Once in a while we come across a person who doesn’t seem quite right, or we find that a colleague or friend has started acting in a weird way, but most of us tend to ignore that. It could be someone who rubs against you in a public transport vehicle, or it could be a person who has suddenly gone into his/her own shell and has stopped talking. Psychological disorders may not always involve seeing/hearing things that others can’t see/hear or the person running around and shouting things that cannot be understood. These are extreme forms of mental disorders, but disorders exist in mild forms also, which if detected and treated at the right time, could prevent more serious outcomes like hospitalization, unemployment or even suicides and homicides.
Whether a person has a psychological disorder is based on the extent of distress it is causing him/her or others, whether it is proportional to the stress, if there is any, and whether or not it is affecting his/ her social or occupational functioning. Recent research shows that most of these disorders have some neuro anatomical, neuro physiological or neuro chemical reasons and that treatment can bring about significant changes. Treatment need not always involve medicines, and other treatment methods like counselling, psychotherapy, modifications in thought and behaviour, hypnosis, or even simple relaxation can bring about significant changes.
Some common psychological disorders include anxiety disorders, which are very common, and include phobias (fears), panic attacks, obsessions and compulsions, or free floating anxiety that cannot be pin-pointed, somatoform disorders like unexplained pain bodily illnesses that may not have a physical cause, dissociative disorders that include problems with identity and memory, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, impulse control disorders like Kleptomania( stealing), sexual disorders, addictive disorders like alcohol or nicotine dependence, mood disorders like mania and depression, developmental disorders like autism and mental retardation, personality disorders, or psychotic disorders ( in which hallucinations and delusions- (strong irrational beliefs) may occur). These are just a few examples from hundreds of disorders that exist, but it should be understood that diagnosis should be made only by a qualified mental health professional, and treatment should also be prescribed only by him/her.
One has to be very cautious though while attempting to help a person, and should understand that labelling should never happen. Mental disorders are like any other physical disorders and there is a need to be aware of them, and also to be unbiased towards people who have them. Most of these are treatable and the few others are manageable by treatment, and early recognition and treatment go a long way in helping the person, his/her family and the society to a great extent.