In detail

The main Psychological Disorders

The main Psychological Disorders

Mental illnesses in general, cause anxiety and deterioration in important areas of psychic functioning, affecting emotional balance, intellectual performance and social adaptation. Throughout history and in all cultures different types of disorders have been described, despite the vagueness and difficulties involved in their definition.

Throughout history, and until relatively recent times, the madness was not considered a disease but a moral problem - the extreme of human depravity - or spiritual - cases of curse or demonic possession. After some timid beginnings during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, psychiatry began to be a respectable science in 1790, when Parisian physician Philippe Pinel decided to remove the chains from the mentally ill, introduced a psychological perspective and began to make objective clinical studies. From then on, and since the work in the asylum began, the main types of mental illnesses and their forms of treatment would be defined.


  • 1 Classification of mental disorders
  • 2 childhood disorders
  • 3 Organic disorders
  • 4 Schizophrenia
  • 5 Affectivity disorders
  • 6 Paranoid Disorders
  • 7 anxiety disorders
  • 8 Other neurotic disorders
  • 9 Personality disorders
  • 10 Incidence and distribution of mental illnesses

Classification of mental disorders

The classification of mental disorders is still inaccurate and varies by school. and psychopathological doctrines. To standardize criteria, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the DSM, universal classification of mental disorders that has known several versions to date.

Most classification systems recognize childhood disorders as separate categories of adult disorders. Likewise, they distinguish between organic disorders, the most serious caused by a clear somatic, physiological cause, related to a structural lesion in the brain, and non-organic disorders, sometimes also called functional, considered milder.

Starting from the distinction based on gravity and the organic base, 'psychotic' disorders are differentiated from 'neurotic'. In general, psychotic implies a state in which the patient has lost contact with reality, while neurotic refers to a state of discomfort and anxiety, but without losing contact with reality. At its end, as he formulated Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, we are all "good neurotics", while cases of psychosis are counted. The most common are: schizophrenia, most neurological and cerebral disorders (dementias) and extreme forms of depression (such as manic-depressive psychosis). Among the neuroses, the most typical are phobias, hysteria, obsessive-compulsive disorders, hypochondria and, in general, all those that generate a high dose of anxiety without a disconnection from reality.

Childhood disorders

Some mental disorders become apparent for the first time during childhood, puberty or adolescence.

The cognitive deficit In childhood it is characterized by the inability to learn normally and become independent and socially responsible as people of the same age and culture. Individuals with an IQ below 70 are considered delayed in their intelligence.

The hyperactivity, disorder that part of a deficit in attention and concentration, translates into an excess of impetus in the individual who suffers it, making him unable to organize and finish his work, to follow instructions or persevere in his tasks, due to a restlessness constant and pathological.

Anxious disorders include fear of separation (abandonment of the home or parents), to avoid contact with strangers and, in general, pusillanimous and fearful behavior.

Other mental disorders are characterized by the simultaneous and / or progressive distortion of various psychic functions, such as attention, perception, evaluation of reality and motor skills. An example is the child autism, disorder characterized by the disinterest of the child towards the world around him.

Some behavioral problems they can also be childhood disorders: such as stammering and else speech disorders, the enuresis wave encopresis.

Organic disorders

This group of disorders is characterized by psychic and behavioral abnormality associated with transient or permanent impairments in brain functioning. The disorders have different symptoms depending on the area affected or the cause, duration and progress of the injury. The brain damage comes from an organic disease, from the use of some brain-damaging drug or from a disease that indirectly alters it due to its effects on other parts of the body.

The symptoms associated with organic mental disorders may be the result of organic damage or the patient's reaction to loss of mental abilities. Certain disorders have as their main characteristic delirium or a state of oblivion of consciousness that prevents attention, accompanied by perceptual errors and a disorderly thought and misfit to reality.

Another frequent symptom of organic disorders such as Alzheimer's disease is dementia, characterized by failures in memory, thinking, perception, judgment and attention, which interfere with occupational and social functioning. Senile dementia occurs in the elderly and produces alterations in emotional expression (increasing apathy, unjustified euphoria or irritability).


The schizophrenia It encompasses a group of serious disorders, which usually begin in adolescence. Symptoms are the acute disturbances of thought, perception and emotion that affect relationships with others, together with a disturbed feeling about oneself and a loss of the sense of reality that deteriorates social adaptation. The concept of 'divided mind', implicit in the word schizophrenia, refers to the dissociation between emotions and cognition, and not, as it is commonly assumed, to a division of personality that, rather, refers to another type of disorders such as multiple personality or psychopathy, named after the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin.

