MCAT Content / Psychological Disorders / Types Of Psychological Disorders

Types of Psychological Disorders

Topic: Psychological Disorders

The DSM-5 provides a standardized system for diagnosing and discussing psychological disorders, including sets of specific symptoms that are characteristic of each disorder.

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders involve extreme reactions to anxiety-inducing situations, including excessive worry, uneasiness, apprehension, or fear. Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. People may feel anxious when facing problems, challenges, changes, or difficult decisions. Anxiety disorders develop as a result of the interaction of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors. One type of anxiety is panic disorder, in which people experience panic attacks consisting of sudden terror, accelerated heart rate, sweating, chest pain and other physical symptoms.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, and by repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions) aimed at reducing the associated anxiety. People with OCD may have just the obsessions or a combination of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are characterized as persistent, unintentional, and unwanted thoughts and urges that are highly intrusive, unpleasant, and distressing. Compulsions are ritualistic behaviors that an individual performs in order to mitigate the anxiety that stems from obsessive thoughts.

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders

PTSD is a disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury. In psychology, trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. A traumatic event can involve one experience or repeated events or experiences over time. Traumatizing, stressful events can have a long-term impact on mental and physical health. Situations, where an individual is exposed to a severely stressful experience involving the threat of death, injury, or sexual violence, can result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With this disorder, the trauma experienced is severe enough to cause stress responses for months or even years after the initial incident. The trauma overwhelms the victim’s ability to cope psychologically, and memories of the event trigger anxiety and physical stress responses, including the release of cortisol. People with PTSD may experience flashbacks, panic attacks and anxiety, and hypervigilance (extreme attunement to stimuli that remind them of the initial incident).

Somatic symptom and related disorders

Somatic symptom disorders involve physical symptoms but lack physical evidence of illness or injury. A somatic symptom disorder is a category of mental disorder included in a number of diagnostic schemes of mental illness, including the recent DSM-5 section Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders. To meet the criteria for this diagnosis, a person must be experiencing physical symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury but that are not explained by medical test results or a diagnosed medical condition.

Bipolar and related disorders

Bipolar disorders are debilitating mood disorders characterized by periods of mania/hypomania and periods of depression. Bipolar disorder (commonly referred to as manic-depression) is a mood disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania or hypomania depending on the severity or whether there is psychosis. Both manic and depressive episodes are so intense that they interfere with everyday life. Between cycles of manic and depressive states, the individual will often experience normal functioning.

Depressive disorders

Major depressive disorder (also called major depression and clinical depression) is a mood disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy pleasurable activities. In order to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) in the DSM-5, a person must experience at least five listed symptoms over a two-week period.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disorder of psychosis in which the person’s thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors are out of contact with reality. Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder characterized by major disturbances in thought, perception, emotion, and behavior. Schizophrenia is considered a disorder of psychosis, or one in which the person’s thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors are impaired to the point where they are not able to function normally in life. In informal terms, one who suffers from a psychotic disorder (that is, has a psychosis) is disconnected from the world in which most of us live

Dissociative disorders

Dissociative disorders involve a pathological separation from conscious awareness and range from mild to extreme. In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. 

Personality disorders

According to the DSM-5, “personality disorder” refers to when an individual displays a personality style (i.e., patterns of cognition, behavior, and emotion) that differs significantly from the norms and expectations of their culture in two or more of the following areas: cognition, affect, interpersonal functioning, or impulse control and causes them and/or others around them “clinically significant” distress and impairment in important areas of functioning.


Practice Questions

Khan Academy

Gender differences in symptoms of major depressive disorder

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Section Bank P/S Section Passage 9 Question 69

Practice Exam 2 P/S Section Question 11

Practice Exam 3 P/S Section Question 12

Practice Exam 4 P/S Section Passage 8 Question 42

 

Key Points

• Anxiety disorders are dysfunctional responses to anxiety-inducing situations. An anxiety disorder differs from normal anxiety in that it causes extreme distress and interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life.

• Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that produce anxiety, and by repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions) aimed at reducing the associated anxiety.

• In psychology, trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience.

• Situations, where an individual is exposed to a severely stressful experience involving the threat of death, injury, or sexual violence, can result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ).

• Somatic symptom disorders are marked by physical symptoms that suggest physical illness or injury in the absence of actual illness or injury.

• In order to be diagnosed with a somatic symptom disorder, a person must also be excessively worried about their symptoms and have experienced their symptoms for at least six months.

• Manic episodes are a distinct period of elevated or irritable mood, which can take the form of euphoria and lasts for at least a week. Features include an increase in energy, decreased need for sleep, and irrational or risky decision-making.

• Depressive episodes include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, isolation, hopelessness, and/or a variety of other symptoms. Major depressive episodes are required to last for at least two weeks for diagnosis.

• Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mood disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.

• Symptoms of schizophrenia are categorized as positive or negative; they are further classified as motor, behavioral, or mood disturbances.

• Dissociation can range from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. While some dissociation is normal, there are five kinds of dissociation that are considered psychopathological.

• According to the DSM-5, personality disorders are characterized by patterns of cognition, behavior, and emotion that differ from cultural norms and cause distress and impairment.


Key Terms

Anxiety: an unpleasant state of mental uneasiness, nervousness, apprehension, and concern about some event or situation

Mania: a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/or energy levels

Cognition: any element of knowledge including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior

Psychosis: a severe mental disorder characterized by impairment in thoughts and emotion and often involving a loss of contact with external reality

Dissociation: to experience a wide array of conditions from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience

Personality disorder: a state in which an individual displays patterns of cognition, behavior, and emotion that differ from cultural norms, cause distress and impairment, apply across many contexts, and have been exhibited over a long duration of time

Personality: the set of enduring behavioral and mental traits that distinguish an individual from other people

Trauma: a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event

Obsessions: characterized as persistent, unintentional, and unwanted thoughts and urges that are highly intrusive

Compulsions: ritualistic behaviors that an individual performs in order to mitigate the anxiety that stems from obsessive thoughts

Post-traumatic stress disorder: (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, causing flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety



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