Few people hesitate to seek treatment for a physical illness, but many find it hard to accept that they may have a mental health problem. However, disorders such as depression, anxiety, and problems with alcohol and other drugs are common, increasingly understood, and treatable. No one needs to be embarrassed about a mental illness or feel that he or she must deal with it alone.
This section begins with anxiety disorders, which are among the most common mental health problems in the UK. Feeling worried is a natural reaction to problems and stress. However, persistent anxiety, often with no obvious cause, needs treatment to prevent it from becoming a long-term problem. Phobias, excessive fears of anything from spiders to confined spaces, can dominate many areas of a person’s life. Other anxiety-related illnesses include post-traumatic stress disorder, a response to events such as serious accidents and natural disasters, and obsessive–compulsive disorder, in which uncontrollable thoughts – obsessions – cause anxiety, leading to urges to perform certain acts – compulsions – to relieve the anxiety.
Insomnia, a symptom of many mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression, is covered next. Depression, a very common disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 3 people at some time in their lives, is described in the article that follows. It requires prompt treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent persistent feeling of despair, and possibly even suicide. The next article cover bipolar affective disorder, in which mood alternates between extreme highs and lows.
The common factor in the next group of disorders, which includes Munchausen’s syndrome, somatization, and hypochondriasis, is the relationship between the mind and physical symptoms. Schizophrenia, a severe mental illness that may cause disturbed emotions and disordered thinking, delusional disorders, personality disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome are also discussed.
The final articles deal with the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia, alcohol and drug dependence, and compulsive gambling.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.