Mental illness is a term that encompasses a variety of different medical conditions. These conditions can affect a person's mood, relationships, cognitive abilities and their capacity to handle everyday functions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 4 adults, approximately 57.7 million Americans, struggle with some form of mental illness. Each individual is different and symptoms can vary, but most can be treated with medication, psychological therapy, cognitive therapy and social support.
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Sometimes referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by extreme mood shifts that can affect a person’s ability to function from day to day. It is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance that alters a person’s mood. This imbalance could be hormonal or a chemical imbalance that affects the relay of messages among nerve cells. In a manic state, a person may experience a period of “high” that can include inflated self-esteem, inability to focus, extreme irritability, reckless behavior, hyperactivity, racing thoughts, and talking very fast while jumping from one topic to another. In a “low” or depressed state a person can experience restlessness, fatigue, difficulties with sleep (too much or too little), appetite extremes, feelings of despair, and suicidal thoughts. Bipolar disorder is often difficult to diagnose because its symptoms overlap with other disorders or diagnoses like Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. It is a life-long illness, but it can be treated with medication and therapy. Recognizing what can trigger episodes is often helpful in coping with the disorder. For instance, highly stressful situations and lack of sleep can cause an onset of symptoms. Stress management tools can be beneficial in monitoring and controlling the mind and body’s response to stress. As a result, retraining the mind and body to cope with stress can also help with insomnia and poor sleep quality. Therapists often recommend physical activity to help counteract the effects of stress, and to help focus the mind. Adding a fun element to activity can give a mental boost. Along with medication and therapy, cognitive exercises and nutrition can play a big part in managing bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder and brain disease. It is often characterized by delusions and hallucinations, distorted speech and behavior, and impairment of cognitive processes such as memory, organizing thoughts and prioritizing tasks. There may also be periods of emotional flatness or detachment from ones life. Approximately 2 million Americans suffer from the disease, but a diagnosis is often difficult because symptoms can be similar to other mental and cognitive diseases. Schizophrenics also struggle with social skills and communication skills. Because of these difficulties, and the stigma surrounding the disease, isolation can often occur. In group home or group therapy sessions, social games are often used to encourage positive social interaction. Games like Telestrations and Blurt can be helpful with communication and interacting with other people.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Doctors are not certain what causes Borderline Personality Disorder, but it can be linked to genetic factors, and most often environmental factors. People who have BPD may have suffered trauma during childhood or adolescence such as abandonment, an unstable family structure or sexual abuse. Characteristics of the disorder often include identity issues that result in rapid changes in values, interests, and feelings toward people in their life. They also have a high level of impulsive behavior that involves risk taking, extreme mood swings, and inappropriate displays of anger. This impulsivity can also be witnessed in promiscuity, shoplifting, substance abuse and binge eating. If not treated and managed, the disorder can lead to self harm. Recommended treatment can include individual talk therapy, behavioral therapy, group therapy, and medication to control mood swings or depression. In a therapy group setting, people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder can benefit from moderately structured social activities. Social games can be great at helping with communication skills and reinforcing appropriate social behavior.