Understanding mental illness: A complete guide to disorders, symptoms and treatment

People who have good mental health can handle, manage and express emotions well

By Shajar Khan

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2021, 9:00 PM

Mental health issues can affect daily life — relationships, productivity at work, sleep and physical health are all impacted.

Thus, recognising the early signs of mental illness and seeking treatment is essential for preserving balance in one's life.

Dr Maliha Hasham Sable, founder and director at The Healthy Mind; Mental Health Clinician, discusses the causes of mental illness, symptoms and ways to treat it.

What are the characteristics of good mental health?

When individuals see themselves and others positively, they perform activities as per their interests when there are no issues with sleep patterns or involving the quality of sleep.

An individual should understand that if they sleep within the 30 minutes of getting on the bed, sleep throughout the night by waking up no more than once with no recurrent thoughts occurring in mind is one of the ways you can measure good quality of sleep. It is also essential to have a good appetite.

Another characteristic of good mental health is working productively and coping with various stressors and uncertainty, showing the ability to learn and the capability of being socially active by forming relationships with others and communicating with people. People who have good mental health can handle, manage and express emotions well.

How long do mental breakdowns last?

The mental breakdown, also termed as nervous breakdown, may last from hours to few weeks as it is not a clinical disorder, yet it occurs when there is extreme mental or emotional stress.

The duration may increase or decrease depending on how early the individual seeks help from a mental health professional. The time frame in which a proper diagnosis is made, if any illness remains undiagnosed, to the time and quality of treatment can also affect the duration of a mental breakdown.

What causes mental health problems?

The major cause can be genetics or if a traumatic event occurs, e.g., Bullying

•Child abuse

•Domestic violence

•Death of a loved one

•Unemployment or losing a job



•Chronic or long-term stress


•Social isolation

•Misuse of drugs

•Physical causes such as; head injury or a neurological condition

•Chronic physical illness

What are the six types of mental disorders?

According to the classification made in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the six types of mental disorders are;

•Anxiety Disorders

•Bipolar and Related Disorders

•Depressive Disorders

•Personality Disorders

•Feeding and Eating Disorders

•Substance abuse Disorders

•Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

What is PTSD and how can it be treated?

PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as; exposure to death, accident, serious injury or sexual violence.

The traumatic event might involve you or family members and close friends. PTSD symptoms can include recurrent thoughts or memories of a traumatic event, recurrent dreams related to the traumatic event, recurring flashbacks, dissociative reactions of a person as if the traumatic event is occurring, psychological distress and physiological response to the situations or things or place that symbolises the event.

The treatment includes various types of psychotherapy as well as medications to manage symptoms.

What is depression and how can it be treated?

Accordingl to Dr Sable, depression is the combination of symptoms that may become a major depressive disorder, involving several diagnoses. The typical clinical feature in which the disorder can be classified is feeling sad, being in an irritable mood, loss of interest or pleasure, significant weight loss or weight gain, decrease or increase of appetite almost every day, and insomnia or hypersomnia.

In most cases, starting treatment on time will help you recover faster. The therapy plan depends on the symptoms and duration of your symptoms and it usually involves psychotherapies, antidepressants, or a combination of both. In case of self–harm or behaviour associated with harming others, patients can be hospitalised.

What is bipolar and how can it be treated?

Bipolar disorder is associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

Symptoms that can classify the disorder symptoms; decreased need for sleep, inflated self-esteem, grandiosity, more talkative than usual, experiencing racing thoughts, distractibility, excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences, loss of touch with reality, low motivation, loss of interest in daily activities, suicidal thoughts, and more.

On making the right diagnoses, the treatment is given by a professional involving medication, psychotherapies or a combination of both, psychoeducation.

Some patients might need to be hospitalised if a higher level of monitoring may be required and the need for medications that can only be administered in a healthcare facility.

What is anxiety and how can it be treated?

Anxiety is an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like fluctuation in blood pressure. It is a normal emotion that an individual may experience during different situations, but when anxiety is experienced regularly, it may change into a medical disorder.

The common symptoms to be considered are excessive worry, excessive fear, nervousness, restlessness, sleeping difficulties, increased irritability, concentration issues, shaking, dizziness, nausea, confusion, breathing difficulties, avoiding an object or situation, avoidance of places, events and fear of being judged by others.

The treatment involves a wide range of Psychotherapies, medications or a combination of both. Treatment is administered by a mental health professional responsible for making the right diagnoses and designing a treatment plan as per the symptoms.

There are many ways to combat anxiety on your own, such as; physical activity for self-healing techniques, walking, sports, yoga, meditation.

More news from Mental Health