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Psychological Disorders: Brief Overivew

Psychological disorders, also known as mental disorders or psychiatric conditions, refer to abnormal mind changes that lead to behaviors that can seriously impair every day functioning. Numerous psychological disorders have been classified and include:

    • Eating disorders: bulimia or anorexia nervosa.

    • Mood disorders: depression, bipolar.

    • Personality disorders: narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder

    • Psychotic disorders: schizophrenia.

    • Sexual disorders: sexual dysfunction or even hypersexual disorder (to be classified).

    • Anxiety disorders: panic attacks or social phobia.

Multiple psychological disorders may co-exist in one person. For example, a person might have social phobia and also suffer from depression.

The jury is still out there on the causes of psychological disorders. To this day, there is no specific cause known but several environmental and genetic factors can play a significant role such as: childhood trauma, chronic stress, poverty, illnesses, and heredity.

When an individual experiences mental problems or behavioral issues for a significant interval of time (e.g., one month), a psychological evaluation might be necessary, and he or she may be diagnosed with a psychological disorder.

Without proper treatment, people with psychological disorders can develop significant problems that may involve drug abuse, alcoholism, and mutilation. Some individuals might become at risk of suicide and violence.

Symptoms and signs of psychological disorders differ depending on the type of disorder. Typically, symptoms of behavioral and mood disorders are more frequent, and they are often chronic and debilitating. They can significantly impair your ability to function in society. Psychological disorders can sometimes mimic other illnesses or have no identifiable cause. For instance, some of the symptoms of a panic episode resemble a heart attack. In a conversion disorder, symptoms include blindness or paralysis without a known medical cause.


Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is a condition where there is a significant psychological response to a major life stressor or event.

Anxiety Disorders

These psychological disorders are characterized by chronic feelings of anxiety and fear.

Childhood Disorders

Also known as developmental conditions, these are psychological disorders that are first diagnosed in infancy or adolescence.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are defined as psychological disorders that involve a dissociation of consciousness, identity, and memory.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are psychological conditions characterized by abnormal food intake that affects a person's mental and physical health.

Factitious Disorders

Factitious conditions are psychological disorders characterized by deliberate faking of an illness.

Impulse Control Disorders

These are a set of psychological conditions defined by an inability to control impulsive behaviors.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are a group of psychological disorders that involve mood changes and depressive episodes.

Personality Disorders

These psychological disorders are characterized by behaviors that deviate from social norms.

Psychotic Disorders

These psychological disorders involve a distorted sense of reality and impaired functioning.

Sexual Disorders & Gender Identity Disorder

Sexual disorders are psychological disorders in which there is a significant impairment in normal sexual behavior.

Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders are conditions that infere with regular sleep patterns, and can negatively affect a person's mental health.

Somatoform Disorders

These psychological disorders are characterized by a chronic preoccupation with an imagined defect about a particular body part.

Psychological Disorders - Diagnosis

The Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists a classification of names and symptoms of all identifiable psychological disorders, and also includes probable causes, research and treatment outcomes.

The DSM-IV provides further understanding of mental health, treatments and classify and explain all listed psychological disorders. There is a revised edition (DSM-V) that is scheduled to be published by May 2013.

The DSM-IV is organized into five different categories or axes, and each covers a unique aspect of a psychological disorder.

Axis I Clinical Syndromes

Axis 1 diagnoses represent symptoms of a psychological disorder that need the most attention, such as a panic attack, major depression or a psychosis episode.

Axis II Personality and Developmental Disorders

Developmental disorders, such as autism or mental retardation, and personality disorders (e.g., antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder) are covered in this axis.

Axis II psychological disorders often directly affect Axis I symptoms. For instance, a child with Asperger's may become increasingly depressed (Axis I) and abuse drugs (Axis I).

Axis III Physical or Neurological Disorders

Axis III is for physical or neurological disorders (e.g., physical disability or brain impairments) that may influence a psychological disorder. For instance, people with severe back pain might be at risk for depressive episodes.

Axis IV Psycho-Social Stressors

This axis is for recent psycho-social stressors in the person's life, such as a recent death, divorce, unemployment or relocation.

Axis V Level of Functioning

Psychological Disorders: Axis V describes the individual's level of functioning in the present on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is considered top functioning. This is known as the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF). So, for example, if a patient has a GAF of 90, we can imply that he is doing fairly well. Someone with a GAF of 50 might have serious social and occupational impairments (e.g., unable to concentrate at work; losing friends) .

What causes psychological disorders?

The causes of psychological disorders aren't well understood, but environmental and developmental factors are known to play a significant role. As discussed earlier, these factors include heredity, childhood trauma, brain injury, and stress. Gender, race and ethnicity are also factors in some psychological disorders but not in others.

Psychological Disorders - Risk Factors

There are risk factors that increase the propensity of developing psychological disorders. However, it is important to remember that not everyone who are exposed to them develop psychological disorders.

Factors that increase the risk of psychological disorders are: severe abuse or childhood neglect; family history of substance abuse; mental retardation; family history of mental illness; poverty; absence of a parental figure; history of family criminal activity.

Symptoms of psychological disorders

Symptoms of psychological disorders include: drug abuse; violence or hostility; frequent mood changes; depression; isolation; anger; hallucinations; delusions.

Other symptoms of psychological disorders:

Weight loss; insomnia; chronic tiredness, and poor hygiene. Psychological disorders symptoms can be dangerous and life-threatening, such as: suicidal tendences; mutilation; suicide; violence towards other people.

Psychological Disorders - Treatment and Counseling

There is still a stigma attached to mental health therapy or counseling for psychological disorders. Many people still feel embarrassed to see a therapist for the treatment of a psychological condition. Overcoming these fears is a step in the right direction to a better life. A mental health therapist, social worker or a psychologist can help you deal with every aspect of a psychological disorder, and help prevent symptom recurrences.

A psychological disorder can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, ethnic group or social status. In fact, most people develop one or two during their lifetime, such as depression or anxiety. Early intervention and recognition of symptoms of psychological disorders are keys in preventing them from becoming chronic and debilitating.

More on psychological disorders


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