In the past year, many things have changed.  And for some of us, this includes our mental health.  Managing the emotional weight of recent events, working from home, distance learning, anxiety about exposure to the coronavirus, and many other changes are taking their toll on our thoughts and emotions. If you’re like most of us and you’ve taken to the internet with your list of symptoms, you may have found that the internet says you have a psychiatric disorder.

First things first: Don’t panic. The internet is not a doctor. Second: It may not be a bad idea to see a real doctor if you’re experiencing difficulties with your mental health.  In the meantime, let’s demystify the term “psychiatric disorder,” and give you a brief overview of what it really means.


What is a psychiatric disorder?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that focuses on mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.  As such, the term, “psychiatric disorder,” refers to a broad range of problems that disturb a person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior or mood. Also referred to as “mental illness,” and “mental health conditions,” psychiatric disorders can significantly affect a person’s ability to perform at work or school, or maintain healthy social relationships. Important note: Mental illness is not a weakness. It is a medical condition. Psychiatric disorders are treatable, though the most effective treatments vary from person to person, depending on the specific disorder and the scope and severity of the symptoms.


Examples of psychiatric disorders

While there are a large number of diagnosable psychiatric disorders, they tend to fall into a few different categories: anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, and dementia-related disorders. Some of the more common disorders within those categories (and a very brief description of associated characteristics) include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – characterized by excessive, persistent, unrealistic worry about everyday things.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – characterized by intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic experience long after the experience is over.
  • Major depressive disorder – characterized by persistent low moods and loss of energy and enthusiasm.
  • Bipolar disorder – characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity level.
  • Schizophrenia – characterized by thoughts and experiences that are out of touch with reality, including hallucinations and delusions.
  • Schizoaffective disorder – characterized by a combination of hallucination or delusional symptoms combined with a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Borderline personality disorder – characterized by stormy interpersonal relationships and unpredictable and self-destructive actions.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – characterized by an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
  • Anorexia nervosa – characterized by an extreme overvaluation of shape and weight, often accompanied by excessive exercise or food restriction.
  • Binge eating disorder – characterized by recurrent episodes of eating excessive quantities of food, often to the point of discomfort, as well as a loss of control and feelings of shame associated with the episodes.

The symptoms of the above disorders vary from person to person and can be mild or extreme.  Many people who seek treatment for psychiatric disorders are able to manage their symptoms and live healthy, productive lives.


Treatment for psychiatric disorders

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mental health disorders. Even two people with the same disorder can find success with completely different treatments. Some people experience relief with the first treatment they try. Others may try a few different combinations of treatments before they find the one that works best for them.  Generally speaking however, treatment for psychiatric disorders is most effective when it involves a combination of:

  • Medication to treat chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Psychotherapy to help strengthen coping mechanisms, navigate relationships, and build self-esteem
  • Healthy lifestyle practices to increase psychological and physical wellbeing

A mental health professional can help steer you toward the medications and therapies most likely to help you find relief from your particular symptoms.


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Seeking mental health treatment? Call Pacific Health Systems today.

At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, our providers are committed to helping patients manage their symptoms and optimize their mental health.  Whether you’re suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression (outpatient anxiety treatment in San Diego), PTSD, bipolar disorder, or any other condition, or if you’re just not feeling like yourself, we can help.  For information on our psychiatry or psychology services, give us a call at 619-267-9257 or fill out our contact form today. We look forward to serving you.