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Mental Illness Decoded

Updated on November 14, 2014

Most Notable Psychiatric Disorders

How much do you know about what mental illness really is what it entails. We have all heard of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. What issues create these mental health disorders? What disorders lie in between Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, and are their disorders less severe than these extremes? Read on and find out a little bit about some of the most common psychiatric disorder people are coping with and being treated for worldwide!


Depression is caused by one or a combination of three reasons, insufficient levels of Serotonin, Neurapinephrine, or Dopamine in the brain.. This condition can result as a temporary, permanent, or cycle of not having these necessary chemicals to regulate and keep emotions appropriate in the brain. Depression can be for no reason at all, or you can experience a depression due to a traumatic event. If you are depressed to the point where you can't get out of bed for days or weeks at a time, you have a problem, a medical problem. This can be an inappropriate response to an event that causes trauma that you just can't break your sadness from. This is how I first realized I had depression. Depression is different from "Manic Depression" or Bipolar Disorder, because you don't experience high periods where you are inappropriately elated. You can alternate from "normal" mood and being "down in the dumps" for long periods of time that keep you from enjoying life and interfere with average performance in necessary life activities. Insomnia can be part of depression and mistaken for mania, which is an entirely different condition.


Schizophrenia sufferers have distorted thought processes at times. Their responses and emotions may be off when they are in a psychotic state, also. They can hear voices, see things that aren't there, be extremely paranoid and have delusions that accompany this paranoia. Their distorted thinking comes across in their speech. They communicate in an odd way while in psychosis. Schizophrenia generally begins in late adolescence, or early adulthood, but its not unheard of for it to happen in childhood, or when a person is older. A person's memory is affected by Schizophrenia as well as their attention span and working memory. When a person is in psychosis, perhaps because they are not medicated, on the wrong medication, or have an inadequate dose in medication, their brain actually rots the same way a person with Alzheimer's brain does. Many people are frightened by Schizophrenics, but most Schizophrenics are fearful and non-violent.

Bipolar Disorder

Formerly Known as Manic Depression

When you have Bipolar Disorder, your patterns of depression and "elation" differ from having just depression of depression and insomnia. Bipolar Disorder is a difficult condition to diagnose, because there are other related disorders in the Bipolar "Spectrum". I would like to mention Cyclothymia first. Cyclothymia is when a person has mood disregulation, but they may be more functional when they are "manic", because they experience less severe "hypo-manias". Hypomania is when a person doesn't need sleep for a day or two and is functioning like a "superhero". For instance, if you are a writer, you might write several fabulous articles in one day with no need to stop, and you have a flood of ideas that are not what you are used to all at once. You might be able to sleep a little bit, but its not a usual behavior. If it happens more than a couple of times a year, you may have Cyclothymia. Next on the scale is Bipolar II. When you have Bipolar II, your depressions are worse, more often, and more prevalent than your manias or hypo-manias. You may even experience life very close to that of a person with Cyclothymia, but your depressions and hypo-manias, and manias, if you have them last longer and are worse and more life-changing.

Bipolar I is by far the most life-altering and most difficult type of Bipolar Disorder to endure. Highs and lows last for weeks on end. You may sleep for days, or not be able to sleep for days at a time, and your behavior is so odd that most people will notice. It affects job performance, relationships, family, and everything else! Many people suffering from this type of Bipolar Disorder are unable to work, keep a relationship, and have difficulty taking care of their children or loved ones. Its not because they don't love you, or because they are totally selfish, they are ill, and need medication and doctor supervision to function, and can under the right care and conditions! Its debatable whether Schizo-affective Disorder fits on this scale, but it can mimic Bipolar I very closely, and we are going to discuss that separately in a different piece of this lens!

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective Disorder is very difficult to diagnose, because its symptoms are basically that of Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia alternating at different times, or simultaneously. Schizoaffective Disorder is in the spectrum of Schizo disorders, but there has been much debate on whether sufferers should be diagnosed with two separate disorders, or simply Schizoaffective Disorder. Just like Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2, Schizoaffective Disorder is segregated into two categories. Bipolar Type and Depressive Type. Some people have mood swings like Bipolar Disorder sufferers, and some simply suffer from depression, in addition to symptoms of Schizophrenia. The difference between having full blown Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective Disorder, besides the mood swing is the degree and the amount of time a sufferer has delusions, paranoia, and visual and auditory hallucinations. Because there are so many symptoms and criteria to meet for this illness, people are often misdiagnosed with either just Schizophrenia, but more commonly with Bipolar 1 Disorder. Bipolar 1 Disorder can sometimes in a very bad episode manifest like psychosis, or even as psychosis. It may only happen once in a lifetime, which would not make a person a qualified candidate to be diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. Its quite complex.

Shadow Voices: Finding Hope In Mental Illness

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