Some 26% of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Behavior disorders and certain anxiety disorders can emerge during childhood, but most of the high prevalence conditions, such as anxiety, mood disorders and psychotic disorders, emerge during adolescence and early adulthood.
The most prevalent mental health disorders include schizophrenia, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Most of these appear by age 24, so a critical time to diagnose and treat mental health problems is in one’s 20s.
Depression is a mood disorder in which one feels sad without a traceable cause. It affects 10% of women and 6% of men, and may occur seasonally. This is known as seasonal affective disorder where wintertime and less sunlight worsen these feelings.
Depression may arise from chemical imbalances or medical conditions:
- Abnormal thyroid function
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Seizure disorders
- Side effect of some drugs
The treatment will be reflective of the cause, either by correcting a chemical imbalance or treating an underlying medical condition. Antidepressant medications are usually prescribed to restore one’s mood.
Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a condition in which one alternates between feeling mania (extreme ups) and deep depression. This serious mental condition runs in families and may be linked to abnormal brain structure. It is chronic and usually surfaces in the late teens and early 20s.
Treatment most often includes medications, brain stimulation and psychiatric therapy.
Schizophrenia presents itself in the late teens or early 20s. It is a brain disorder that alters perception, resulting in distorted thoughts, feelings of paranoia and a complete disconnect from reality. Auditory or visual hallucinations are common, and 90% of schizophrenia sufferers experience delusions. These individuals often display unpredictable or bizarre behavior and can sometimes have a muddled speech pattern.
There are 3 types of schizophrenia:
1) Paranoid: Delusions of persecution or feelings of grandeur
2) Disorganized: Odd reactions or facial expressions, impaired communication
3) Catatonic: Stupor or excited motor signs with pacing and acting out violently
Treatment almost always involves care by a psychiatrist for therapy and medications. Family therapist and psychologist often educate a sufferer’s family to create a healthy support team, and occupational therapist work with the patient to teach skills needed to work and function daily. Case managers can be part of the care team as they assist in resolving housing and employment problems as well as crisis management
While the stresses of daily life may cause anxiety, which spurs positive actions, millions suffer from debilitating anxiety that worsens over time and interferes with one’s ability to lead a normal life. Constant fear and worry overwhelm these individuals. The causes of anxiety are not well understood, but it is believed that a combination of environmental factors and brain structure abnormalities from prolonged stress play a key role.
Types of anxiety disorders include phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Common symptoms are:
- Feeling panic and uneasiness
- Sleeping problems
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle tension
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Nausea and dizziness
- Dry mouth
These anxieties are treated with medication, biofeedback and therapy.