This is a non professional introduction to mental illness with the sole goal of promoting research in writing. I am not a psychological professional. The links provided were found on-line. This is not a diagnostic tool. It is not an alternative to professional medical treatment nor is it an alternative to formal research.
I enjoy psychology. I am a people watcher and enjoy reading the explanations behind behaviors. What gets me more then any other errors in writing is the portrayal of psychological issues. The media causes some of the misconceptions. I hope to present some basic information to provide a less sensational view on mental illnesses.
There is a local psychiatric clinic here named Janet Wattles (since renamed Rosecrance.) I went there looking for a quote, from a reliable source, on the percentage of people believed to be affected by a mental illness. “One in five people suffers from a mental illness, meaning it affects people in all walks of life. Mental illnesses are a result of a brain disorder and are treatable.” Those two sentences, and the way they are worded, say so much.
Twenty percent of the population is believed to have some type of psychological problem. Problems vary from minor anxiety to serious phobias. Personal views on mental illness and treatment often interfere with individuals, who need treatment, seeking it.
I spend time on Yahoo Answers. It has a section for mental health questions. Depression is the most common possibility for symptoms presented on the forum. Individuals want to “make it go away.” I seen multiple questions a day on “how to treat depression myself.” That illuminates a major misconception with mental illnesses.
While some psychological problems are not caused by physical issues in the brain, some are. Depression and bipolar are described as chemical imbalances in the brain. Numerous misconceptions arise from this. One question, I answered, asked “why if it’s a chemical imbalance do the doctors not fix the chemicals that are imbalanced.” Brain science is not prescribing an antibiotic or providing a band aid.
In addition to misunderstandings are people with views that contradict medical science (and common sense.) Everything from finding God, will power and positive thinking, prayer, and herbs such as St. John’s Wort, are recommended to treat depression, in the very least, without professional medical review. That is simply snake oil.
Most replies I give on the Mental Health forum involve seeking professional medical advice/treatment. For those who want to treat it themselves, I provide an analogy. If you broke your leg, would you attempt to treat the broken leg yourself, or seek immediate, professional medical treatment? The relationship between depression and a broken leg might not be immediately apparent. Both are incredibly painful. Both have physical causes. The depression, if not treated, can result in death (ie suicide.) That is why the professional medical advice/treatment is necessary.
With the above in mind, I am going to list some psychological problems and some links to get a researcher started. For ADD/ADHD, I am going to toss in an alternative diagnosis. It is not medically sound, and falls under my view of snake oil, but it does make for a good story concept.
The information included here is primarily from WebMD. I recommend doing additional research. There are varying viewpoints on the causes and treatment of mental illnesses. It is good to know at least some variation.
ADD/ADHD: There have been articles on children, particularly boys, who have been diagnosed with this condition to allow medication because the children are simply very active children. The medication makes them easier to deal with although should not have been administered.
Autism: This is not one but multiple conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Personality Disorders Types and Symptoms
Post Traumatic Stress (unsure if its referred to as a syndrome, a disorder, or neither)
Schizophrenia: I ask people to please be careful and respectful with this condition. It has a major social stigma. I have a very good friend who is schizophrenic. He is a wonderful person. He simply sees the world through very different eyes. He does not wear tin foil on his head to keep the CIA satellites from using mind control. (That is a reference to paranoid beliefs and not a personal belief that the CIA can do that.)
Self Injury: This is an unhealthy emotional release. While I understand it is more common in teenage females, I have seen it in a teenage male and an adult male. http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/cutting-self-injury
Self-Medication is when a person drinks alcohol or takes illegal drugs, including prescription drugs he/she has not been prescribed, in an attempt to cope with the symptoms of a psychological problem.