Psychological disorders are an often overlooked and misunderstood aspect of health and wellness. For many people images of severe developmental delays and other very extreme cases are the pervasive images of mental illness but many present far more subtly and are difficult to diagnose.
Autism spectrum disorders are a classic example of how differently these conditions may present. On one end are persons who may display difficulty navigating the social arena but are otherwise highly functional in other areas and on the other hand there are individuals who are locked into uncontrollable and repetitive behaviors which drastically affect their ability to live normally or independently. While occupational therapy has been known to improve the life skills of such persons there is no treatment or cure for autism.
Another condition made popular in books and films is psychopathy. Such persons often appear quite normal and possess above average intelligence and charisma. What makes these persons dangerous is the fact that they are incapable of experiencing empathy and there is no treatment or cure for this condition. Similar yet different is the sociopath who is capable of selective empathy but possesses a general disregard for the rules of society. There continues to be debates within academic circles about the existence of these two conditions as well as their severity.
Depression or major depressive disorder is a chronic and disabling condition which renders otherwise productive individuals. Without treatment depression can be fatal as many sufferers may try to end their psychological torment by attempting suicide. There is a relationship between anxiety disorders and depression as they often occur together. Anxiety is a natural response to a perceived threat but in some persons normal everyday experiences trigger a disproportionate anxious response. Persons often resort to repetitive and ritualistic behaviors in order to regain a sense of control. While there is a huge behavioral element at the heart of these issues is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The stigma attached to psychological impairments makes it difficult for affected persons to find employment, establish relationships and access the services that would allow them to enjoy a full and satisfying life. By making an attempt to understand the challenges faced by such persons and offering the appropriate support family members and allies can facilitate their integration into the wider society and put an end to the unfair stigmatization of those affected by mental diseases or disorders.