Mental Disorders

Mental disorders comprise of a broad range of problems with different symptoms. However they are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behavior and relationships with others. Examples are schizophrenia, depression, intellectual disabilities and disorders due to drug abuse. Most of these diseases can be successfully treated. (WHO 2017) A mental illness can make one miserable and can cause problems in daily life such as at school or work and in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy). The Moyo Clinic staff says that, many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when on going symptoms cause frequent stress can affect one’s ability to function.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors (Moyo clinic stuff, 2015). Examples of signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Feeling sad and down.
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Excessive fear or worries or extreme feelings of guilty.
  • Extreme mood changes of high and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or sleeping problems.
  • Detachment from reality (delusions) paranoia or hallucinations.
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress.
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Sex drive changes.
  • Excessive anger. Hostility or violence.
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Talkativeness
  • Over familiarity
  • Disinhibition
  • Lack of self-care (not bathing, not dressing, not combing hair or brushing teeth, dirty clothes)
  • Increased energy (Walking from Masvingo to Harare).

Common Mental Illnesses

Stress/ Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Substance induced psychosis, intellectual disorder, Epilepsy, Seizural disorders, organic illnesses eg brain damage from accidents, HIV induced psychosis.

Causes of Mental illnesses

Different scholars agree that mental illness has not only one cause. Some say the causes can be genetic, social- overwhelming life events (financial, traumatic, conflict, losses), substances, brain damage and degeneration.

If your loved one shows signs of mental illness, have an open and honest discussion with him/her about your concerns. Scholars say that one needs to seek for medication, psychotherapy or counseling and to adhere to medications once they have started. People may not able to force someone to get professional care but one can offer support and encouragement. People who offer support to someone who is mentally ill must ensure compliance, monitor the risk of relapse: (poor adherence to medication, stress, peers, use of substances) and monitor early symptoms of relapse.

By Tinotenda Tafirenyika

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