What is a Disorder?

Disorders are different from diseases. While a disease is defined as a disruption of or harm done to a person’s physical being which affects them in a very physical way – declining health, inability to function normally, or internal decay – a disorder is little different. A disorder is more closely tied to a disruption of a person’s ability to function normally due to difficulties, stress, or mental impairment that affects their daily lives.

A good example of a disease would be a medical example:  heart disease – irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure. An example of a disorder would be tied more to the mental health of the person. A mental disorder is that which primarily affects the person psychologically – whether it be bouts of depression, anxiety, or extreme personality changes.

Below are a few different categories in which disorders are typically classified:

  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Genetic
  • Emotional
  • Behavioural
  • Structural

In this article, we will primarily focus on mental illness or disorders that affect the mental health of a patient.

How Do You Define a Disorder?

A disorder could be better defined as a set of issues or problems that cause extreme difficulty, distress, impairment, or uncontrollable suffering in a person’s day-to-day experiences. As mentioned above, a disorder is more akin to an illness that disrupts a person’s seemingly normal physical or mental functions. A great example of a mental health disorder that directly falls into this categorization would be Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

If we look at mental disorders more closely, we can begin to understand how these conditions disturb what the average person may consider “regular” or “normal” daily activities. A mental disorder oftentimes affects the person’s ability to function as an individual.

There are complications, however, when discussing disorders. The terminology and symptoms associated with many of them are quite fluid and interchangeable. In some cases, a serious medical condition may present itself similarly as a mental health condition. Then again, some disorders may not be as easy to diagnose as others, yet still affect the person the same. How a disorder affects a person’s physiology and mental health will differ and be specific to that individual.

In some cases, mental health conditions can be persistent and regular, while in other people they may differ in severity over time and be triggered by unfortunate circumstances. In some cases, the symptoms may increase during times of stress or in various circumstances.

What Are Mental Disorders?

Mental health conditions (or mental illnesses) are disorders that affect the way you think, feel, and behave. They can alter your mood and functionality. Some are occasional while others are chronic.

There are many mental health disorders. Below is a list of many of the known mental disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Agoraphobia
  • Separation anxiety
  • Selective mutism
  • Medication-induced anxiety disorder

Depression & Mood Disorders

  • Major depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Mood disorder related to another health condition
  • Substance-induced mood disorder

Eating Disorders

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Pica

Personality Disorders

  • Borderline Personality Disorder 
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder 
  • Paranoia and Delusional Disorders 
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder 
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Psychotic Disorders

  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophreniform disorder
  • Brief psychotic disorder
  • Delusional disorder
  • Shared psychotic disorder
  • Substance-induced psychotic disorder
  • Psychotic disorder due to a medical condition
  • Paraphrenia

What is the Difference Between a Disease and a Disorder?

A disease is a medical condition that is pathophysiological, meaning that it is the result of internal or external complications.

A disorder, rather, is a disturbance of a person’s normal bodily or mental function.

Oftentimes, many symptoms of disorders overlap and can make a certain diagnosis complicated. People who suffer from depression and anxiety may share very similar psychiatric symptoms. Bipolar mania and schizophrenia share many similarities: cognitive defects, aggressive behaviors, suicidal tendencies, and agitation. OCD and psychosis can often be mistaken for each other as the obsessive behaviors coalesce. In many cases, people who suffer from these disorders can have what may appear to be medical complications or defects.

It is important that if you or a loved one are suffering from severe physical or mental issues, that you talk with your doctor or seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Many of the above mental health disorders share symptoms of: suicidality, insomnia, addictive behaviors, and violent behavior. If you are struggling with any of the above mentioned issues, you may be suffering from a mental disorder. However, there are many treatment options available to you.

Can Disorders be Cured?

When people are cured from a medical condition, it most often means that it is gone forever. Unfortunately, there are diseases that cannot be cured. Diabetes is a perfect example. Once someone has been diagnosed with diabetes, they will suffer from the disease for the rest of their life. However, despite the fact that it is a lifelong disease, there are treatment options available. The treatments and medications for diabetes are life saving and can help people live a long and happy life despite their illness.

In the same way, mental illness is incurable. Yet, there are numerous, effective treatment options for people suffering from mental health conditions. It is possible for those who are suffering from mental illnesses to experience recovery and live a long, happy, healthy life.

Most treatment options for mental illness include various therapies, support groups, clinical or medical evaluations, medications, and lifestyle changes. Each person is different and will experience a different type of recovery plan after consulting with their doctor. Some people may only need a few of the aforementioned plans while others will need a varied combination of others. It is important that you talk with a medical professional to help determine which treatment option is best for you.

At Freedom Now, we offer a combination of mental health services and addiction treatment services. These are more commonly known as Co-Occurring Disorders. We have developed a unique program called Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). We understand that every person comes from a different background and has their own history with mental illness and substance abuse. MAT specializes in developing a unique treatment plan that aids each patient in their recovery while being mindful of work priorities, schooling, and time with family.

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