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What kinds of chronic mental illness are there?

The following pages are just to illustrate some of the most common mental illnesses and do not in any way claim to be an exhaustive, final, or a complete list of mental conditions.

1. Neurodevelopmental Disorders

These occur during pregnancy and/or early childhood and can include:

  • Intellectual disability: Limitations in intellectual functioning, identified by IQ below 70. Affects learning, self-care, social interaction and everyday life-skills, as well as communication skills.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Ongoing problems with social interaction, impaired communication skills, patterns of repetitive behaviour, and the inability to handle certain conditions, tastes, sounds or textures. The word ‘spectrum’ means that people can have varying degrees of impairment and still be classified as ‘on the Autism spectrum’.
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) : Normally a person is either ‘attention deficit’ or ‘hyperactive’, but someone can struggle with both.Generally diagnosed in childhood, but in high-functioning people who find ways to manage their thoughts and behaviours, these disorders are sometimes only diagnosed in adulthood, if ever. Can be monitored, and changes are possible as the child moves through adolescence. Regular check-ups with a prescribing doctor or clinical psychologist are vital, especially if the child is on medication.

TREATMENT

  • Special education classes
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and hearing therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Play therapy for socialisation
  • Education – informed parents, family and friends
  • Medication – for ADHD and sometimes for some aspects of autism

What kinds of chronic mental illness are there?

chronic-mental-illness

The following pages are just to illustrate some of the most common mental illnesses and do not in any way claim to be an exhaustive, final, or a complete list of mental conditions.

1. Neurodevelopmental Disorders

These occur during pregnancy and/or early childhood and can include:

  • Intellectual disability: Limitations in intellectual functioning, identified by IQ below 70. Affects learning, self-care, social interaction and everyday life-skills, as well as communication skills.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Ongoing problems with social interaction, impaired communication skills, patterns of repetitive behaviour, and the inability to handle certain conditions, tastes, sounds or textures. The word ‘spectrum’ means that people can have varying degrees of impairment and still be classified as ‘on the Autism spectrum’.
  • ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) : Normally a person is either ‘attention deficit’ or ‘hyperactive’, but someone can struggle with both.Generally diagnosed in childhood, but in high-functioning people who find ways to manage their thoughts and behaviours, these disorders are sometimes only diagnosed in adulthood, if ever. Can be monitored, and changes are possible as the child moves through adolescence. Regular check-ups with a prescribing doctor or clinical psychologist are vital, especially if the child is on medication.

TREATMENT

  • Special education classes
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and hearing therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Play therapy for socialisation
  • Education – informed parents, family and friends
  • Medication – for ADHD and sometimes for some aspects of autism

2. Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder was previously known as  ’manic depressive disorder’. A bipolar person can appear to function extremely well in society. This disorder presents itself in a number of different ways, which can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose, and they don’t always agree either.

Now remember the warning – don’t start diagnosing your friends and family when you read on…

Bipolar disorder is described as periods of mania or hypomania that then cycles into depression. The two main types of Bipolar disorder are Bipolar disorder 1 and Bipolar disorder 2. In Bipolar disorder 1, a person experiences full blown mania (which is explained below) for a number of days, or even weeks, and then plummets into depression. In Bipolar 2, a person experiences hypomania (often referred to as ‘light mania’) for days, weeks or even months, and then plummets into depression that can last for a very long time. In a nutshell, mania is worse in Bipolar 1 whereas depression is worse in Bipolar 2. In both cases very serious depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and even death by suicide.

Bipolar Disorder is not: just the ups and downs of life – where one day you feel okay to be single, and the next day you remember your partner who broke up with you and feel really sad for a while. People who are mentally well have good days and bad days. Bipolar disorder is only diagnosed from late adolescence or early adulthood as children can outgrow other conditions which may display similar symptoms. Because it is so difficult to diagnose, most people with the disorder suffer into adulthood before being diagnosed. Some never are.

2. Bipolar disorder

Chronic-Mental-Illness-depression

Bipolar disorder was previously known as  ’manic depressive disorder’. A bipolar person can appear to function extremely well in society. This disorder presents itself in a number of different ways, which can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose, and they don’t always agree either.

Now remember the warning – don’t start diagnosing your friends and family when you read on…

Bipolar disorder is described as periods of mania or hypomania that then cycles into depression. The two main types of Bipolar disorder are Bipolar disorder 1 and Bipolar disorder 2. In Bipolar disorder 1, a person experiences full blown mania (which is explained below) for a number of days, or even weeks, and then plummets into depression. In Bipolar 2, a person experiences hypomania (often referred to as ‘light mania’) for days, weeks or even months, and then plummets into depression that can last for a very long time. In a nutshell, mania is worse in Bipolar 1 whereas depression is worse in Bipolar 2. In both cases very serious depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and even death by suicide.

Bipolar Disorder is not: just the ups and downs of life – where one day you feel okay to be single, and the next day you remember your partner who broke up with you and feel really sad for a while. People who are mentally well have good days and bad days. Bipolar disorder is only diagnosed from late adolescence or early adulthood as children can outgrow other conditions which may display similar symptoms. Because it is so difficult to diagnose, most people with the disorder suffer into adulthood before being diagnosed. Some never are.

