Psychological disorders, also referred to as mental disorders, are abnormalities of the mind that result in persistent behavior patterns that can seriously affect your day-to-day function and life. Many different psychological disorders have been identified and classified, including eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa; mood disorders, such as depression; personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder; psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia; sexual disorders, such as sexual dysfunction; and others. Multiple psychological disorders may exist in one person.
The specific causes of psychological disorders are not known, but contributing factors may include chemical imbalances in the brain, childhood experiences, heredity, illnesses, prenatal exposures, and stress. Some disorders, such as borderline personality and depression, occur more frequently in women. Others, such as intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse, are more common in men. Still other disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, affect men and women in roughly equal proportions.
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When a person experiences mood or cognitive problems or behavioral issues for a long time, a psychological evaluation may be beneficial, and a diagnosis of a psychological disorder may follow. Treatment frequently involves psychotherapy to work on behaviors, skill development, and thought process. A person may be hospitalized for coexisting medical problems, serious complications, severe disorders, or substance abuse. Medications can be quite helpful for some psychological disorders.
Properly treated, people who have psychological disorders often improve; however, relapses are possible. Left untreated, some psychological problems can lead to academic, legal, social and work problems. Alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, suicide, and violent behavior are other potential complications.
Psychological disorders can have serious, even life-threating, complications. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for inability to care for one’s basic needs (food, water, shelter) or threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior.
Seek prompt medical care if you think you might have a psychological disorder or are being treated for one but symptoms recur or are persistent.Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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