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Psychological Disorders - Treatment, Symptoms and Causes

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2024

What is Psychological Disorders?

To understand about psychological disorders, we must first know what a psychological disorder is. A psychological disorder or more commonly known as a mental disorder is defined as the behavioural symptoms of an individual which are considered maladaptive and hamper the day-to-day functioning of the concerned individual’s life. According to DSM-5, the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, personal distress alone is not sufficient for a disorder to be psychological; it should also be coupled with causing damage to multiple spheres of life such as social, personal and/or professional.

Causes of Psychological Disorders.

Psychological disorders such as - clinical depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and dementia – are not caused by one single factor alone. They are a complex mix of both genetic factors and environmental dynamics. The causes that lead to the inception of a mental disorder are called risk factors and are highly case specific – they depend from person-to-person and cannot be generalised per se. However the following list of risk factors has been identified which lead to the development of psychological disorders.

  • The personal or biological risk factors include – pathogens, genetics, injuries (any major injury which leads to impairment of physical or mental activity by the individual), substance abuse (such as drugs or alcohol), complications during gestation or birth and cognitive style (the way in which an individual processes information)
  • Environmental factors comprise of – traumatic life events (such as the death of a loved one, divorce), exposure to certain toxins, poor nutrition, abuse (physical, emotional and/or sexual), neglect during childhood, poverty and war.

What is the symptoms of Psychological Disorders?

Just as it is difficult to pinpoint particular causes that lead to the advancement of psychological disorders, it is equally problematic to isolate symptoms for a said mental disorder on a generic basis as symptoms may vary from person-to-person and from the nature of the said disorder. However the following list of symptoms has been compiled to recognise the symptoms of any given psychological disorder.

  • Intense mood swings
  • Erratic thinking.
  • Exaggerated or deflated sense of self-worth.
  • Problems in personal relationships .
  • Hallucinations (the belief of seeing or hearing things/people that aren’t really there).
  • Drug or alcohol abuse (it is both a cause as well as a symptom).
  • Bouts of depression.
  • Thoughts of harming themselves or others .
  • Irregular sleeping patterns – either sleeping too much or too little .

Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Some medical experts advocate that use of medication such as anti-depressants which are essentially bio-chemical in nature. While some argue that psychotherapy alone should suffice. However there is emerging growing consensus that the use of both kinds of treatments can effectively deal with the problem of psychological disorders.

  • Medication helps by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin (responsible for maintaining mood balance) which can alleviate the depressive mood of an individual. However the drawback to using medication is that its beneficial effects stop when the individual stops taking the prescribed dose of that medicine. Several problems can also arise if patients overdose on their medicine.
  • Therefore psychotherapy such as cognitive, interpersonal and behavioural therapy is seen as a more permanent solution to the problem. One of the reasons why psychotherapy is of more use when compared to medication is because psychotherapy deals with the 'root cause” of the problem.
  • Although psychotherapy is not related to biology, research studies have shown that it leads to positive biochemical changes in the body of an individual in the same manner as medication does. Therefore the use of medication and psychotherapy seems to be the ideal way to deal with a psychological disorder.
  • Other treatment measures include aerobic exercises, penning down emotional thoughts in a journal, keeping a gratitude notebook to feel thankful, performing random acts of kindness, spending time with nature, engaging in activities that are enjoyable and providing the injured with suitable work and psychosocial rehabilitation to make the injured feel understood and accepted.

Prevention to avoid Psychological Disorders.

Preventing mental disorders early in life can prove to be highly beneficial not just to the individual but also to the community. Boosting your self-esteem and controlling your stress can go a long way in helping you. Paying close attention to warning signs by contacting your therapist, friends or family in case you notice your behaviour changing can be of immense help. Taking proper care of yourself –sleeping well, intake of proper nutrition, maintaining personal relationships and engaging in regular physical activities has been shown to prevent disorders as well.

Withdrawal symptoms of Psychological Disorders.

Withdrawal symptoms caused by the treatment are case-specific dependent upon the nature of the mental disorder and the characteristics of the individual. However withdrawal symptoms are mainly seen when the disorder is treated with medication as medicinal drugs artificially increase levels of dopamine and serotonin. As a result, it can be extremely difficult for the individual when the brain has to naturally produce appropriate levels of these neurotransmitters. This is the main reason why psychotherapy is seen as a long-term solution since the withdrawal symptoms related to it are little. When it comes to mental disorders and withdrawal symptoms, medical experts believe that clinging onto the hope that things will become better is essential and a game-changer. After-all, it’s all psychological.

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Written ByDr. Nithin Kondapuram MBBS,Masters in Psychiatric Epidemiology,Diploma in PsychiatryPsychiatry
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