What is the Most Dangerous Mental Disorder?

Psychiatric disorders (mental illnesses) if left untreated can be life-threatening. However, one of the most common questions people ask is which one is the most dangerous? According to a report published by the American Medical Association, nearly 50% of those with psychotic disorders attempt suicide, nearly 15% of those who have been diagnosed with clinical depression have taken their own life. Yet, neither schizophrenia or manic depressive disorder  have the highest mortality rate. According to many studies and statistics, the deadliest mental disorders are eating disorders. Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and their atypical counterparts) have become the most dangerous mental health disorders in America and worldwide. Not only do the physical effects of malnutrition take a toll on the person’s physiology, but eating disorders have the highest suicide rate out of any other mental illness. The combination of the mental affliction and long-term physical assault can cause a host of fatal complications (i.e. heart attack, organ failure). Studies show that 1 in 5 deaths due to anorexia nervosa are by suicide.

In this article we hope to answer some of the most pressing questions concerning the most dangerous and painful mental health conditions experienced by thousands of Americans every year.

What is the Most Painful Mental Illness?

The mental health disorder that has been long believed to be the most painful is borderline personality disorder. BPD can produce symptoms of intense emotional pain, psychological agony, and emotional distress. The emotional stress and chronic feelings of despair and emptiness can cause someone suffering from BPD to experience many negative emotions: excessive grief, shame, humiliation, rage, and panic in times where they may feel abandoned, isolated, or believe they have failed in some way.

In many cases, psychologists and clinicians have acknowledged the extreme methods individuals may take in order to escape the negative feelings that plague them incessantly. Most people with BPD are extremely impulsive, destructive, or even self-destructive during times of immense emotional pain. Suicidality, suicide attempts, and eating disorders (anorexia nervosa (lack of eating), bulimia nervosa (binge eating), self-harm, and other impulsive behaviors like spending sprees, nymphomania, and substance abuse can be common in patients with BPD. Despite a correlation between symptoms among those suffering from BPD and those suffering from other psychological disorders, studies have determined that BPD is both unique and perplexing. Overall, studies have estimated that only a small percentage of those suffering from mental illnesses like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other personality disorder have made suicide attempts compared to those who suffer from BPD. In clinical settings, it has been determined that close to 10% of patients hospitalized with due to a suicide attempt have been diagnosed with BPD. Other statistics have shown that approximately 60-70% of all diagnosed individuals with BPD have at least attempted suicide. This is a much higher and shocking statistic.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with BPD, do not hesitate to seek help. There are treatment options available for you and we at Freedom Now are equipped and prepared to do whatever it takes to ease the pain you are facing.

What is the Most Heritable Mental Disorder?

Numerous studies have found that mental health disorders tend to be hereditary. Genetic studies and family history of illness can often help doctors properly diagnose various mental health conditions. Studies have shown that disorders like: ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia tend to be hereditary. Although there is no “genetic switch” that activates a mental illness, your family’s history of mental disorders may be a risk factor.

Most Dangerous Mental Disorders

As mentioned above, anorexia nervosa and bulimia and other eating disorders are among the most dangerous and fatal mental health conditions in the U.S. This is especially true of young adults and adolescents who suffer from an eating disorder. For those diagnosed in their 20s, the mortality rate increases nearly 18 times that of others their age.

Jon Arcelus (MD, PhD) published a meta-analysis concerning those who suffered with various eating disorders which stated,

Individuals with eating disorders have significantly elevated mortality rates, with the highest rates occurring in those with [anorexia nervosa (AN)]. The mortality rates for [bulimia nervosa (BN)] and [eating disorder not otherwise specified (ENDOS)] are similar. The study found age at assessment to be a significant predictor of mortality for patients with AN.

His study found anorexia to have twice the mortality rate of schizophrenia and triple the mortality rate of those suffering from bipolar disorder. His study also concluded that not only did anorexia carry the highest mortality rate, but so did other eating disorders as well.

Below are the statistics Arcelus and his colleagues found regarding the mortality rate of eating disorders in America from the years 1966 – 2010:

  • 5.1 deaths per 1,000 people with AN per year. AN increased death risk 5.86-fold.
  • 1.7 deaths per 1,000 people with BN per year. BN increased death risk 1.93-fold.
  • 3.3 deaths per 1,000 people with EDNOS per year. EDNOS increased death risk 1.92-fold.

As stated before, anorexia also carries a high risk of suicide with 1 in 5 individuals committing suicide due to the effects of their condition.

Arcelus’ study also concluded that age played a significant part in the mortality rate of individuals suffering from eating disorders.

  • Threefold when diagnosed before age 15.
  • Tenfold when diagnosed at ages 15 to 19.
  • 18-fold when diagnosed at ages 20 to 29.
  • Sixfold when diagnosed at ages 30 and older.

How are Mental Disorders Classified?

The classification and diagnosis of mental health disorders in the United States are established by two systems: the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification for Diseases (ICD). However, despite them both being used regularly, they both approach mental illness differently.

The most recent publication of the DSM, DSM-5 2013, is based on mass amounts of data, tests, and medical findings. It is solely based on explicit criteria for the classification (naming) and diagnosis of mental disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Organization,

The sequence of chapters in DSM-5 is based on advancements in our understanding of the underlying vulnerabilities as well as symptom characteristics of disorders. This sequence reflects what has been learned during the past two decades about how the brain functions and how genes and environment influence a person’s health and behavior.

The DSM-5 includes 20 chapters on mental disorders include:

  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders
  • Bipolar and Related Disorders
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Somatic Symptom Disorders
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders
  • Elimination Disorders
  • Sleep-Wake Disorders
  • Sexual Dysfunctions
  • Gender Dysphoria
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control and Conduct Disorders
  • Substance Use and Addictive Disorders
  • Neurocognitive Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Paraphilic Disorders
  • Other Disorders

The ICD reference was first published in 1994 and has since seen numerous revisions. The ICD-11 is set to be released sometime in 2022. The latter publication saw an additional specificity with the advancement in understanding and revision of diagnostic criteria concerning mental health conditions and disorders. The ICD-10 defines a mental disorder as: “a clinically recognizable set of symptoms or behaviours associated in most cases with distress and with interference with personal functions.

If you desire to learn more information regarding mental disorders and how they are diagnosed, contact our facility today. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder or other mental health conditions, it is important that you seek help as soon as possible. At Freedom Now we desire to treat every one of our clients with the utmost care and sensitivity. We believe life is valuable and that treatment options are available no matter the condition you are facing.

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