MANIA

Mania is a real, serious and marked behaviour that seems extreme. People experiencing mania have enormous amounts of energy and can be extremely active. They can focus on one thing for days on end and don’t feel like they need to sleep. People in a manic state can take large amounts of drugs, behave wildly, gamble excessively, spend extreme amounts of money, claim to be doing something great like writing a book in a week, or learning to fly planes, max out their credit cards, steal cars, paint murals or art pieces etc. People in a manic state can also become paranoid and in the worse cases, hear things and sometimes see things that are not there. Their thoughts become completely warped until they don’t know what is real and what is not. People in these states can also go missing and get confused about where they are.

Don’t confuse the focus of an artist with Mania. Mania is usually unrealistically intense and doesn’t last long enough to complete a great work of art. Sometimes it does.

Jimi Hendrix, Carrie Fisher, Mariah Carey, Francis Ford Coppola, Sting, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Frank Sinatra and Demi Lovato are all artists who have (or had) bipolar disorder.

HYPOMANIA

Hypomania is similar to mania, but less severe. Hypomania typically lasts longer than mania and the crash into depression can be more severe. People with hypomania can appear to function normally, but those who know them will notice that something is slightly “off”. They might talk faster than normal, sleep less, do irresponsible things, lose their “filter” and become rude for no reason, be slightly paranoid and feel like the world is against them. They can also feel like the rest of the world can’t keep up with them, start projects that they never finish and generally act out of character. However, they do not become delusional or lose touch with reality. If this happens, it means the hypomania has turned into mania.

MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER

The downside of bipolar disorder is also extreme. People with bipolar disorder don’t just feel sad, they sink into real depression where it becomes impossible to function. They feel hopeless, can be nervous and restless (anxiety), have no energy, sometimes can’t do basic things like brush their teeth or take a shower, can’t control their emotions and can be irritable. They feel adrift in a sea of blackness with no sign of hope.

Unsurprisingly, the suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is high.

It’s a chronic condition because there are medications and therapies that can manage the extreme feelings. These must be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist, monitored and taken religiously.

MANIA

What is a mental illness

Mania is a real, serious and marked behaviour that seems extreme. People experiencing mania have enormous amounts of energy and can be extremely active. They can focus on one thing for days on end and don’t feel like they need to sleep. People in a manic state can take large amounts of drugs, behave wildly, gamble excessively, spend extreme amounts of money, claim to be doing something great like writing a book in a week, or learning to fly planes, max out their credit cards, steal cars, paint murals or art pieces etc. People in a manic state can also become paranoid and in the worse cases, hear things and sometimes see things that are not there. Their thoughts become completely warped until they don’t know what is real and what is not. People in these states can also go missing and get confused about where they are.

Don’t confuse the focus of an artist with Mania. Mania is usually unrealistically intense and doesn’t last long enough to complete a great work of art. Sometimes it does.

Jimi Hendrix, Carrie Fisher, Mariah Carey, Francis Ford Coppola, Sting, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Frank Sinatra and Demi Lovato are all artists who have (or had) bipolar disorder.

HYPOMANIA

Hypomania is similar to mania, but less severe. Hypomania typically lasts longer than mania and the crash into depression can be more severe. People with hypomania can appear to function normally, but those who know them will notice that something is slightly “off”. They might talk faster than normal, sleep less, do irresponsible things, lose their “filter” and become rude for no reason, be slightly paranoid and feel like the world is against them. They can also feel like the rest of the world can’t keep up with them, start projects that they never finish and generally act out of character. However, they do not become delusional or lose touch with reality. If this happens, it means the hypomania has turned into mania.

MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER

The downside of bipolar disorder is also extreme. People with bipolar disorder don’t just feel sad, they sink into real depression where it becomes impossible to function. They feel hopeless, can be nervous and restless (anxiety), have no energy, sometimes can’t do basic things like brush their teeth or take a shower, can’t control their emotions and can be irritable. They feel adrift in a sea of blackness with no sign of hope.

Unsurprisingly, the suicide rate for people with bipolar disorder is high.

It’s a chronic condition because there are medications and therapies that can manage the extreme feelings. These must be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist, monitored and taken religiously.

TREATMENT

  • Medication: There are many types of medication that can work, but it’s a process to find the right medication and dosage for each individual, so don’t rush it and don’t give up if the first treatment doesn’t work. Also don’t stop taking your medication when you feel better; you feel better BECAUSE you take your medication.
  • Psychotherapy
  • Education: Becoming self-aware, self-educated and informing friends and family about the condition.
  • Social support – find people to talk to, whether it be a professional, family and friends, or a peer support group (in person or online).

If you want to know more about Bipolar disorder, there are excellent websites, or you can download key information via the ‘Bipolar’ tab on the SADAG website.

Bipolar Disorder must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist. And when diagnosed there are support groups where you can meet and connect with people who know exactly what you are going through.