychological disordersPsychological disorders are generally defined as either thought or behavior patterns which cause considerable disruption for the patient.  A person with a diagnosed psychological disorder may experience any number of symptoms which can make it difficult for them to work, attend school, or make meaningful connections with others.  This is distressing to the patient, and also to the people around them. While it is true that we all experience psychological development at our own rate, sometimes, a doctor might tell you there is cause for concern.

Like any diagnosis, being told that you, or a loved one may have a psychological disorder can be a frightening experience.  There is a lot of new information to take in all at once, and that can be overwhelming and frustrating.  First and foremost, make sure that you are working with a physician whom you feel comfortable with, and be sure to rely on their expertise for help.  Understanding the diagnosis can help make it a little less stressful, and that is why I have outlined a list of some common psychological disorders, and what they mean.

Anxiety Disorders

dealing with anxietyPsychological disorders which fall under this umbrella are a common diagnosis.  Some reports indicate that nearly 20% of all Americans may suffer from some form of Anxiety.  Depending on which sub group a patient belongs to, the symptoms can fall on the spectrum anywhere from mild to crippling.  As the name suggests, anxiety disorders are primarily associated with feelings of nervousness and fear.  While fear is actually a helpful tool in keeping us safe (it is what keeps us from approaching wild animals, or darting into traffic), people who struggle with Anxiety have an overabundance of fear and worry, often associated with things that are not actually dangerous.

For instance, someone suffering from Agoraphobia is afraid of being in certain situations which may trigger a panic attack.  This could be a crowded train, a baseball game, or even a park with a number of walking paths to choose from.  The Agoraphobic person will often take to avoiding these situations altogether, and in serious cases, may end up housebound altogether.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is another form of Anxiety, usually brought about after the patient has been through an experience of intense or prolonged fear.  Many of our returning military members are diagnosed with this disorder after having spent time in combat situations.  Victims of abuse often exhibit symptoms as well, even long after the danger of abuse is over.   While it is easy for someone to conceptualize the effects of PTSD, it can sometimes come as a shock to people to witness just how strong these feelings really are.  Luckily, there are a number of ways to help patients overcome PTSD, and more research is being done all the time.

Eating Disorders

psychological disordersWhile many of us have heard about eating disorders primarily affecting young or teenaged girls, the truth is that anyone – male or female – can suffer an eating disorder at any age.  Often, a person with an eating disorder will be obsessed with weight and appearance.  They will either restrict, regurgitate or binge on food, usually having little control over their own actions.  These behavioral patterns can have drastic effects on both the physical and mental health of the patient.  Having a good support network is vital to the patient’s success in overcoming their eating disorder.

A patient with Anorexia Nervosa will restrict their calorie intake to drastically low levels.  Sometimes coupled with obsessive exercise, Anorexic patients are typically on a destructive path to becoming thinner, at all costs.  They are typically unable to see their own bodies as “worthy”, and will starve themselves as a result.

A patient with Bulimia Nervosa typically engages in the binge and purge cycle.  These patients also see their bodies negatively, but they do not approach their diets with restriction.  Instead, they often go on massive food binges, taking in thousands of calories all at once, uncontrollably.  Following the binge, they will purge the food by forcing themselves to vomit.  This unhealthy pattern puts them at risk not only for malnutrition, but also of internal bleeding.

Due to the severity of compulsive eating disorders, it is highly recommended that the patient be under medical supervision.

Impulse Control Disorders

psychological disordersImpulse control is something we take for granted.  While standing on the top of a tall building, most of us do not have to struggle with the desire to throw ourselves off the edge.  We understand the danger associated with that, and act accordingly by keeping a safe distance.  Someone diagnosed with an impulse control disorder has no such luxury.  They have that moment of irrational desire, and simply must act on it.  It is as difficult for them to control themselves as it would be for you or I to hold in a cough.

Pyromania is a particularly alarming condition.  Patients suffering this disorder have an unhealthy fascination with fire.  They will start fires in order to appease their impulse, and it goes without saying how dangerous and destructive that can be.  Similarly, patients suffering with Kleptomania have the uncontrollable impulse to steal things.  This can take the form of habitual shoplifting, or even in taking things from friends and family members.

Other impulse control issues can manifest as skin picking, hair pulling or even pathological gambling.  Surrounding yourself with a good network of understanding people can be very helpful in overcoming or managing these disorders.

Neurocognitive Disorders

psychological disordersPeople suffering from these psychological disorders are likely to have a slow but steady loss of cognitive function.  Memory, problem solving skills, the ability to perceive the things around you and basic recognition are all at risk when diagnosed with this type of illness.

Perhaps the most well known form of Neurocognitive disorder is Alzheimer’s Disease.  Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a trying process, and the caregiver will need lots of support and direction.  Udemy offers a gentle, holistic approach to Alzheimer’s and Dementia care-giving in the course “Caring for Dementia“.

Mood Disorders

psychological disordersOften characterized by dramatic and uncontrollable changes in mood, these disorders can sometimes be misunderstood, especially by those close to the patient.  While everyone has experienced a “mood swing” here and there, Mood Disorders are far more drastic.  Patients suffering from these disorders often experience periods of deep depression, followed by periods of mania and extreme activity.

Learning to cope with depression can be helpful to those suffering from conditions such as Bi-Polar Disorder, and Major Depressive Disorder.  As always, the best advice and medication suggestions will come from your doctor in these cases, so make sure you are in touch with a professional.

Psychotic Disorders

psychological disordersPerhaps the most dramatic, and potentially misunderstood disorders are those which fall under the umbrella of Psychotic Disorders.  These are characterized by a loss of touch with reality.  Patients will often hallucinate, hear voices, and display extremely disorganized thinking and behavior.  The realities of these disorders can often place the patient in danger, especially if they do not fully grasp their own surroundings, and it is advised that they be supervised by a professional.

Psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia, and Delusional Disorder are two of the most common.  Treatment programs and medications are available to help.

A diagnosis of a psychological disorder does not have to be a road block in your life. Keeping a positive attitude will help you approach this new set of challenges with determination and steady goals.  Always look to those around you for support, and keep up a good relationship with your doctor.