Introduction to Psychiatry

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Chapter 1 : Introduction to Psychiatry

Introduction arrow_upward

  • Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.
  • These mental disorders include various affective, behavioral, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities.

  • Mental Disorder arrow_upward

  • A medically diagnosable illness that results in the impairment of an individual's thoughts, mood and behavior
  • A psychiatrist is a doctor who deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses.
  • Psychiatric treatments apply a variety of modalities, including psychoactive medication, psychotherapy and a wide range of other techniques such as trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

  • Mental Illness arrow_upward

  • Mental health is our interaction with the context and events of our lives, critically affected by our life situation and the amount of support and control we have in dealing with our circumstances.
  • Mental illnesses: mental and emotional conditions which cause minimal to severe disturbances in feelings, mood or behavior
  • Health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior, associated with distress and/or impaired functioning
  • Multi-factorial illnesses caused by a variety of generic and environmental factors
  • Characterized by minimal to severe disorders in the brain

  • Mental Illness Continuum arrow_upward

  • The presence or absence of symptoms of a disorder
  • Along the mental illness continuum, there are three mental health states, in which individuals can be located at different stages of their life:
    • Well-being
    • Emotional problems or concerns
    • Mental illness


  • The absence of illness indicates wellness.
  • At this level of continuum, people have good mental health and no mental illness.
  • They may have occasional stress to mild stress due to day-to-day problems, but do not experience any impairment.

  • Emotional problems or concerns

  • People may have moderate stresses on their mental health but do not have a mental illness.
  • At this level in the continuum, discomfort has risen to the level of distress accompanied by the beginning of impairments in functioning.

  • Mental illness

  • People have mental illnesses and also severe stress on their mental health.
  • Individuals may experience chronic or long-term impairments that range from moderate to disabling in nature.

  • Causes of Mental Illnesses arrow_upward

  • The majority of research indicates that there is no single cause for mental illnesses, but rather a combination of contributing factors.
  • Following are the basic causes of mental illness:
    • Genetic factors
    • Environmental factors
    • Organic factors

    Genetic factors

  • Researchers have found that there appears to be a hereditary pattern to illnesses, i.e. individuals with particular disorders tend to have/had parents or relatives with the same illnesses.
  • People may be born with certain personality types, predispositions for certain illnesses or biochemical make-up. 

  • Environmental factors

  • People are affected by broad social, cultural factors and factors in their personal environments.
  • Environmental factors include the conditions under which people are raised, economic pressures, work related pressures, threats of unemployment, presence of any violence, family break-ups, death of a loved one, etc.

  • Organic factors

  • Physical factors resulting from drugs, poisons, injury through accident, problems at birth, disease, or illness can cause mental illnesses.
  • Researchers have found that the brain can produce certain chemicals which can result in changes in how we perceive and experience things around us and also causes changes in mood, or behavior.

  • Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illnesses arrow_upward

  • Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses may display some of the following common signs and symptoms:
    • Self-destructive actions
    • Prolonged feelings of intense tension or anxiety
    • Excessive changes in sleeping or wakefulness
    • Excessive changes in appetite - too much or too little
    • Finding little or no pleasure in life
    • Sudden changes in mood and behavior
    • Loss of interest in favorite activities
    • Atypical thoughts and speech
    • Deterioration of personal appearance and hygiene
    • Withdrawal from friends and family

    Basic Types of Mental Illnesses arrow_upward

  • Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.
  • Following are the common mental disorders:
    • Dementia
    • Schizophrenia
    • Mood disorders
    • Bipolar disorders
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Substance-related disorders

    Treatment of Mental Illnesses arrow_upward

  • Mental illnesses are best treated with a variety of psychotherapies and medications.
  • Medications are used to treat the symptoms of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.
  • With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence.
  • Psychotherapy is a technique which attempts to treat people suffering from psychological disorders.
  • Psychotherapy helps to increase a sense of well-being and reduce discomfort.

  • Etiology of Psychiatric Diseases arrow_upward

  • Other biological factors that may be involved in the development of mental illnesses include:

  • Genetics (heredity)

  • Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting that people who have a family member with a mental illness are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Susceptibility is passed on in families through genes.
  • Experts believe many mental illnesses are linked to abnormalities in many genes not just one.
  • That is why a person inherits a susceptibility to a mental illness and doesn't necessarily develop the illness.
  • A mental illness itself occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors - such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event - which can influence, or trigger, an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.

  • Infections

  • Certain infections have been linked to brain damage and the development of a mental illness or the worsening of its symptoms.
  • For example, a condition known as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder (PANDA) associated with the streptococcus bacteria has been linked to the development of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental illnesses in children.

  • Brain defects or injury

  • Defects in or injury to certain areas of the brain have also been linked to some mental illnesses.

  • Prenatal damage

  • Some evidence suggests that a disruption of early fetal brain development or trauma that occurs at the time of birth - for example, loss of oxygen to the brain - may be a factor in the development of certain conditions, such as autism.

  • Environmental exposures before birth

  • Exposure to viruses, toxins, alcohol or drugs while in the womb can sometimes be linked to mental illnesses.

  • Negative life experiences

  • Situations in your life, such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems and high stress, can play a role in triggering mental illness.
  • So can an upbringing that leads to poor self-esteem or a history of sexual or physical abuse.
  • Life experiences can lead to unhealthy patterns of thinking linked to mental illness, such as pessimism or distorted ways of thinking.

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