What is a mental disorder? A wide range of mental health conditions that affect your mood, thinking, behavior and functioning.
Disorders in the DSM-5 are listed in order along a developmental lifespan, with disorders typically diagnosed in childhood described first, followed by those in adolescence, and finally those diagnosed in adulthood and older adulthood.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5):
A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. The diagnosis of a mental disorder should have clinical utility: it should help clinicians to determine prognosis, treatment plans, and potential treatment outcomes for their patients. (APA, 2013)
When a person is evaluated and subsequently diagnosed with a mental disorder, a clinician will look for length of time symptoms are present, as well as the effect those symptoms have on a person’s ability to function in their day to day lives. The main reason for a diagnosis is to help with treatment and therapy recommendations. It is important to note that all psychiatric diagnoses are distinguished only by reported and observable symptoms. A psychiatric diagnosis does not identify a cause of symptoms, it comments on the degree to which symptoms are present and intrusive. In reality, most everyone has struggled with psychological distress or dysfunction at times or even with some regularity. Psychiatric diagnoses and treatment are geared to improve the quality of one’s life in spite of psychological issues (APA, 2013).
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