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Overview of Mental Disorders

Overview of Mental Disorders

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will discuss major classifications of mental disorders, focusing on DSM-IV Axes 1 and 2.

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Hello class. So when we're talking about mental disorders in particular and the classification of them, the important book that we want to remember is the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is currently in its fourth edition. So we call it the DSM IV. And this is a manual that's released by the APA or American Psychological Association as a way of outlining exactly what is a mental disorder and how it should be classified and treated for different kinds of psychologists and counselors and mental health professionals.

So in the history of the DSM, it was first developed around in 1952 as the DSM I. And after that, it went through different kinds of developments the DSM II, and III. Finally, the one that we're using today was first developed in 1994 as the DSM IV. It was further revised in the year 2000 as the DSM IV TR. So technically, that's the one that we use today as the most up to date manual of mental disorders.

Now, it's important to note the DSM is a non theoretical way of classifying and identifying mental disorders. In fact, it's mostly clinically based. But it's informed by different research within psychology as well. So it's mostly a clinical manual. And what it does is it tells what the symptoms are for a mental disorder and what are the requirements for each one of those. So, for example, it might list seven different symptoms of a different mental disorder. And say, if a person shows five out of seven of those symptoms, then that person is classified as having that mental disorder.

So as we talk about the DSM today and about how mental disorders are organized, it's important to remember that in this course it's not a diagnostic course, it's just an overview. So after learning about these kinds of things, it doesn't necessarily qualify you to diagnose people with these mental disorders. It just gives you a broad idea of what they are. So it's important to know if you'd like to go further, you should take further courses in how to properly diagnose people. So also important to note, when you learn about these mental disorders, do not self diagnose.

In other words, don't look at yourself and the symptoms that you might have and say that you might have a mental disorder. If you are concerned about the possibility of mental disorder, please go to a mental health professional and have this done professionally. So the DSM IV has around 250 different mental disorders, which are organized in the book along five different axes. And these axes each contain a different category of what's related to mental disorders as we'll see.

So we're going to focus on Axis I in particular throughout the succeeding lessons within this unit. However, we're also going to talk a bit today about Axis II. So first, Axis I contains what are called clinical disorders, which is to say this is essentially all of the mental disorders that you might be able to think of just off the top your head, except personality disorders and mental retardation, which are part of Axis II. So this means it contains things like adjustment disorders. And adjustment disorders are when a person has trouble coping with ordinary stresses within their lives.

In other words, they can't adjust, which is why we call it an adjustment disorder, and this results in some kinds of emotional or behavioral problems. So, for example, they might see some kind of significant life event like job loss which might result in things like depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping to develop as a result. So adjustment disorders are sort of the basic or the beginnings of what we would call different kinds of clinical disorders. They're sort of the least severe out of the bunch.

Clinical disorders also includes categories like psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform or dissociative disorders, sexual or gender identity disorders, substance related disorders, and so on and so forth. So this is the majority of the different mental disorders that we associate with psychology. And we'll go into those in more detail in different lessons.

Now, Axis II contains what are called personality disorders as well as mental retardation. And we call this sort of developmental disorders that results from different kinds of genetic or environmental factors. And that's something we're not necessarily going into a full detail in this lesson. But personality disorders, on the other hand, are what we call sort of maladaptive, long lasting patterns of thinking. So they're not necessarily that develops for a short period of time, but they occur for a significant amount of time over a person's life. And these are different kinds of patterns of thinking, feeling, or behavior.

Remember the important thing to remember is these are maladaptive things. They are problems that a person has that severely impact their life. They're not just normal sorts of things. So if someone is cranky, we wouldn't say they have a mental disorder. They're just cranky person. An example of a personality disorder would be say a paranoid personality disorder, which is to say when a person is extremely distrustful and has feelings of being lied to, or they're very secretive people, extremely so to the point where it affects their day to day life.

Another example of a personality disorder, one that's probably familiar to some people, is antisocial personality disorder, which is to say when a person acts very cruelly or impulsively towards other people. And they don't have any kind of regret or feelings of empathy. This is very similar to what we called psychopathy or when we call somebody a sociopath. But they're a little bit different as well.

And finally, under personality disorder we have things like narcissistic personality disorder, which is the say extreme feelings of self centeredness and thinking their ideas are the absolute best and that thinking of others is an extension of the person's self. So everybody is basically trying to serve that one person. Now, remember the focus of this unit of study is especially on Axis I and the focus of this lesson also is on Axis II. So those are the two important parts of the DSM to remember.

However, to give you a quick overview just so you can see completely how the DSM functions, let's take a look at the other three axes. So Axis III is what we call general medical conditions, which is to say any kind of physical condition that might result in a mental disorder in Axis I or II. For example, a brain injury might cause a person to develop a clinical disorder. So this is the area that talks about these kinds of things.

On the other hand, Axis IV talks about the environmental or psychosocial problems that might either cause a mental disorder to develop or worsen one as well. So any kind of social problems that may influence these mental disorders, things like unemployment or divorce which might cause a person to or exacerbate a person's problem as well. So if a person is depressed, they might become extremely depressed, or they might develop a depression as well. This also includes limited social support as well. Because social support is an important factor in a person's development of a mental disorder, whether they have assistance from other people.

And finally, Axis V is what we call global assessment of functioning, which sounds a bit complicated. But essentially, this is a section that tells how to test and rate different psychological and social functioning within a person. In other words, it helps us to determine whether a person has a mental disorder. And this helps us to understand better the development of the other four axes. So hopefully this has given you a quick overview of how mental health professionals assess mental disorders and how they categorize them in different ways.

Terms to Know
Adjustment Disorder

A mental disorder where a person has trouble coping with ordinary stress, or cannot adjust, which results in emotional/behavioral problems.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A personality disorder marked by long-term feelings of self-centeredness, thinking ideas are best, and thinking of others as an extension of self.

Personality Disorders

Maladaptive, long-lasting patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.