A mental disorder, also referred to as a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. A mental disorder is also characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual's cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior. It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. Mental disorders may also be referred to as mental health conditions. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitting, or occur as single episodes. Many disorders have been described, with signs and symptoms that vary widely between specific disorders.
The terms mental illness, mental disorder and mental health disorder are applied to a wide variety of problems, which are characterized by alterations in reasoning processes, behavior, loss of sense of reality, alteration of emotions or distortion in the relationship with others, when they are considered abnormal with respect to the social reference group from which the person comes. Mental illness does not have a single cause, but is the result of a complex interaction between biological, social and psychological factors.
Patient evaluations are carried out by psychiatry or psychology professionals, using various methods, such as psychometric tests, observation and personal interview. The traditional treatments have basically been psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs, but in recent decades other approaches have been included, such as social intervention work, group therapy, self-help groups or interventions focused on changes in lifestyle. Examples of mental illness are depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. Although many people experience mental health problems from time to time, a mental health problem becomes an illness when signs and symptoms become permanent, cause stress, and affect the ability to function normally.