What we mean when we talk about mental illness
Often, we use words related to mental illness in our daily conversation because they've become a part of the language we speak. Sometimes we're not aware of what the word actually means; at others, it's habitual because we've heard the same words used in such contexts all through our lives. But what do these words actually mean?
What depression is
Depression is an illness where the person experiences a prolonged period of sadness for at least two weeks at a stretch. The person loses interest in daily activities, feels tired or a lack of energy through the day, neglects their work and personal responsibilities, and may even have thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
What addiction is
Addiction is a condition in which a person becomes dependent on a substance - this could include alcohol, tobacco and drugs - that gives them a high. The person gets hooked to the high or the dopamine rush they experience when they imbibe the substance, and this makes them want to take the substance again and again. Gradually, they get addicted to the substance and are unable to function without it. They begin neglecting their other responsibilities and this causes problems in their personal and professional lives. Addiction is a brain illness with a firm biological basis.
What dyslexia is
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects a person’s reading and language processing skills. A child with dyslexia may have trouble reading,writing, or even speaking. Some children have great difficulty in reading and writing, while others may mix up words and their meanings; or in learning grammar or a new language. Unless they receive intervention early, children with dyslexia may find it difficult to cope with their studies, and have low self-esteem, anxiety and emotional problems as well.
What a panic attack is
A panic attack is a sudden, overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear. They may feel helpless as they experience palpitations, breathlessness, sweating, giddiness, nausea. They may also feel a choking sensation, chest pains and a sense of being paralysed with fear. They may last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes; some may last up to an hour. A person who has panic attacks may begin avoiding situations in which they are triggered. Panic attacks are thought to be associated with major life transitions or severe stress.
What schizophrenia is
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which is characterised by unusual behavior such as hallucinations, hearing voices, false perceptions of the world and strong, bizarre beliefs. A person with schizophrenia may have spells when they are lucid and reasonable, and some other when they lose touch with reality. During the latter, they are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Schizophrenia is a severe disorder and affects the person’s physical and emotional wellbeing, their relationships with family and friends, and their ability work or care for themselves.
What mental retardation is
Mental retardation is a condition where there is a delay in all the aspects of a child’s development: motor skills, cognitive ability, social skills and language functions. The term ‘mental retardation’ is now considered derogatory, and has been replaced by the term Intellectual Disability. A person with Intellectual Disability may not be as functional as the others around them, and may need assistance to lead a functioning life.
What mania is
What mania is: Mania is a mental illness (or a phase of mental illness) where the person may have unusually high energy, restlessness, and a sense of euphoria. People with bipolar disorder often experience these phases, in which they are extremely happy for no reason, and their happiness undiminished by anything that happens to them. They may not be able to control their impulses during this phase, not be able to concentrate on tasks, and may even have hallucinations or delusions. They may have overly high self esteem and believe they have superhuman powers; at the same time, they may also tend to get angry or irritable at the slightest provocation.
What bipolar disorder is
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness and is not the same as having mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder has severe and unusual mood swings. They may have high moods followed by low moods for weeks on end. These moods may also switch quickly - within a matter of days, in some cases. During either phase, the person may experience intense emotion, restlessness, uncontrollable thoughts and overly high or low sense of self esteem. They cannot control how they feel, or switch moods at will or by pursuing a different activity. Bipolar disorder is an illness that needs lifelong management.
What anorexia is
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by abnormally low body weight, a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia is not a lifestyle choice; it comes from the person’s inability to cope with their emotional issues. They believe that losing weight helps them cope and feel good about themselves. Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness with severe symptoms, but the person can get better if they seek help.
What kleptomania is
Kleptomania is a psychiatric disorder in which the person feels a compulsion to take things that don’t belong to them, because the urge to steal is too strong for them to resist. They steal these things not because they need them or like them, but because of the gratification and thrill they experience in the act of stealing; they are unable to resist the impulse to steal it. In most cases, they do not even use orwant the object they are stealing. After they steal the object, they feel guilty and remorseful. However, in some time, the cycle begins all over again and they have the urge to steal again. Kleptomania is an impulse control disorder and can cause much distress to the person who is suffering from it.
What OCD is
OCD is a disorder in which the person has recurrent obsessive thoughts that lead to compulsions - excessive washing of hands, checking doors repeatedly, etc - which they cannot control, even though they know that these thoughts are irrational. In some cases, these thoughts can be so obsessive that they interfere with the person’s ability to lead a normal life.
Let's talk mental health. Let's be more aware.
All of these words are terms used to refer to specific disorders - and in some cases, severe ones that can have a large impact on the person’s ability to lead a normal life. Using these words are mere adjectives contributes to the stigma around mental illness by making light of their real life struggles.
If you think your experience fits the symptoms that have been described above, don’t lose hope. Get in touch with a mental health expert immediately to learn how you can get better.