It has been estimated that up to a third of people will suffer from a mental disorder at some point in their lives.Mental illness is often complicated and difficult to understand, with many proposed and often disparate contributing factors, including: social, cultural,developmental stressors, and trauma, as well as biochemical and genetic factors. Although there are many theories, we really do not have a good idea how these various contributing factors and risks lead to a specific mental disorder. Our understanding of mental illness is made even more difficult as we are really just at the beginning of our understanding of the physiology and interactive functioning of the brain as well as the role genetic vulnerabilities play.
It may be helpful, then, if we consider mental illness like any other physical illness; involving a moving away from healthy towards an unhealthy functioning. When this happens, the person may experience difficulties in their ability to cope with stressors, to work and care for themeselves effectively, and have severe dificulties in their relationships or may withdraw from others. These symptoms represent the harmful effects of mental illness and often such impairments are accompanied by behaviors which effect physical functioning and health and may even lead to medical complications and the early death of a person.
Diabetes, for example, is a malfunction of the pancreas; there is a lack of circulating insulin so that the person cannot process sugars; this may lead to blindess and even death if remains untreated. In a similar way, depression can be considered a malfunction of the brain: for example, we know that in people with depression there is abnormal systemic functioning of certain brain chemicals which if remain untreated in some cases lead to many harmful symptoms including social isolation, inability to work, and may lead to early death by suicide or other risky or unhealthy behaviors which compromise physical functioning.
We at Marcann Mental Health services believe in incorporating an integrative understanding of mental illness which acknowledges the biopsychosocial model and a holistic view of the person is thus seen as imperative for optimum treatment and improved health.
How is diagnosis of my symptoms established?
Currently, all mental health professionals diagnose mental disorders using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) developed by the American Psychiatric Associations. This means that all mental health professioanls whether medical doctors, psychologists, therapists or nurse practitioners use this guidlines to diagnose. Each of the mental disorder has a certain set of symptoms related to that disorders that more or less distinguish it from other disorders. You can go online and look up information on the DSM or you can go to your local bookstore and purchase a DSM manual. These manuals are updated every few years as knowledge increases about mental disorders. A new DSM manual is in the process of being completeted and will be out soon.
How come I get different diagnoses from different mental health professionals?
We realize that some of our patients who have been suffering with mental disorders for many years have had a number of different diagnosis in their life. Having different diagnosis is common for people who have been suffering with for many years. The reasons for this are numerous. It could be that as people go to different clinician they are suffering different symptoms than they were with a previous clinician. This is very common for people with bipolar disorder because the disorder itself changes over time. Or the problem can also be that many disorders share common symptoms so it makes it difficult to settle on one diagnosis. The core of the problem with the issue of multiple diagnosis is that our knowledge about mental disorders is still evolving. As we learn more, the better we will diagnose and treat. This is also the case in most other illnesses such as cancer, hiv/aids, hypertension and diabetes.