This sample psychology research paper analyzes the causes and treatment of common mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Understanding mental illness
Mental illnesses affect millions of people and come in many forms, from anxiety and mania to depression and neurosis. Age, lifestyle, and genetics can all factor into a person’s likelihood of developing a mental disorder, the likes of which also often discriminate along gender lines. According to research by the World Health Organization, gender factors into the probability of developing anxiety and depression. Though a popular subject for study and research papers, the understanding of this issue is still in its infancy.
Women, for instance, are twice as likely as men to suffer major symptoms of depression. Men, on the other hand, are twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism and three times likelier to develop antisocial personality disorder. On the other hand, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, have shown no diagnostic disparity between the genders (“Gender and women’s mental health”).
In a series of epidemiological studies conducted by Prof. Daniel Freeman of the Medical Sciences Division at Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, it was found that women are 75% likelier than men to report symptoms of depression and 60% likelier to report feelings of anxiety. He concluded that mental health issues occur more frequently among women by 20-40% because the negative issues in society that affect women are more common than the factors contributing to male depression (Ball).
Bipolar Disorder symptoms and episodes
Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a form of mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood from mania to depression. During states of mania, a subject might display characteristics of:
- Extreme glee
- Reduced sleeping pattern
In states of depression, a subject might:
- Avoid eye contact
- Express doom-laden thoughts
- Withdraw from others completely
BPD is characterized by the following phases, each of which constitutes a different level of severity.
Typically lasting for a week or longer, manic states range from intense excitement to irritability. The following characteristics are often on display during such episodes: flowing thoughts, rapid speech, impulsive actions, spendthrift behavior, and a surge in unrealistic goal setting.
In the midst of a manic episode, a subject may have feelings of insomnia and hypersexuality while exhibiting recklessness and poor judgment. During extreme moments, an individual might experience a loss of contact with reality; paranoid ideation and grandiose delusions occur in certain sufferers. In roughly 50% of cases, episodes are accompanied by states of delusion or hallucination (Kerner).
Less severe than manic states, a hypomanic individual will experience an uptick in vigor, but without the psychotic behaviors of more extreme BPD. While in a hypomanic state, an individual might exhibit a surge in productivity and creativity. Due to the increased energy and overall positive attributes, the condition is not seen as dangerous. In a sense, hypomania protects subjects from depression. While a subject might display minor irritability, the condition generally doesn’t escalate to full-blown mania and is not a cause for hospitalization.
When a bipolar individual is in a depressive state, he or she will typically undergo feelings of apathy, anxiety, despondency, guilt, loneliness, rage, shyness, and sorrow. Depressive states are also marked by loss of appetite, insomnia, lethargy, disinterest in hobbies, a loss of libido, and an inability to concentrate. In extreme cases, a subject might show psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
The most dangerous phase of BPD is the mixed state, where an individual experiences mania and depression simultaneously. In the midst of a mixed state, a sufferer might have disconnected, paranoid, or grandiose thoughts along with feelings of despair, hopelessness, or self-loathing. Subjects in this state are at high risk of self-harm due to the wild mood swings and impulsive tendencies that accompany the mixed state.
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Anxiety in mentally ill patients
Anxiety is a discomforting state of internalized stress, characterized by nervousness, frantic movements, nauseousness, and an overriding sense of dread. Unlike fear, which is based on a sense of real or possible danger, anxiety is typified by an irrational and unfocused sense of menace. Anxiety is harmful to patient’s emotional well-being and physical health.
When an individual suffers from anxiety, he or she will often avoid situations that trigger memories of bad experiences from the past. Anxiety comes in various forms, including the following:
- Existential anxiety – which can be triggered by feelings of existentialism or nihilism.
- Social/stranger anxiety – marked by feelings of apprehension towards social interaction.
- Somatic anxiety – characterized by feelings of butterflies in the stomach.
- Test anxiety – a feeling of unpreparedness and fear of failure during or immediately prior to a testing situation.
Anxiety can occur in brief phases or persist over long periods of time. The condition is sometimes down to genetic factors, but habits such as drugs, alcohol, and even caffeine can also play a part in a person’s development of anxiety. Symptoms often overlap with other conditions, such as BPD, depression, and eating disorders.
Depression more than a symptom
Depression is a condition marked by downward mood swings and a loss of energy. Feelings associated with depression include sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and regret. A depressed individual might lose his or her sense of purpose and withdraw from friends, family, or meaningful activities. Conditions associated with depression include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Reduced energy
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression in adulthood is often rooted in traumatic childhood experiences, such as abuse, neglect, and sexual molestation. People who received less love than their siblings while growing up might also experience depression later on in life. Life-changing events such as s negative diagnosis, death in the family, loss of a job, financial strife, childhood trauma, and divorce can also cause depression.
Various non-psychiatric illnesses can also trigger depression including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sleep apnea
- Addison’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Lyme disease
- Circadian rhythm
“Gender and women’s mental health.” World Health Organization.n.d. Web. 22 March 2015.
Ball, James. “Women 40% more likely than men to develop mental illness, study finds.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. 22 May 2013. Web. 22 March 2015.
“Bipolar Disorder Statistics.” Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.n.d. Web. 22 March 2015.
Schmitt, Andrea, et al. “The impact of environmental factors in severe psychiatric disorders.” PMC. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 March 2015.
Kerner, Berit. “Genetics of bipolar disorder.” PMC. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 12 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 March 2015.
“Subthreshold Mania May Mean Bipolarity in High-Risk Youth.” Doctors Lounge. n.p. 10 March 2015. Web. 22 March 2015.
“Depression in Children and Adolescents.” NIH | National Institute of Mental Health. n.d. Web. 22 March 2015.