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Understanding Mental Health Disorders

Doctor with patient at a mental health treatment center in Orange County.


Balanced mental health is an integral part of living a gratifying, productive lifestyle. When a mental health disorder is present, it typically interferes with a person’s thoughts, mood, behavior, and social interactions, as well as their overall satisfaction in life.

Having a mental illness makes it more difficult to function on a daily basis and complete everyday activities. Without mental health disorder treatment in Orange County, these often-misunderstood disorders can have a significantly negative impact on a person’s quality of life.

Northbound helps clients learn how to cope with, manage, and heal from mental health disorders. While addiction is considered a mental illness, there are also a wide range of other disorders that fall under this category and may occur simultaneously.

Addressing and understanding mental health disorders is essential for recovery and healing. With the proper treatment and strategies in place, clients can cultivate mental wellness, enhance daily functioning, and achieve the goals they have set for themselves and their future.

What is a Mental Health Disorder?

Mental health disorders can occur at any stage in a person’s life, and affect people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and demographics. Mental illness is considered a “disorder of the brain.” Like all illnesses, there are significant physiological factors at play.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand mental health disorders as medical illnesses, which can limit access to treatments and remedies based on social stigma about the nature of the affliction and the many effective treatment options available to promote healing.

The likelihood of developing a mental health disorder can be linked to a complex combination of factors including brain chemistry, genetics, environment, lifestyle, and trauma. Numerous mental health disorders exist and often co-occur with addiction.

Some examples include mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), personality disorders, and psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia. There are effective methods of treating each and helping clients to cope with symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

Mental illness can manifest in many different ways and is not always easy to detect. Some symptoms are more noticeable than others, especially depending on their severity and impact on a person’s life. Common signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

  1. Extreme changes in mood
  2. Changes in appetite
  3. Feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness
  4. Physical aches and pains with no clear cause
  5. Difficulty concentrating or fuzzy thinking
  6. Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  7. Changes in sleeping habits
  8. Challenges coping with stress
  9. Altered sense of reality

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Types of Mental Health Disorders

There are many different types of mental health disorders. A person may be affected by just one disorder or may experience more than one at the same time. Many who experience mental health disorders struggle with substance abuse commonly referred to as dual diagnosis.


Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but those with anxiety disorders experience extreme and pervasive worry or fear that does not easily pass. They may have physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heart rate, and shallow breathing paired with cognitive difficulties such as irritability, trouble concentrating, and intense feels of dread or concern.


Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) makes it more difficult for people to stay focused and control their impulses. They may be easily distracted, disorganized, fidgety, impatient and extremely talkative. These behaviors make it challenging to get things done and stay on task, especially at work or school.


Feelings of sadness or helplessness are normal every now and then, but when they last for weeks or months, this can be a sign of depression. People with depression may also feel lethargic, lose interest in previously enjoyable activities, have trouble sleeping, concentrating, feel hopeless and have low self-esteem.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by cyclical and intense mood swings. A person may feel extremely happy and energetic for a while and then shift to feeling very depressed and hopeless. They may hit stages in between where they are feeling more normal. It is very challenging for them to control their emotions and mood changes.


Experiencing trauma often leaves a lasting impact on a person. It is important to recognize that experiencing a traumatic event does NOT automatically result in the development of a mental health disorder. Resilience, growth and positive personal/psychological/spiritual development are all possible outcomes after experiencing a trauma.

That said, mental health challenges such as excessive stress, depression, anxiety, and many other symptoms can also occur. If left untreated, these difficult impacts of trauma can develop into PTSD and can exacerbate other mental health conditions.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops following a traumatic experience, such as an accident, injury, abuse, or natural disaster. Originally brought into the public eye through the trying tales of combat veterans, PTSD is now widely understood as a disorder that impacts millions of non-military persons as well.

Those experiencing PTSD experience a variety of troubling symptoms including flashbacks, excessive stress, sleep difficulties, and hyper-vigilance about their surroundings or triggering situations. Healing from PTSD is possible and attainable. PTSD is not a chronic condition but can be effectively treated and cease to be active in a person’s life. If experiencing PTSD and addiction, Northbound’s comprehensive trauma program can help.

Self-Harm & Mutilation

While self-harm and mutilation are not themselves mental illnesses, they are often behavioral responses to mental health disorders. It is important to understand that while these behaviors are destructive and can be very frightening, they are often attempts to cope with stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, or overwhelming emotion.

Part of the effective treatment for self-harm or any other behaviorally maladaptive attempt to deal with emotional difficulties is identifying and implementing healthier coping strategies.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders take numerous forms. Signs common to personality disorders include trouble regulating emotions, impulsivity, insecurity or paranoia. Periods of depression or low self-esteem are also common. Without focused attention and ongoing treatment, it can be very difficult for those who struggle with personality disorders to maintain healthy relationships and interactions with others.

Statistics on Mental Health Disorders in the United States

Mental health disorders affect millions of children, teenagers and adults in the United States every year. They do not discriminate and can affect anyone at any time.

  1. Half of all chronic illnesses develop by age 14 and three-quarters develop by age 24, but they can also occur later in life depending on the situation.
  2. Every year an estimated one in five adults in the United States struggles with a mental illness. This equates to around 43.8 million people.
  3. Approximately 18.1 percent of adults struggle with anxiety disorders and around 6.9 percent of adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues

It is not uncommon for substance abuse and mental health issues to occur concurrently, which is known as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis. Studies have found that more than half of adults (50.5 percent) in the United States with a substance use disorder also have a mental illness. While addiction is recognized as a mental illness, it is often regarded separately from other mental health conditions. Some people use drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the symptoms of mental illness and self-medicating.

Mental health disorders can also become more pronounced with increased substance abuse. There are generally overlapping symptoms which can make it more difficult to differentiate one condition from the other. It is important to treat both substance abuse and mental illness simultaneously due to their interrelated nature. If one condition is left untreated, it can increase the risk of relapse and make achieving long-term recovery more difficult.

Get Help Today for Co-Occurring Disorders at Northbound

While co-occurring disorders can significantly interfere with your daily life and relationships, recovery is possible. Northbound’s mental health treatment center in Orange County offers fully integrated treatment that addresses both mental health and addiction to support clients in learning to live their life to the fullest. Regain control of your life and pursue your goals through treatment for co-occurring disorders at Northbound.

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