Most of us are familiar with the terms depression, anxiety, PTSD, and dementia in a general sense. But if you ask the average person for a definition of those terms, you aren’t likely to receive an explanation that shows any level of specific understanding, and certainly not a close alignment with the clinical definitions of those disorders. While all four disorders are diagnosed more often and more accurately today than ever before, there is still widespread misunderstanding about just what they are and how they affect everyday life for those that suffer from them. Here are the basics on these four common mental health disorders and what they mean.
Everyone has ups and downs, and it is still challenging for mental health professionals to help their patients understand whether they are experiencing normal sadness and grief over the difficult things in life or a case of clinical depression. Arriving at a correct diagnosis despite the challenges, though, allows a doctor to help their patient think clearly about what therapy, medical prescription, or other course of action is best for their particular situation.
Anxiety is another mental health disorder that is surrounded by confusion, and for good reason. As a normal emotion, anxiety actually protects us by putting our bodies on alert in dangerous or stressful situations. But as a mental health disorder, anxiety is an excessive or constant state of being worried about what is happening or what could happen. It usually leads to compulsive and even self-destructive behaviors, making it very difficult for the patient to behave and function normally. Diagnosing clinical anxiety and addressing it appropriately can help the patient live a normal life and deal with the challenges that still exist in that life in a more healthy way.
Both depression and anxiety are particularly dangerous because they often lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as eating disorders and even suicidal tendencies. The more doctors understand the links between these mental health challenges, the more determined they are to improve the screening and diagnosis tools that they use to help their patients identify and overcome them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is most commonly associated in the public’s mind with those who experience the brutality of war combat. Being aware of the possibility and dangers of PTSD for our men and women in uniform is certainly a critical responsibility for the healthcare community, but there are many others who may suffer from PTSD as well. Any traumatic experience, such as the sudden death of a loved one, domestic abuse, or witnessing a violent crime, can lead to PTSD. It is especially important to be aware of this possibility for children, who may spend the rest of their lives struggling with the mental health effects of an incident that they suffered when very young.
It is often very difficult, in its early stages, to differentiate dementia from Alzheimer’s disease or the normal process of losing some level of cognitive function due to old age. It is important to try to diagnose dementia as early as possible in order to give the patient and their family members as much time as possible to make plans for the future that will keep the patient safe and comfortable, as well as to prescribe appropriate medications. The more readily available screening tools are for identifying signs of dementia, the less confusing and difficult the process will be.
Today’s patients who are concerned that they may be facing depression, anxiety, PTSD, or dementia instead of the normal emotions of life have access to incredibly valuable screening tools that can help their physicians better understand what is going on. Clinician Group is in the business of making these tools available to healthcare, academic, and other institutions as well as private practices, in the form of self-administered tests hosted on computers and tablets. These mental health screening tools are designed by mental health experts and bring incredible levels of efficiency, accuracy, and privacy to the process of getting screened for these and other potential mental health disorders.