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Mental disorders are any kind of thinking problem that takes someone beyond the boundaries of accepted norms. In order for something to be classified as a mental disorder, it usually also has to have a negative impact on some aspect of a person’s life. Generally, each separate mental disorder has its own standardized collection of symptoms that doctors use to make a diagnosis. Mental disorders can be related to actual physical problems with the brain, such as chemical imbalances, or they can be reactions to certain life experiences.
One of the main things that separates a mental disorder from most normal mental difficulties is severity. According to most experts, a mental disorder shouldn’t be diagnosed if the problems aren’t severe enough to interrupt a person’s normal daily function in some way. For example, many people may be afraid of spiders, but they would normally only receive a diagnosis for arachnophobia if that fear was extreme enough to cause problems.
Some mental disorders are present from birth. These often include psychosis-oriented diseases like schizophrenia, along with other disorders related to compulsions. Some of these diseases are caused by actual brain damage, while chemical regulation processes cause others, but generally speaking, all of them are related to physiology.

Some other mental disorders are related to emotional problems. For example, people may have major behavior changes after going through certain extreme events, such as wars or abuse. Other people may have a temperament that makes them prone to certain disorders and then have life experiences that actually trigger the onset of these problems.

There is a large book called the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual" that is used for official classification of each mental disorder. This book is updated periodically to reflect different diagnostic options for psychological doctors based on new research. Sometimes a small change in the book can lead to major changes in the way patients are diagnosed or treated.

In a few cases, these changes can be somewhat negative because doctors can occasionally jump on the bandwagon of a particular diagnosis unnecessarily. For example, some people believe that Asperger’s syndrome is diagnosed much too frequently. When it was initially added to the manual, the disorder was studied and experts suggest that it was very rare, but after being added, doctors started diagnosing it constantly to the point where many people feel it was being overused.

What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Medication for Mental Illness?

Taking medication for mental illness can have many positive attributes for well-being and day-to-day functioning. These drugs however, can cause a multitude of side effects. In some cases, such as mild-to-moderate depression, the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants can help those with mental illness in many ways. Anti-psychotics can help those suffering from schizophrenia function relatively well in society. In many cases, this drug for mental illness can protect a patient from self-harm and from harming others. Mood stabilizers have been shown to be effective for those suffering from bipolar disorder and manic depression. They can reduce the instances of manic episodes and improve a patient's ability to think and function. As a byproduct, a patient's relationship with family and friends often improves dramatically.
Anti-anxiety medications can help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other anxiety disorders by reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms can include sweating, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and extreme agitation. They can also help patients face situations that, without the medication, may be unbearable; the drugs are also typically fast acting, allowing some patients to take the medication only when needed, rather than on a routine basis.
Those suffering from severe depression can often be helped by medication for mental illness. Antidepressants can improve mood as well as increase energy, thus allowing patients to better cope with traumatic events as well as their daily life. When coupled with therapy, those suffering from severe depression can sometimes reach a point where medication is no longer needed. Antidepressants often provide patients with an increased ability to process the cause of their depression, thereby allowing them to learn how to deal with it.
While taking medication for mental illness has plenty of positives, it can have negative aspects. The side effects associated with many of these medications can be excessive. Nausea, headaches, dry mouth, blurry vision, trembling, increased nightmares, and exhaustion are all relatively common when taking drugs for mental illness. These drugs can also cause more serious health issues such as blurred vision, speech issues, hyperglycemia, diabetes, and recurring black-outs. Some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers can also increase the tendency towards suicidal thoughts and actions. Anti-anxiety medications also pose the risk of dependency issues, making the close monitoring of their usage very important.
Especially when it comes to any type of antidepressant, medications often do not work for those with mild cases of mental illness. A study in 2006 found that those suffering from mild-to-moderate depression only received little more than a placebo effect from taking antidepressants. In fact, the study found that only 50% of these cases actually benefited from taking the drugs.
Other medication for mental illness may also have these drawbacks. For many patients, it can take months or even years to find the correct prescription and dosage for their specific issue. These medications have helped a large number of people improve their mental health, however. When prescribed by an experienced medical professional and monitored closely, these drugs can have a significant effect on a patient's life.