Psychological Problems and Disorders
When faced with important events (stressors) which are
threatening or very hard to deal (cope) with, people experience
stress. Psychological symptoms of stress include anxiety and
tension, uncontrollable worrying, irritability, distractibility,
and difficulty in learning new things. Physical symptoms include
difficulty in sleeping, loss of appetite or excessive appetite,
fatigue, and aches and pains.
A neurosis is characterized by anxiety, internal tensions
and conflicts, uncontrollable avoidance of threatening
situations, and ineffective coping. Examples include panic,
phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress.
A neurotic disorder in which people channel their anxieties,
worry, and obsessional thinking into the conviction that they
have a specific physical illness (e.g., cancer of the colon).
That is, they are preoccupied with having an illness, even though
tests and reassurances by medical personnel indicate that they do
not have this illness.
People with this disorder spend a lot of time and money
visiting doctors and undergoing various tests. Their
relationships with doctors and nurses are often conflictual, to
the point where a real sickness may well be overlooked by those
who are tired of the person's previous unrealistic insistence
that they are ill.
A rare disorder, but it is time-consuming and infuriating
for medical personnel. The person, usually a woman, has a long,
complicated medical history and series of dramatic but vague
physical symptoms which "demand the doctor's immediate
attention." The complaints usually involved a combination of
gastrointestinal, gynecological, and sensori-motor symptoms,
coupled with "aches and pains." The personalities and lives of
people with this disorder are typically dramatic and chaotic.
Individuals with this disorder create the appearance of a
physical illness (e.g., by "doctoring" blood samples) in order to
become the center of medical attention and/or to obtain various
types of drugs. When they are questioned or challenged about
inconsistencies in their symptoms or stories, they usually become
evasive and belligerent, and will probably escape the hospital or
clinic at the first opportunity, only to try somewhere else.
Many people with this disorder have the same type of "histrionic"
or "borderline" personality as those with somatization disorder.
A set of severe psychological symptoms which make it very
hard to work, play, and be with other people.
"Positive" symptoms include delusions (irrational beliefs),
hallucinations (sensory experiences in the absence of stimuli),
incoherent thought and speech, intense and uncontrollable anxiety
or paranoia, and bizarre behavior.
"Negative" symptoms include loss of both emotional
experiences and emotional expressiveness, loss of willpower and
initiative, inability to experience pleasure or interest in
things, and withdrawal from contact with others.
In general, this refers to high levels of suspicion and
mistrust, usually seen in the person's belief or delusion that he
or she is the target of other people's hate, jealousy, and
In paranoid schizophrenia the person has delusions that he
or she is being persecuted by "others" (for example, neighbors,
the government, being from outer space), often because the person
is someone special such as "the messiah" (a delusion of
In paranoid personality disorder the person appears normal,
but is actually suspicious, mistrustful, hostile but guarded,
controlling, and quick to develop resentment (grudges) and
jealousy. Some men who batter their wives or girlfriends have
A severe emotional problem in which the person cannot stop
feeling sad or "down" or "empty," and constantly feels helpless
and hopeless. Depressed people often struggle with anxiety and
irritability, a lack of motivation, a loss of pleasure in things
they used to like to do, and problems with eating, sleeping, and
aches and pains. Many depressed people have suicidal thoughts,
and 10-15% will eventually take their own lives.
A period of time (usually a week to a month long) in which
the person is (and feels) very excited, talkative, active, and
impulsive. In most episodes of mania the person is unusually
happy and confident, but some people are edgy and irritable.
Manic people seem to have endless energy (they are "driven") and
do not need more than a few hours of sleep at night, if they
sleep at all.
In its mild form (hypomania) the person may be very creative
and productive at work. In its severe forms the person becomes
"psychotic." That is, the person loses the ability to think
straight and make realistic judgments, and may experience
delusions and hallucinations. Manic people tend to be very
impulsive, demanding, and aggressive, which often results in
spending too much money, drinking too much, sexual promiscuity,
and trouble with the law.
Approximately 1-2 in every 100 to 250 people around the
world experience episodes of mild or severe mania, interspersed
with episodes of mild or severe depression. If the episodes of
both types of emotional problems are mild(er), the condition is
known as cyclothymia. If the episodes of depression are severe,
regardless of whether the episodes of mania are or not severe,
the condition is known as bipolar disorder (formerly called
"manic-depression"). The age of onset is typically in the late
teens or early 20's, and the condition is usually chronic.
Many individuals with these disorders return to a somewhat
normal state between episodes, and there is a statistical
association with creativity and even artistic genius. However,
the impact of this disorder on a person's life is often
devastating. The risk of marital problems, substance abuse,
suicide, and problems with the law is very high.
Sometimes referred to as "rapid onset brain syndrome," this
psychological condition is associated with acute physical
sickness (e.g., drug overdose or accidental poisoning). Symptoms
include confusion and disorientation, lapsing in and out
consciousness, agitation, apathy, and "illusions" (misperception
of external stimuli, such as hearing the turning wheels of a
hospital cart as a the sound of a huge grinding machine which is
comiing to grind you up).
Delirium should be taken very seriously and treated
immediately, because it often represents a serious physical
Refers to a generalized decline or deterioration of
intellectual faculties, most notably memory, attention, and
abstract thinking. The person may get lost easily and be unable
to do simple things such as make change or figure out how to get
back into the house after he or she has mistakenly locked the
doors. Depression and paranoia are often associated with
dementia, and some demented people develop delusions and
hallucinations. One of the best known examples of dementia is
Alzheimer's disease, which typically begins after age 55.
People with this personality characteristic have an
uncontrollable need to feel important, successful, and admired by
other people. They act as if they are unique and entitled to
special favors. They really don't care about how other people
are feeling and resent (are jealous of) other people's