What Is a Mental Illness?

Since it's Mental Illness Awareness Week, we started asking ourselves, what exactly is a mental illness?  

Since it's Mental Illness Awareness Week, we started asking ourselves, what exactly is a mental illness?

 
A mental illness or disorder is a diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with an individual’s thought processing abilities, social abilities, emotions and behaviour. It's difficult to classify all disorders of the mind, but below are the primary categories:
  • Mood disorders: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and dysthymia;
  • Anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, simple phobia, agoraphobia and social phobia;
  • Psychotic disorders: schizophrenia;
  • Disorders of childhood and adolescence: mood disorders, anxiety disorders, conduct disorder (CD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD);
  • Cognitive impairment including dementia: cognitive impairment, vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, organic psychotic conditions; and
  • Substance use disorders (SUDs): alcohol abuse and/or dependence, and drug abuse and/or dependence.

Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.