Mental Illness

What is mental illness?

Mental health is the balanced development of an individual's personality and emotional attitudes which enable him to live in harmony others and to face and accept the realities of life. Impairment of mental health is referred to as mental illness. The body and mind are intimately related to each other and disturbance if one hinders normal functioning of the other. So, mental health is important for maintenance of physiological health. About 1% of the world population is suffering from serious mental illness and 10% from mild mental disorder.


Mental illness is characterized by the following symptoms:
i) Insomnia or lack of sleep or excessive sleeping,
ii) Depression and feeling of hopelessness,
iii) Unreasonable fears,
iv) Delusions or false beliefs and hallucinations
v) Partial or complete loss of memory and lack of thinking ability
vi) Compulsive actions and violent behavior
vii) Self-destructive behaviors and thought of suicide
viii) Desire to remain isolated from other people.


Mental illnesses are grouped into two classes in broad:
i) Major (or severe type of) mental illnesses
ii) Minor (or mild type of) mental illnesses.

Major mental illness

There are three types of major mental illnesses, those are:
a) Schizophrenia—In this type of mental illness, the patient lives in a dream world of his own, often laughing or crying at inappropriate situations. Schizophrenics suffer from disturbed emotions, delusions, auditory hallucinations etc.
b) Manic depressive psychoses or mood disorders—In this type of mental illness, the victim shows occasional bouts of elation (emotional excitement) and depression.
c) Paranoia— This mental illness is associated with undue and extreme suspicion and tendency to regard the whole world in a framework of delusions.

Minor mental illness

Minor mental illnesses are of two types as follows: -
a) Neurosis or psychoneurosis—It is a mal-adaptive mental disorder in which the patient is not out of touch with reality but is unable to react normally to different situations of life.
b) Personality and character disorders—These are due to unfortunate experiences of childhood and characterized by unpredictable moods, outbursts of emotional reactions, quarrelsome behavior and conflicts with others.

Causes of Mental Illness

Mental illness may be caused by the following single or multiple factors:—

Changes in brain

The brain controls all the behavioral activities of a man. Any adverse change in the structure and function of brain may cause mental illness. Such changes in brain may occur due to injury by accidents, infections, tumors, poor blood supply, intake of toxic substances, nutritional deficiencies and some degenerative diseases like tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy etc.

Experiences of childhood and family atmosphere

A child requires love, affection, encouragement, guidance and discipline for development of normal mental health. A person deprived of these things and subjected to repeated unpleasant experiences in childhood may develop mental illness. Thus, a child growing in a good, accommodative and loving family atmosphere develops a pleasing personality and behavior and can adjust to different situations of life. But due to always quarrels and unpleasant atmosphere in a family, the children may develop mental illness.

Heredity as a cause of Mental illness

In some cases heredity may be an important factor for mental illness. It has been observed that the child whose both the parents are schizophrenic is more likely to develop schizophrenia than the child of mentally healthy parents. However, the mental illness of the parents may or may not be expressed in their children.

Socio-economic factors

Mental illness may also be responsible for several socio-economic factors. They include poverty, worries, anxieties, tension, stress, frustration, insecurity, cruelty, unhappy marriages, change in family structure, injustice, etc.