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Five of the Most Misunderstood Mental Illnesses

Educate yourself before belittling others unintentionally.

These are five of the most misunderstood mental illnesses.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and have listed all of my sources below each entry. This is not intended to diagnose any disorder; please visit your doctor if you have any concerns.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

What People Generally Think It Means: Someone who is “obsessive” about keeping themselves clean, or very particular with their organizing.

What It Actually Means: “Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.” People who truly suffer from this disease cannot control their urges whatsoever. This disease can impact their job and personal relationships. People with this disease cannot rest until everything in their house is perfect, no shoe can even be a centimeter out of line or their brain will not allow them to rest.

Treatment: Thankfully most people can get better with the help of medication as well as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The most successful form of CBT is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP works by training yourself to not do the compulsion after your anxiety has been triggered. In the beginning a silenced therapist guides you; however, after awhile, the patient should be able to lead these exercises by themselves. Usually, the CBT treatment is paired with medication. The most generally used medication is serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs).

Sources: Medlineplus.gov, IOCDF.org

Psychopathy (Psychopaths)

What People Generally Think Psychopaths Are: Uncaring, unfeeling people who are usually serial killers or some sort of criminal.

What It Really Is: "A person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.” People who suffer from this illness are born with it, and usually have some deformation in the brain. Due to the deformity, they learn to mimic emotion early on in life in order to fit in with the rest of the world. They can hold down jobs and are often well-educated. Some psychopaths are so good at deceiving people that they will never be suspected. Not all psychopaths become criminals, but the ones who do are extremely organized and detailed in their plans. Psychopathic criminals are usually white-collar criminals (ex. Con-artist, money launder, etc.) instead of serial killers.

Treatment: Right now, there is no treatment whatsoever for Psychopathy; however, as of 2012 (a bit dated, I know), Dr. Kiehl has been working on a treatment known as the Decompression Model. They take youth psychopaths, bring them in from other juvenile institutions and monitor them for 24 hours a day. When any of them exhibit any sign of positive behavior they were reinforced with a reward. Ninety-eight percent of young psychopaths not in Dr. Kiehl’s programs reoffended and were arrested within four years, while only 64 percent of children in Dr. Kiehl’s program reoffended and were arrested in the same time-frame.

Additionally, Dr. Kiehl’s patients were 50 percent less likely to commit a violent crime and not a single one of them committed a homicide. The control group, however, had 16 homicides committed.

Sources: Psychologytoday.com, Psychologytoday.com, Yale University

Sociopaths

What People Generally Think It Means: Psychopaths (see above).

What It Really Means: “A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.” Sociopaths are normally antisocial; they do not conform to social norms, such as laws and general courtesies. They are also impulsive, irrational, and reckless and have a complete lack of remorse. Some sociopaths are narcissistic, lack intimacy, and have an addictive behavior. Most of these behaviors will become more obvious with stress.

Treatments: Unfortunately, as with psychopaths, there is no real treatment for sociopaths. Most sociopaths see no problem with how they act and see no reason to change. Any treatments that have been attempted have all seen the patient regress even after initial success. This hasn’t discouraged scientists from finding a treatment. For now, though, they recommend cutting all ties from any sociopath in your life.

Sources: Psychologytoday.com, Draxe.com, Healthyplace.com

Depression

What People Generally Think It Means: Sadness, someone who cries all the time no matter the state of their life. Someone who cannot be happy.

What It Really Is: “A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood.” Someone who has Depression may feel sad, empty or hopeless almost daily, they may also have angry outbursts, anxiety, or agitation. They can have issues sleeping such as insomnia or oversleeping; despite this, they may never have any energy. People who suffer from this can have a reduced appetite and their weight may fluctuate due to the disturbances in their diet. They may feel guilty and fixate on the past, have trouble concentrating and have in explained physical problems.

The symptoms can be so prominent that they cause noticeable problems in their daily lives. Depression can show in anyone, from children to older adults. Some causes can be biological or hormonal. People who have suffered from low self-esteem, stressful events, substance abuse, or serious physical illness are at a higher risk for depression than the general public. You can be diagnosed in many ways, however, all require you to speak with your doctor.

Treatment: There are many treatments for Depression, including medication and psychotherapy. Many people who suffer from depression also benefit from seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist. There are many types of medications such as Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), atypical antidepressants, Tricyclic antidepressants, and Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Psychotherapy is another successful treatment for depression. It is also known as talk therapy or psychological therapy. Different types of psychotherapy can be helpful for different types of depression so it can take a while to find the correct combination.

Sources: Mayoclinic.org, Psychologytoday.com

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What People Generally Think It Means: Most people believe that this applies to rowdy children or obnoxious teenagers.

What It Really Means: “ADHD is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity. ADHD begins in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. As many as two out of every three children with ADHD continue to have symptoms as adults.” People who have this disorder can be disorganized, be forgetful, easily distracted, and lack focus. They may also get up frequently, fidget, ramble on when talking and have trouble doing quiet activates. Teens who have grown up with this disorder and have not been properly diagnosed may have periods of anxiety or depression. They are also at a much higher risk of dropping out of school.

Treatments: There are many treatments available for this disorder, but most of them are aimed towards children. The possible treatments include medication and behavioral intervention. Some of the medications used to treat this disorder are Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Ritalin, Srattera, and Palemor. Behavior therapy works by teaching children to monitor their own behaviors and correct them accordingly. This is normally done with help from adults in their life, such as teachers and parents.

Sources: WebMD.com, WebMD.com, Healthline.com 

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