Nearly two-thirds of all people with diagnosable mental disorders do not seek treatment.
–Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Illness

What is mental illness?

Mental illness is a disorderly functioning of the mind

Early Explanations

Demonology-thought that an evil being possessed a person; use exorcism to cast out evil spirits (e.g. chanting, elaborate prayer, force to drink awful tasting brews, flogging, starvation)

Witches-thought that if you showed signs of abnormality, you were a witch

Development of Asylums-confinement and care of mentally ill; use of electro shock therapy


Native American shamans, or medicine men, summoned supernatural powers to treat the mentally ill, incorporating rituals of atonement and purification.


Witchcraft and demonic possession were common explanations for mental illness. The Salem witchcraft trials sentenced nineteen people to hanging.

Also threw women into bodies of water to test to see if they were witches.  If they floated they were a witch, and killed; if they sank, they were human, but drowned.


Puritan clergyman, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), broke with superstition by advancing physical explanations for mental illnesses.


Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) became one of the earliest advocates of humane treatment for the mentally ill with the publication of Medical Inquiries and Observations Upon Diseases of the Mind, the first American textbook of psychiatry.

Psychological Disorders


Psychiatrists began to inject insulin to induce shock and temporary coma as a treatment for schizophrenia.

Egas Moniz published an account of the first human frontal lobotomy. Between 1936 and the mid-1950s, an estimated twenty thousand of these surgical procedures were performed on American mental patients.


Electrotherapy (applying electric current to the brain) was first used in American hospitals to treat mental illnesses.


Conventional antipsychotic drugs, were first used to control outward (“positive”) symptoms of psychosis, bringing a significant measure of calm and order to previously noisy and chaotic psychiatric wards.

Lithium revolutionized the treatment of manic depression.

422,000 individuals were hospitalized for psychiatric care in the United States.


Rise of managed care–short-stay hospitalization with community treatment became the standard of care for mental illness.


Brain imaging is used to learn more about the development of major mental illnesses.

(1994) The 1st first-line of the atypical antipsychotic drugs, is introduced. It is the 1st new first-line antipsychotic drug in almost 20 years.

(1997) Researchers identify genetic links to polar disorder, suggesting that the disease is inherited.

Mental Disorders: Types and Causes

Categories of Mental Illnesses

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenic disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Substance related disorders

Anxiety Disorders

a)  Generalized Anxiety Disorder – anxiety of  the mind without apparent cause

b)  Phobias – intense fear of objects, or situations

c)  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – performing an action repeatedly in order to relieve a persistent unwanted thought

Mood Disorders

A mood disorder is a condition whereby the prevailing emotional mood is distorted or inappropriate to the circumstances.

Two types:

  • Major Depression
  • Bipolar Affective Disorder

Schizophrenic Disorders

  • From the Greek “split mind”
  • Distortion of reality, social withdrawal, disturbances of thought, perception, motor activity and emotions.

Personality Disorders

  • Characterized by long-lasting rigid patterns of thought and actions.
  • Can cause serious problems and impairment of functioning for the persons who are afflicted with these disorders.
  • Affects ability to function in society

Substance Related Disorders

  • Refers to abuse of alcohol, tobacco, drugs leading to significant impairment or distress

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