Understanding Mental Health, Mental Illness And Mental Disorders

There are many different mental illnesses which have different symptoms and impact differently on people’s lives. They can have an effect on your thoughts, emotions, physical wellness, behaviours and the way you interact with others.

It is possible to have both poor mental health and a mental illness at the same time. Unfortunately, the illness can sometimes become more visible than the person and the person can actually feel hidden and rejected. With the correct help, support and medication (where appropriate) the person with the mental illness can gradually become able to accept themselves as a whole and not feel defined by their illness. Many mental illnesses are often episodic, which means that the illness is not constant but comes in episodes throughout your life – enabling both good and bad mental health and thus allowing a “normal” lifestyle:

  • Having a meaning in life.
  • Being able to make choices.
  • Taking steps to improve quality of life.
  • Discovering and trying out new things.
  • Working towards future goals.
  • Being part of the local community and make a worthwhile contribution.
  • Having meaningful relationships.
  • Loving and being loved.

A mental illness and mental disorder are typically used interchangeably.

The definition of “mental disorder” is a disturbance that affects the function of the mind or body.

A mental disorder is where thoughts and feelings increasingly impede a person’s ability to manage functioning on a normal day to day basis. Mental disorders can result from the presence of numerous mental illnesses which often require dual diagnosis. A mental illness is typically treated as one major condition.

We all need to be so thoughtful and aware of the terminology we use.

We’ve found that more people are now self-diagnosing and/or are throwing around terms online and offline without fully understanding/meaning them. We’ve even personally recently experienced a GP not using the name of a mental illness to sum up our symptoms, perhaps for fear of mis-diagnosis or stigma.

Everybody feels sad at times and for some people it can be for a prolonged period. They should not use the word ‘depressed’ to replace their feelings of sadness or to describe being gutted about the latest series of Love Island ending (yes, we’ve really seen this on social media). Feeling sad and feeling depressed are two different things. Depression does include the component of being sad but also has more serious symptoms of fatigue, feeling suicidal and isolated, inability to function and complete everyday tasks which are usually no problem at all, frustrated and having a low or increased appetite to name a few.

Although fear and anxiety are interrelated, fear and anxiety are two different disorders that require different treatment. Fear relates to an emotional response to a real, definite threat. Anxiety is a response to an unknown/imagined threat where there is no risk or danger imminently present and is linked to unprocessed trauma.

Some people like cleaning and do this so they can feel pride or just to keep busy. This does not mean that they suffer from OCD. Having OCD does not just include cleaning. People with OCD commonly have rituals which they repeat over and over again as they believe it will prevent something bad from happening. This can stop them leaving their own home as they have to continually complete an action – something they wish they could stop doing.

Where to get help/learn more:

  • Your GP (if you need further support, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral)
  • Mind is a Mental Health charity in England and Wales
  • Healthy Place – Mental Health support, resources and information
  • The Recover Clinic – We provide expert care and advice for those suffering with all types of eating disorders but also depression, anxiety and a lot of co-occurring disorders because it’s our belief really that trauma and unprocessed trauma is at the recourse of 99% of all mental health problems.
  • Time to Change – a mental health campaign in England, with the objective of reducing mental health-related stigma and discrimination
  • Every Mind Matters – a new Mental Health campaign launched 7th October 2019.

Professional therapists not only treat mental illness and mental disorders but can teach mindfulness. Mindfulness is a technique used to understand our thoughts, how our thoughts affect our behaviour and feelings/emotional responses. Mindfulness can improve our mood, help us focus, feel more grounded, be more present, show ourselves more kindness and compassion, improve sleep and provide the ability to make judgements and solve problems as and when they arise.



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1 thought on “Understanding Mental Health, Mental Illness And Mental Disorders”

  1. I tend to get angry easily and anxious most of the time i had anxiety seizures that only Last few minutes like miniature panic attack its controlled by medicine and I’m trying to control my anger


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