Mental disorder (a mental illness, mental illness) in its broader sense is a mental state that is different from the normal one. The opposite of this term is a mental health. However, this term may have different meanings in various areas such as law, psychiatry and psychology.Ideas about what mental health and mental disorder are changing with the development of science. For example, a couple of decades ago, such mental disease as a social phobia was not considered as a mental disorder at all, and people who suffered from this illness were thought to be very shy. And conversely, a few decades ago, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder that required a serious treatment. According to the International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (2010), “Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.” Thus, nowadays, to identify whether a person suffers a mental disease or not, different special psychical tests are used.
Self-report inventory is a kind of psychological questionnaires designed to screen for a variety of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety etc. These tests include questions that are related to one or several disorders. These questions reflect a variety of psychological and behavioral changes. Answers to the questions tend to be standardized according to a Likert scale and include the incidence or severity of symptoms of various mental disorders.
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A mental disorder is sometimes understood as long flowing mental disease, which can, however, from time to time improve or deteriorate mental status of a sick person. These mental illnesses include schizophrenia, epilepsy, paralysis, paranoia, manic depression etc.
The criteria that identify adults with mental disorders are as follows:
- Confused thinking
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability
- Extremely high and low moods
- Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Strong feelings of anger
- Delusions or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
- Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Thoughts of suicide
- Denial of obvious problems
- Many unexplained physical problems
- Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
Criterias that identify children and pre-teens with mental disorders:
- Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- Changes in school performance, falling grades
- Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Excessive complaints of physical problems
- Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Long-lasting negative mood, often along with poor appetite and thoughts of death
- Frequent outbursts of anger (Depression health center, 2012)
Many think that the term “antisocial” means people that avoid some social interactions with other personalities. Antisocial personality disorder is a disease when people ignore other’s rights and behave violently. It also includes such illegal actions as lying, stealing and acting inappropriately in different social situations. This disorder is mainly observed in adult people. According to American Psychiatric Association (2000), “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood” (p. 645).
Multiple personality disorder is another rather common mental disease. The myth about this mental illness is that people suffering from it may change their conduct and lose memory of what they are doing when they switch personalities. Usually, such people have from two to more than hundred different personalities. These imagined personalities are called “alters”. Often multiple personality disorder appears due to a traumatic event that took place in the childhood of a person. These alters do not necessarily change person’s behavior or appearance radically. These changes may be barely noticeable. Many people with this illness fully realize who they are and what they are doing.
Another rather common mental disease is called Dyslexia. The common myth about this illness is that people suffering from it cannot read at all. It is not true because most of them do learn how to read when appropriate help is provided. They usually learn slowly and remain behind people of the same age. Another common myth about this disorder is that people see letters in the wrong order. Actually, a disease of dyslexia is struggling with unusual thinking but not with some visual differences. The symptoms of this disease are delays in speech, mirror writing and being very easily distracted by different noises.
Another disease is Schizophrenia. A common myth about Schizophrenia is that people suffering from it hear voices in their heads. Usually, such people see different kinds of hallucinations and hear voices from the objects outside their bodies but not in their heads. The symptoms of this disorder may be various, including: illusions, delusions (belief in something unrealistic) or lack of affect (a person experiences no emotions). Some more serious symptoms include even the lack of desire to move, speak and eat. According to Menezes, Arenovich and Zipursky (2006), “Thirty-seven studies met the inclusion criteria, representing 4100 patients with a mean follow-up of 35·1±6·0 months. Studies varied in the categories of outcome used, the most common being “good” (54% of studies) and “poor” (34% of studies), variably defined. In studies reporting these categories, good outcomes were reported in 42·2% (3·5%) and poor outcomes in 27·1% (2·8%) of cases.”(para.3)
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Autism spectrum disorder is another mental disease. Many people think that a person suffering from this disorder will never be able to live appropriately in the society. However, results prove an opposite thought. The problem is that autistic people are unable to communicate in a way normal people do. Scientists prove that even a severe form of autism is not a verdict, either. Many individuals suffering from it may lead a happy and successful life, in the course of time.
Nowadays, many people also suffer from self-harm/self-injury disorder. Another myth about these people is that they are trying to kill themselves while cutting or burning their bodies. The thing is that such people may easily cope with the pain. Doctors state that a person may injure his/her body for many years, but will never risk committing a suicide. In such way people let their feelings out. Furthermore, many people are searching for attention, by doing this. But still, many are trying to hide their cuts by wearing clothes that cover the whole body of a sick person.
