Mental disorders

Basic facts

  • There are many mental disorders that manifest themselves in different ways. In general, they are characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, ideas, emotions, behavioral reactions and relationships with others.
  • Mental disorders include depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, mental retardation and developmental disorders, including autism.
  • There is an effective strategy for the prevention of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.
  • There are effective methods of treatment and care, allowing to reduce the suffering of patients.
  • Access to health and social structures that provide treatment and social support is key.

The burden of mental disorders continues to grow and has a marked impact on health systems around the world. It entails serious consequences for the social sphere, human rights and the economy.


Depression is a common mental disorder and globally is one of the main diseases that lead to disability. More than 300 million people worldwide are suffering from depression. Women are more prone to this disorder than men.

Depressed patients are characterized by a depressed state, loss of interest and the ability to have pleasure, guilt, low self-esteem, sleep and appetite disorders, fatigue and poor concentration. There are even possible symptoms that can not be explained by objective physical causes. Depression, both long-term and episodic, can significantly interfere with daily life, work and study. In the most severe cases, depression can lead to suicide.

There are preventive programs that help reduce the incidence of depression in children (for example, by providing protection and psychological support after physical or sexual violence) and adults (for example, by providing psychological assistance after natural disasters and conflicts).

There are effective methods of treatment. Depression of mild to moderate severity can be treated with narcotics, in particular cognitive-behavioral and psychotherapy. Antidepressants are successfully used to treat moderate to severe depression, but in the case of mild depression they are not used in the first place. They are not used to treat depression in children and are used with caution and not primarily in the treatment of depression in adolescents.

Management of patients with depression should include psychosocial elements, in particular, identifying stressors such as financial problems, work difficulties or psychological abuse, and support sources such as family members and friends. It is important to ensure the preservation and renewal of social interaction and participation in society.

Bipolar affectivedisorder

This kind of mental disorder affects 60 million people around the world. It is characterized by the alternation of manic and depressive episodes with periods of normal life. Manic episodes include an agitated or irritated mood, excessive activity, speech pressure, inflated self-esteem and reduced need for sleep. Patients with manic attacks, but without depressive episodes, are also diagnosed with “bipolar disorder”.

There are effective ways to treat acute manifestations of bipolar disorder and prevent relapses. These are medicines for stabilizing the mood. Psychosocial support is an important element of treatment.

Schizophrenia and other psychosis

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder, which affects 21 million people worldwide. Psychoses, such as schizophrenia, are characterized by distorted thinking, perception of the world and their own personality, emotions, speech and behavior. Common psychotic symptoms include hallucinations (hearing, seeing or feeling things that are not really there), and delusions (persistent false beliefs or suspicions that persist even when there are facts that indicate the opposite). People with such disorders may have difficulty in working and learning.

As a result of lack of access to medical and social services, stigma and discrimination may occur. In addition, people with psychoses are at high risk of human rights violations, for example, with prolonged medical treatment.

As a rule, schizophrenia develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. There are effective methods of drug treatment combined with psychosocial support. Subject to proper treatment and social support, patients can lead a productive life and integrate into society. Assistance and care in everyday life, support for housing and employment can be the foundation on which people with severe mental disorders, including schizophrenia, can achieve multiple recovery goals, as they often have difficulty in obtaining or maintaining a normal job or housing.


Dementia affects 47.5 million people worldwide. It is a syndrome, usually chronic or progressive, in which the cognitive function (that is, the ability to think) degenerates to a greater degree than is expected with normal aging. There is a degradation of memory, thinking, understanding, speech and the ability to navigate, count, learn and reason. Violation of cognitive function is often accompanied, and sometimes preceded by a deterioration in control over the emotional state, as well as degradation of social behavior or motivation.

Dementia is caused by various diseases and traumas that cause brain damage, such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

At present, there is no therapy for curing dementia or changing the course of its development. Numerous new drugs are being researched, which are at different stages of clinical trials. Nevertheless, much can be done to support and improve the lives of people with dementia, those who care for them, and their families.

Developmental disorders, including autism

Developmental disorder is a general concept that includes both mental retardation and complex developmental disorders, including autism. As a rule, they appear in childhood and remain in adulthood, causing violations or delay in the development of functions associated with the development of the central nervous system. Unlike many other mental disorders, developmental disorders proceed evenly, without pronounced periods of relapse and remission.

Mental retardation is characterized by a developmental breakdown in various areas, including in the field of cognitive function and adaptive behavior. Insufficient mental development makes it difficult to cope with everyday everyday tasks.

Symptoms of complex developmental disorders, such as autism, include a violation of social behavior, communicative and speech functions, limited interests and repetitive actions unique to each patient. Developmental disorders usually manifest in infancy or early childhood. Patients with similar disorders often exhibit mental retardation of one degree or another.

It is extremely important that family members participate in the care of patients with developmental disorders. It is necessary to understand what factors cause stress and, on the contrary, calm them, and also what kind of environment is most favorable for their learning. An orderly regime of the day with a regular time of feeding, playing, learning, communicating with others and sleeping helps to avoid unnecessary stress. Both children and adults with developmental disorders, as well as caregivers, should be able to regularly seek health care services.

Society as a whole also has an important role: to respect the rights and needs of people with such disorders.

Who is at risk for mental disorders?

The determinants of mental health and mental disorders include not only individual qualities, such as the ability to manage one’s own thoughts, emotions, behavior and communication with others, but also social, cultural, political and environmental factors such as national politics, social protection, standard of living, conditions work and support of others.

Trauma and stress at an early age can cause mental disorders. Heredity, nutrition, perinatal infections and adverse environmental effects can also influence their development.

Health and support

Health systems do not adequately respond to the burden of mental disorders. As a result, there is a wide gap across the world between the treatment needs and the care provided. In low- and middle-income countries, 76% to 85% of patients with mental disorders receive no treatment. In high-income countries, between 35% and 50% of people with these disorders are in this situation.

The problem is further aggravated by the fact that the proposed care is often not of sufficient quality.

In addition to health care structures, people with mental disorders should be assisted and supported by others. Such people often need help in getting access to training programs adapted to their needs, finding work and housing so that they can take an active part in public life.

WHO activities

In the WHO Plan of Action for Mental Health, 2013-2020, endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2013, mental health plays an important role in ensuring better health for all. The plan includes four main objectives:

  • improving management and management of mental health;
  • providing comprehensive, comprehensive services for the treatment and social protection of patients with mental disorders;
  • implementation of strategies for increasing efficiency and prevention;
  • strengthening information systems, data collection and research.

The WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program, launched in 2008, uses evidence-based technical manuals, tools and training materials to improve the quality of services provided in countries, especially in resource-poor settings. Its work is based on a set of prioritized conditions, and efforts to strengthen capacity are directed primarily at non-specialized medical institutions. An integrated approach is used that increases the priority of mental health at all levels of medical services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *