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What's the Difference Between Mental Illness and Mental Disorder

According to The World Health Organization, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. 

Mental illnesses and disorders can strike at any time and are not discriminative of who they affect. Some people will struggle with their mental health for years while others may always have to manage the symptoms of their condition.

But what is the difference between mental illness and mental disorder? Keep reading this article to learn more about the differences.

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What Is a Mental Disorder?

The medical definition of a disorder is a disturbance of the normal physical or mental health of the mind or body. This disturbance is also referred to as derangement and may cause confusion or disarray. 

For example, an individual with an eating disorder or a personality disorder may be referred to as having a mental disorder. 

However, the term itself is a little outdated. It derives from earlier mental health understandings of the mind and brain when it was thought that a mental disorder was all to do with the mind. 

Nowadays, we know that mental disorders are illnesses that affect the brain, not just the mind and that they can affect the functioning of an individual. 

What is Mental Illness?

The medical definition of an illness is poor health resulting from disease of the body or mind. 

While the medical definition of a disease is an abnormal condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism. These abnormal conditions can be caused by infection, inflammation, environmental factors, or a genetic defect. Diseases are characterized by a group of symptoms or signs.

Before mental health was better understood, experts believed that the term ‘disorder’ was a better fit than ‘illness’. Once psychologists and scientists found that mental illnesses are a disease of the body, they began to use the term mental illness more widely. 

The main difference between a mental disorder and a mental illness is the origin of the condition. However, you’ll hear professionals interchangeably using terms such as mental illness, mental disorder, and mental health. 

What Types of Mental Illnesses Are There?

If you’re wondering “do I have a mental illness?” Then you’re in the right place. 

There are almost 300 mental illnesses listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This book is what mental health professionals use to identify and diagnose mental illnesses. 

The main groups of mental disorders are:

  • Anxiety disorders 
  • Eating disorders (for example anorexia or bulimia)
  • Mood disorders (for example depression or bipolar)
  • Personality disorders (for example borderline personality disorder)
  • Psychotic disorders (for example schizophrenia)
  • Substance abuse disorders (for example drug addictions)
  • Trauma-related disorders (for example post-traumatic stress disorder)

Everybody has days where they feel physically unwell, but that doesn’t mean that your overall health is down or that you have a serious illness.

The same can be said about your mental health. You may experience days where you feel stressed, or sad, but that doesn’t mean that you have a mental illness. We all experience a range of emotions. 

However, if you feel that you always feel stressed or can’t remember a day where you weren’t feeling down then you might have a mental illness. If you do suspect that you have any of the above mental health illnesses, then you should seek professional medical help immediately. 

How Do I Treat a Mental Illness?

The first step in treating any mental illness is seeking professional health. A qualified mental health professional will be able to diagnose your symptoms. They will also provide you with the best way to treat your symptoms.

Often mental illnesses are treated with a combination of prescription drugs and therapy. Your doctor should be able to give you a personalized treatment plan and discuss what you need to do. 

Mental health illnesses are episodic, just like a lot of physical illnesses. This means that there will be times when you experience ill health and times when you experience good health.

The important thing to remember is that good mental health isn’t always about feeling happy and confident all of the time. It’s about living with your mental illness and learning how to cope with it. 

How to Look After Your Mental Health

There are several ways you can look after your mental health and well-being.

Some people find that taking time to do things they enjoy helps. Others find that volunteer work and caring for others help to boost their mental health. And some people find that regular exercise helps to improve their mental and physical health.

Often these simple things can really help to boost your happiness and self-esteem. When it comes to looking after your mental health you need to keep your body healthy, which means eating well and exercising, and keeping your mind active and not focused too heavily on you. 

But is there any evidence to suggest these factors really work? Yes, there is! One study conducted found that individuals who exercised had 43.2% fewer days of poor mental health compared to those who didn’t exercise.

Several studies have also found that engaging in hobbies and doing things you enjoy can help reduce feelings of depression and can help to protect the brain against physical diseases such as dementia and heart problems.

Use Our Guide to Learn About the Difference Between Mental Illness and Mental Disorder

Follow our comprehensive guide to learn about the difference between mental illness and mental disorder. And remember that if you’re concerned about your mental health, you should speak to your doctor or mental health professional.

Contact us now if you want to get help with your underlying mental illness. By contacting us, you’ll get access to our professional and dedicated team who understands the importance of providing personal evaluations and care treatment plans. 

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