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Intro. to Brain Disorders


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is currently in it's 5th edition and lists the accepted diagnostic criteria for a given illness. The manual classifies an illness as fitting into one of 20 categories based on its characteristic symptoms. Below are descriptions of some of the most prominent disorders, please contact us with any questions if you would like more information. 




At a Glance

  • Sadness

  • Loss of interest/energy

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Changes in sleeping patterns/weight

  • Crying easily or for no reason

  • Difficulty paying attention or making decisions


Caused by a number of genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychological factors, more than 20 million Americans fight the battle against depression. Risk factors include pessimistic or dependent personality traits, traumatic life events or abuse, family history of depressive disorders, lack of a support system, substance abuse, chronic illness, and certain pharmaceuticals. While major depressive disorder is one of the most common diagnosis, bipolar, cyclothymic disorder, and premenstrual dysphormic disorder among others exhibit depressive symptoms as well. Common treatments include antidepressant medications like Prozac, Cymbalta, and Zoloft as well as psychotherapy. For more information, visit the Mayo Clinic online here.  




Eating Disorders


At a Glance 

  • Extreme weightloss

  • Binge eating 

  • Purging 

  • Poor self-image

  • Brittle hair/nails

  • Extreme exercise and/or dieting programs


Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder constitute the three major eating disorders. While those diagnosed with bulimia may be under weight, at a healthy weight, or overweight, those with anorexia maintain a weight 15% below the weight deemed healthy for their height. Additionally, someone with bulimia may consume thousands of calories in a binge before they purge due to fear of weight gain or stomach pain while many with anorexia refuse to eat because they view themselves as fat often despite their body's state of starvation. Those with anorexia may or may not purge, however, obsessive exercise is common in both anorexia and bulimia. The binging habits associated with binge-eating disorder are similar to those observed in bulimia but lack the purging behavior. Eating disorders can lead to severe heart, kidney, and intestinal problems, among many other detrimental physical and psychological implications. Treatment often includes general medical care, psychotherapy, and nutritional management and counseling. For more information visit the American Psychiatic Association online here







Bipolar Disorder


At a Glance

  • Extreme mood swings 

  • Emotional highs that significantly impair functionality 

  • Excessive irritability/rage/risky behavior

  • Delusions of gradeur/invincibility

  • Depressive symptoms


A disorder that generally begins in late teen or early adult years, it is likely caused by a mixture of genetic, biochemical and environmental factors. Risk factors include family history of the disorder, stressors, and substance abuse. It is often comorbid with anxiety, ADHD, and PTSD. Lithium is a common medicinal treatment although other mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications are prescribed in a variety of combinations in addition to psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoeducation. Of course, one of the most important phases of treatment is recognizing the problem and realizing the need for medical attention in order to find appropriate treatment. For more information visit the Mayo Clinic online here.  





Personality Disorders


At a Glance 

  • Problems with relationships and work 

  • Difficulty dealing with others 

  • Trouble percieving and relating 

  • Inflexibility 

  • Rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking/functioning/behaving 


There are three clusters of personality disorders categorizing nine illnesses. Disorders of the Cluster A include schizoid (absorbed in their own thoughts and fearful of closeness to others), paranoid (interpreting others as threatening or demeaning), and schizotypal (exhibiting strange, outlandish beliefs) personality disorders. Cluster B includes antisocial (lacking respect and remorse), borderline (risky behavior and extreme with fluctuating behavior, mood, and self-image), histrionic (provacative, dramatic, and emotional), and narcissistic (absorbed in self-admiration) personality disorders. Finally, Cluster C includes avoidant (hypersensative to rejection and afraid of disapproval), dependant (dependant on others and easily hurt by criticism), and obsessive-compulsive (rigid perfectionism with rigid morals) personality disorders. For clusters A, B, and C, think eccentric, dramatic, and fearful. It is suspected these disorders are caused by genetic and environmental factors, and they present themselves in the teen and adult years. Treatments often include psychotherapy in addition to medications like anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, or mood stabilizers. For more information visit Mental Health America, here, or the Mayo Clinic online, here



Psychotic Disorders


At a Glance 

  • Delusions (false beliefs) 

  • Hallucinations (false perceptions) 

    • Hearing voices

  • Trouble thinking clearly 

  • Suspiciousness

  • Decline in personal hygiene 

  • Withdrawl 


Psychosis is a break from reality often accompanied by delusions and hallucinations. Common delusions include a delusion of gradeur and paranoia while examples of common hallucinations include hearing voices (auditory) or seeing things that do not exist. One of the most important aspects of this illness is that the psychosis is entirely real to the person experiencing it. The voice they hear is as real to them as this web page is to you, they can touch, taste, see, and even smell it. Other symptoms include disorganized speech, thinking, and motor behavior, as well as the lack of ability to function normally. Arising from both genetic and environmental influences, untreated schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders need immediate medical attention and often require a combination of antipsychotics, therapy, and vocational rehabilitation. For more information please visit the Mayo Clinic online here


Anxiety Disorders


At a Glance

  • Overwhelming panic or fear 

  • Obsessive or compulsive thoughts 

  • Racing heart 

  • Ongoing severe tension or worry 

  • Going to extreme lengths to avoid fears 

  • Reccuring nightmares


There are several kinds of anxiety disorders including panic disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). While physical symptoms may accompany any of these, panic disorder is often characterized by shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, trembling, and shaking. The physical symptoms of a panic attack are often so severe that the person experiencing them often believes they are experiencing a heart attack. A specific phobia is an excessive fear of a given object, situation, or place. This fear often interferes with daily life. For example someone with agoraphobia is often too afraid of a certain situation to leave their house. Finally, GAD is characterized by excessive worrying. Someone with GAD may feel so helpless to their worries that they become irritable and unable to focus. It is expected that these disorders have both genetic and environmental influences (like most other mental illnesses) and are often treated with psychotherapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), but can also be treated with medication. For more information about these disorders, please visit the American Psychiatric Association online, here.   



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