There are many mental health conditions, and it can be scary to find out you have one. In this Click Orlando article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, discusses anxiety, depression, and other common illnesses.
When it comes to mental health, there are many illnesses that cover a variety of symptoms someone can be diagnosed with. We wanted to get a better idea of what some of the most common conditions are, so we sat down with Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health.
“One of the most common reasons why people see psychiatrists involves mood disorders and anxiety,” said Khan. “That includes depression, and the subsets like major depressive disorder, dysthymia, various anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and all those other subsets.”
Here are the most common conditions, and how they may manifest.
- Several disorders fall under anxiety disorders, including social phobias, specific phobias, panic disorders, OCD and PTSD
- Can lead to significant impairment in daily life
- Can lead to physical signs of panic like rapid heartbeat and sweating
- Leads to abnormal responses to situations, or uncontrollable responses
- Anxiety can be related to specific phobias or be more generalized
“Everyone has anxiety, and anxiety is a good thing, in certain respects, because it keeps you from walking onto a street when there’s oncoming traffic,” said Khan. “So, some level of anxiety is important for everyone to have.
“However, if it gets to a problematic level, where it’s affecting daily functioning, that’s when it becomes an issue. With anxiety disorders, people might have generalized anxiety, which is more of a general ruminating intrusive thoughts that they have throughout the day.”
Social anxiety disorder
- Intense, persistent fear of being watched or judged
- Can inhibit going to work, school, partaking in everyday life activities
- Can present physically with blushing, sweating, trembling, racing heart, stomachaches, difficulty making eye contact
“We all experience some level of nervousness when meeting a new person or going on a blind date. Individuals with social anxiety have an intense fear of being judged,” said Khan. “They scrutinize everything they might say or do, are constantly worried about how other people perceive them, and they often get uncomfortable in large crowds in settings where they’re not fully aware of what may happen. Sometimes they even get uncomfortable around people they know, including family members.”
- An anxiety disorder
- Recurrent thoughts, images or impulses that are intrusive and unwanted and cause anxiety
- Compulsions are time-consuming and distressing repetitive rituals in response to an obsessive thought, like ordering things in a precise way, excessive cleaning or handwashing, compulsive counting or repeatedly checking locks
- Person spends at least an hour a day on these tasks but gets no pleasure out of them, perhaps only slight relief
- Treatments are cognitive behavioral therapy and medications
“OCD is characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts that people have. And in response to that, they tend to do compulsive acts in order to kind of relieve the tension and the anxiety that they feel from those obsessive thoughts that they’re having.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Condition that can develop after a traumatic/terrifying event
- Often causes lasting and frightening thoughts and memories of the event like flashbacks or nightmares
- Can be triggered at any time
- Can lead to angry outbursts, difficulty sleeping, feeling tense or being easily startled
- In children, can present as bed-wetting, being unusually clingy, being unable to talk, or acting out the event in playtime
“Classically, you imagine a war veteran or someone who’s experienced some major trauma that’s reliving it, experiencing flashbacks. Even smaller ‘trauma,’ I say that in quotes because what might seem miniscule for me might be important for someone else. These moments keep you from being able to function normally, that’s also something that can be associated with anxiety.”
- Lowering of mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, reduced energy, social withdrawal, changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Not just feeling sad, people may be irritable or apathetic
- Causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities
- Symptoms can lead to increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors play a role
- Treatments can vary widely from person to person
“You have lower levels of certain neurotransmitters which are chemicals in the brain that basically help regulate emotions such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, those are the most common. That’s why it’s not as simple as like, ‘just snap out of it,’” said Khan.
“It’s a long-term condition that has trended before the pandemic. It tends to be more prolonged, more intense in terms of its level of symptoms, you can have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and a decreased desire to do certain things that normally cause pleasure and happiness in you, feelings of being worthless, hopeless, helpless,” Khan said.
- Previously referred to as manic depression
- Person will have episodes of mania and then depression, very high highs and low lows
- Can go between not needing nearly any sleep to sleeping too much, excessive interest in activities to no interest at all, feeling able to handle many tasks to none at all, etc.
- May or may not experience psychotic symptoms
- Cause is unknown but genetics play a part although environmental factors can trigger episodes
- “Many people have a misconception that any sort of mood swing is bipolar,” said Khan.
- Involve distorted awareness and thinking like having hallucinations or delusions
- One example is schizophrenia, which is not a split personality, but rather an illness where a person cannot tell what’s real from what’s imagined
- Leads to psychotic episodes where a person loses touch with reality, and often a sudden change in personality and behavior
“A person with schizophrenia tends to experience psychotic symptoms, which could include auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and delusional thoughts, which are fixed false beliefs, where they’re concerned that someone’s spying on them, or the government’s out to get them,” said Khan.
“With multiple personality disorders, also known as dissociative identity disorder, what happens oftentimes, is it’s the result of a severe trauma,” Khan said. “And what happens is that in response to that trauma, the person develops certain symptoms or behaviors to cope with that trauma. This is a neurological condition they’re experiencing, where they often will have a different personality, a different way of talking, a completely different identity. That’s why it’s called dissociative identity disorder, because I might have the identity of a child, a female, or someone named Tom. And they present that way, but all of it is a response to their trauma and difficulty coping with it.”
- Common misconceptions are this is a choice; it’s a serious and often fatal illness
- Extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food
- Include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating among the most common