A common myth about an obsessive-compulsive disorder is that such people are afraid of germs and care much about the clearness of their bodies and everything surrounding them. Often such people have so-called “obsessions”. Usually, they have thoughts about germs, different contaminations or unlocked doors. It is unusual for them to think about killing, hurting someone or doing something religiously forbidden. Secondly, such people strongly believe that by doing some rituals they will avoid many risks and dangers. For example, they may check for several times if the doors are locked, believing that it will keep their homes from burglaries. Usually they tend to avoid some numbers. They repeat some words or imagine pictures.
Thus, many people strongly believe that all these mental disorders are just in their heads and one can easily get rid of it if he/she wants to. It is a common misconception. In most cases people suffering from these illnesses cannot cope with them on their own. They need substantial treatment and care. Many also consider that people tend to imagine different disorders on their own. But the researches prove that individuals living in different regions, continents and having the same symptoms cannot simulate the illness. Very often such disorders influence people’s lives in a negative way, or it would not be a disorder.
In psychology, the term “psychopathy” is used to describe the state of mind that differs from the normal one. For the first time the word was used in 1847 in Germany as psychopathic. The word psychopathy was first related to all sorts of mental disorders. Even now, there are some scholars that define it in a narrow and in a wide sense.
Psychopathy is a congenital defect of personality that influences the central nervous system. It is an incurable disease that remains with a person for all his/her life, regardless whether the person is calm or under the influence of stress. There are many theories of the formation of psychopathy, but one of the main ones is a violation of the embryo-fetus.
A person with psychopathic personality does not see people around him/herself, but objects to achieve some goals. They also consider themselves as bearers of an absolute truth and nobody can violate it. Moreover, they can also calmly watch any scenes of cruelty and violence. Many modern politicians suffer from this disorder. Scientists state that psychopathy is a result of abnormal formation of a person. Psychiatrists say that there is no statistics of people suffering from this disease. The problem is that most of such individuals remain without doctor’s and scientist’s examinations.
Individuals that are diagnosed with personality disorder and those with organic brain damage may preferably commit sexual crimes such as rape and sexual satisfaction in unnatural way. Five times oftener, psychopathic disorder is diagnosed in men than in women. Psychopathy is a serious defect of the central nervous system. Psychopath plays on the audience, all his/her emotions are false and imaginary.
Nowadays, there are several common myths about psychopathic personality. The first one is that in the media the psychopathic person is always associated with a crime. But in reality, there are many people that have no criminal history at all. Second, psychopathy is a synonym to psychosis. The problem is that often these individuals are compared with such criminals as Charles Manson, John Hinckley who showed some symptoms of psychopathic thinking. Moreover, many people think that this illness is similar to antisocial personality disorder. But doctors deny this thesis.
Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare are two main scholars that studied the illness of psychosis. Having examined many patients, they found several symptoms that help to recognize a psychopathic personality. Hervey Cleckley’s list of symptoms is as follows:
- Considerable superficial charm and average or above average intelligence.
- Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking.
- Absence of anxiety or other “neurotic” symptoms. Considerable poise, calmness and verbal facility.
- Unreliability, disregard for obligations, no sense of responsibility, in matters of little and great import.
- Untruthfulness and insincerity.
- Antisocial behavior which is inadequately motivated and poorly planned, seeming to stem from an inexplicable impulsiveness.
- Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior.
- Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience.
- Pathological egocentricity. Total self-centeredness and an incapacity for real love and attachment.
- General poverty of deep and lasting emotions.
- Lack of any true insight; inability to see oneself as others do.
- Ingratitude for any special considerations, kindness and trust.
- No history of genuine suicide attempts.
- An impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated sex life.
- Failure to have a life plan and to live in any ordered way (The List of Psychopathy Symptoms: Hervey Cleckley and Robert Hare, 2011).
Cleckley defined some milder symptoms, “If we consider, in addition to these patients (nearly all of whom have records of the utmost folly and misery and idleness over many years and who have had to enter a psychiatric hospital), the vast number of similar people in every community who show the same behavior pattern in milder form but who are sufficiently protected and supported by relatives to remain at large, the prevalence of this disorder is seen to be appalling.”(p. 452)
There are four types of psychopaths. The first type is distempered psychopaths. They often tend to behave violently by committing different types of crimes, including all kinds of offences and sexual harassment. Most of them are kleptomaniacs and sadists. The second type is primary psychopaths. Such people are usually motionless. They do not realize what is good and what is bad. The third type is charismatic psychopaths. Such people can lie perfectly, usually believing in their delusions. They are also very talented and have an ability to manipulate people. And the last type is secondary psychopaths. Often they are more worried or anxious about something than usual people.
Thus, there are many people that have some mental disorders. Most of them do not even realize that they have some aberrations. Moreover, they need help because the vast majority cannot cope with their disease on their own. That is why the government should pay much attention to such personalities, as they are very sick, dangerous and unpredictable.