Affective disorders

Are those disorders in which the predominant symptom is an alteration of mood. The most typical, the depressionIt is characterized by sadness, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and a sense of personal worthlessness. Its opposite, the mania, is characterized by an exalted, expansive mood, megalomaniac and also changing and irritable, which almost always alternates with the depressive state.

Paranoid disorders

Its main symptom is the delusional ideas (false belief, firmly established, and therefore resistant to criticism) and the most typical are those of persecution (it is considered a victim of a conspiracy), those of greatness (the subject is believed of noble, princely, holy, brilliant e even divine) or celotypic (excessive jealousy). In any case, the paranoid personality is defensive, rigid, distrustful and self-centered, so it tends to be isolated and can become violently antisocial. This disorder usually begins in the middle or at the end of life, destroying social relationships, especially couples.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is the predominant symptom in two cases: disorders that involve panic in the face of specific situations and generalized anxiety disorders.

In the phobias and the obsessive-compulsive disorders, the panic It appears when the individual tries to master other symptoms: the irrational, excessive fear of a specific situation, object or animal that alters their daily lives. Among the most disturbing is agoraphobia, fear of open or very closed spaces (claustrophobia), behind which there is actually an excessive fear of death or panic itself, and that prevents those who suffer from going outside . On the other hand, obsessions, increasingly frequent neuroses (in the face of hysteria, which has been decreasing in frequency), consist of repetitive and meaningless thoughts, images, impulses or ideas for the person, which is however subject to they. Finally, compulsion is the uncontrollable tendency to mechanically repeat useless behaviors, check or forecast rituals (for example, washing your hands more than thirty times a day or checking the gas stopcock over and over again).

Other neurotic disorders

In addition to neurotic depression and other anxious disorders, there are various situations that have traditionally been considered neurotic, such as hysteria, the reactions of conversion (from a psychic conflict to an unreal organic disease), the hypochondria and dissociative disorders.

The so-called psychosomatic disorders are characterized by the appearance of physical symptoms without apparent physical causes. In hysteria, complaints are presented theatrically and begin, usually in adolescence, to continue during adulthood. It is a disorder that has been diagnosed more frequently in women than in men, and at its extreme - conversion hysteria - paralysis appears that mimic neurological disorders, similar to psychogenic pain that has no apparent physical cause. Finally, in the hypochondria the dominant symptom is the irrational fear of the disease.

Among the dissociative forms of mental disorder are the psychological amnesia and multiple personality (formerly known as alternating personality hysteria), a strange disease in which the patient shares two or more different personalities, alternating the predominance of one or the other (this is the case of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson Dr Jekyll and Mister Hyde and Alfred Hitchcock's movie, Psychosis).

Personality disorders

Unlike the episodic of neurotic and even some psychotic disorders, personality disorders last a lifetime; certain personality traits of the patient are so rigid and maladaptive that they can cause work and social problems, damage to oneself and probably to others.

The paranoid personality It is characterized by suspicion and distrust. The schizoid has lost the ability and even the desire to love or establish personal relationships, while the schizotypal It is characterized by strange thinking, speech, perception and behavior.

The histrionic personalities they are characterized by the theatricality of their behavior and expression, related in part to the following type, narcissistic personality, which demands the admiration and constant attention of others.

The antisocial personalities (formerly known as psychopathies) are characterized by violating the rights of others and not respecting social norms. This type of personality is unstable in their self-image, mood and behavior with others, and the 'avoidants' are hypersensitive to possible rejection, humiliation or shame. The dependent personality She is passive to the point of being unable to make a decision of her own, forcing others to make decisions instead. The 'compulsive' are perfectionists to the extreme and unable to manifest their affections. Finally, the 'passive-aggressive'are characterized by resisting the demands of others through indirect maneuvers, such as procrastination or laziness.

Incidence and distribution of mental illnesses

It is impossible to know exactly how many individuals suffer from mental disorders. The admission records to psychiatric centers can be indicative, but it must be taken into account that they exclude a large number of people who never seek treatment because they do not consider that they suffer from any disorder.

Of the latter, most have minor disorders, since the risk of suffering from schizophrenia sometime in life is 1%, while the risk of depression - the most common mental disorder today, and even the The most frequent reason for medical consultation in primary care is 10%. There is currently a growing concern for organic mental disorders, since they affect older people more frequently, a sector of the population that is increasing rapidly in more developed countries.

Alejandro Molina Cortés
CCH (College of Humanities Sciences-Naucalpan)

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