Descriptions of mental health conditions

The following descriptions of the mental health conditions that are targeted by the products on PsyberGuide are intended to help users get a basic understanding of each disorder. These descriptions are not comprehensive, and they are not intended to be a guide for diagnosing a psychiatric disorder. Cultural factors, in particular, can have a substantial impact on the specific symptoms of each disorder. Therefore, while we encourage our users to be proactive in their mental healthcare, we also remind our users that mental health diagnoses can only be made by licensed mental health professionals. In fact, many of our products can work better when used in conjunction with more traditional treatments – such as psychiatric medications or psychotherapy – and users should always consult a healthcare provider if they are concerned that they may have a psychiatric disorder.

Schizophrenia:

Schizophrenia is a chronic psychotic disorder that has serious effects on all areas of functioning. It commonly presents with disturbed thought processes (e.g. delusions, tangential thinking), perceptual disturbances (e.g. hallucinations), disorganized speech and/or behavior, “negative symptoms” (e.g. catatonia, flat affect, alogia), lack of insight, and poor social and occupational functioning. While it is almost always a chronic, life-long condition, the severity of particular symptoms will fluctuate over time. Onset is most common in young adults, with men developing the disorder slightly earlier than women. While there is still considerable disagreement within the mental health fields about the specific nature of schizophrenia, the DSM-IV-TR (the diagnostic manual for mental health care providers) states: “The characteristic symptoms of Schizophrenia involve a range of cognitive and emotional dysfunctions…the diagnosis involves the recognition of a constellation of signs and symptoms associated with impaired occupational or social functioning.”

Mood Disorders:

Mood Disorders include the various forms of Depression and Bipolar Disorder. They are generally characterized by excessively low (“Depressive Episode”) or elevated (“Manic” or “Hypomanic episode”) moods that are not appropriate for the individual’s situation (for example, sadness after the loss of a loved one does not meet criteria for Depression, except in special circumstances). They also usually involve problems with sleep, appetite, and energy, and impair social or occupational functioning. Mood Disorders have a variable course, and the severity of symptoms can change dramatically over time. Onset can occur at any point in the lifespan, although there is a great deal of controversy about the diagnosis of Bipolar disorder during childhood.

PTSD and Other Anxiety Disorders:

Overall, Anxiety Disorders involve excessive and inappropriate worry or fear which may or may not be linked to specific situations, and/or significant physical signs of anxiety (e.g. racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, tingling, dilated pupils). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (commonly called “PSTD”) is a particular form of anxiety that develops after exposure to a traumatic event. PTSD is often characterized by flashbacks, frequent nightmares, hypervigilance, irritability, and an exaggerated startle response. Onset for these disorders can be at any age.

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