People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer intensely from recurrent unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or rituals (compulsions), which they feel they cannot control. Rituals such as hand washing, counting, checking, checking, or cleaning are often performed in hope of preventing, obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these rituals, however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety. Left untreated obsessions and the need to perform rituals can take over a person’s life. OCD is often a chronic, relapsing illness.
OCD is sometimes accompanied by depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other anxiety disorders. When a person also has other disorders, OCD is often more difficult to diagnose and treat. Symptoms of OCD can also coexist and may even be part of a spectrum of neurological disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of other disorders are important to successful treatment of OCD.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that usually strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood, but can strike at any time in life. The signs and symptoms vary from individual to individual, but all people with the disorder show one or more of the following symptoms:
- Delusions: These are beliefs that are not true, such as feeling people are following or trying to hurt them, believing other people can read their minds, or beliefs that they have special powers or abilities.
- Hallucinations: This usually takes the form of hearing voices that are not there, but people with schizophrenia may also see, smell, taste, and feel things that are not there.
- Bizarre behavior: This can be expressed in many different ways. In short, the individual behaves in ways that might not make sense, or topic of conversation changes with little or no connection between sentences. Sometimes speech is completely incomprehensible.
- Negative symptoms: This includes lack of motivation or interest, diminished cognitive functioning, and decreased emotional expression. Individuals may lose interest in attending to their own personal hygiene, have little interest in interacting with others, and rarely seem to feel or express strong emotions.
In addition to these above symptoms, people with schizophrenia suffer a decline in their level of functioning; for instance, they may not be able to work at a job that requires the same level of skill or concentration as the job they held before they became ill required, or they may lose all ability to withstand the pressures of the working world. They may show a decline in their ability to attend to household chores or all the demands of raising children, and/or they may not be able to have a full social life anymore.
Sometimes schizophrenia is a chronic condition, and the individual afflicted is constantly experiencing hallucinations or other symptoms of the disorder. Other people have periods of time when they are relatively symptom-free but have periods of more acute psychosis. Every individual is different, and every person with schizophrenia experiences the disease in a different way.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is an illness involving one or more episodes of serious mania and depression. The illness causes a person’s mood to swing from excessively ‘high’ and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, with periods of a normal mood in between. More than 2 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years.
Bipolar disorder can be extremely distressing and disruptive for those who have this disease, their spouses, family members, friends and employers. Although there is no known cure, bipolar disorder is treatable , and recovery is possible. Individuals with bipolar disorder have successful relationships and meaningful jobs. The combination of medications and psychotherapy helps the vast majority of people return to productive, fulfilling lives.
Bipolar disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. It causes a person to have a high level of energy, unrealistically expansive thoughts or ideas, and impulsive or reckless behavior. These symptoms may feel good to a person, which may lead to denial that there is a problem.
Another reason bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose is that its symptoms may appear to be part of another illness or attributed to other problems such as substance abuse, poor school performance, or trouble in the workplace.