13.6 Disorders and Syndromes

A psychological disorder is an unusual, distressing, and dysfunctional pattern of thought, emotion, or behavior. Psychological disorders are often co-occurring or comorbid, meaning that a given person suffers from more than one disorder. Psychologists diagnose a disorder using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). When diagnosed, people feel that a mental disorder is a stigma, but mental illness is not a “fault,” and it is important to work to help overcome the stigma associated with disorder. The following are various disorders that may affect children, adolescence, and adults.

Table 13.7: Disorders and Syndromes602 and their Descriptions
Disorder/Syndrome Description
Anxiety Disorders Psychological disturbances marked by irrational fears, often of everyday objects and situations. They include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety disorders affect about 57 million Americans every year.
Dissociative Disorders Conditions that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, and identity. They include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, and dissociative identity disorder.
Mood Disorders Psychological disorders in which the person’s mood negatively influences his or her physical, perceptual, social, and cognitive processes. They include dysthymia, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Mood disorders affect about 30 million Americans every year.
Schizophrenia A serious psychological disorder marked by delusions, hallucinations, loss of contact with reality, inappropriate affect, disorganized speech, social withdrawal, and deterioration of adaptive behavior. About 3 million Americans have schizophrenia.
Personality Disorder A long-lasting but frequently less severe disorder characterized by inflexible patterns of thinking, feeling, or relating to others that causes problems in personal, social, and work situations. They are characterized by odd or eccentric behavior, by dramatic or erratic behavior, or by anxious or inhibited behavior. Two of the most important personality disorders are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (APD).
Somatization Disorder A psychological disorder in which a person experiences numerous long-lasting but seemingly unrelated physical ailments that have no identifiable physical cause. Somatization disorders include conversion disorder, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and hypochondriasis.
Factitious Disorder When patients fake physical symptoms in large part because they enjoy the attention and treatment that they receive in the hospital.
Sexual Disorders A variety of problems revolving around performing or enjoying sex. Sexual dysfunctions include problems relating to loss of sexual desire, sexual response or orgasm, and pain during sex.
Paraphilia A sexual deviation where sexual arousal is obtained from a consistent pattern of inappropriate responses to objects or people, and in which the behaviors associated with the feelings are distressing and dysfunctional.
Depression When symptoms cause serious distress and negatively influence physical, perceptual, social, and cognitive processes. Teens with depression were often dismissed as being moody or difficult. About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Depressed teens with coexisting (comorbid) disorders such as substance abuse problems are less likely to respond to treatment for depression. Studies focusing on conditions that frequently co-occur and how they affect one another may lead to more targeted screening tools and interventions. With medication, psychotherapy, or combined treatment, most youth with depression can be effectively treated. Youth are more likely to respond to treatment if they receive it early in the course of their illness.

13.6.1 The Importance of Maintaining Mental Health and Wellness

Most people don’t think twice before going to a doctor if they have an illness such as bronchitis, asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. However, many people who have a mental illness don’t get the treatment that would alleviate their suffering. Studies estimate that two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not receiving the help they need and that less than one-third of the children under age 18 who have a serious mental health problem receive any mental health services. Mental illness in adults often goes untreated, too. Consequences of Mental Illness

The consequences of mental illness in children and adolescents can be substantial. Many mental health professionals speak of accrued deficits that occur when mental illness in children is not treated. To begin with, mental illness can impair a student’s ability to learn. Adolescents whose mental illness is not treated rapidly and aggressively tend to fall further and further behind in school. They are more likely to drop out of school and are less likely to be fully functional members of society when they reach adulthood.

We also now know that depressive disorders in young people confer a higher risk for illness and interpersonal and psychosocial difficulties that persist after the depressive episode is over. Furthermore, many adults who suffer from mental disorders have problems that originated in childhood. Depression in youth may predict more severe illness in adult life. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, once thought to affect children and adolescents only, may persist into adulthood and may be associated with social, legal, and occupational problems. Mental illness impairs a student’s ability to learn. Self-Harm or Self-Injury

Adolescents struggling with their mental health may engage in self-harm, or thinking about harming oneself. They may be distressed and have difficult feelings as well as the urge to hurt themselves. Some unhealthy ways people may try to relieve emotional pain include cutting, burning, or hitting themselves. These self-harm behaviors can be difficult to detect and are usually kept a secret by covering the wounds with clothing or jewelry. Self-injury is a sign that someone is struggling. People who are anxious, depressed, or have an eating disorder are also more likely to turn to self-injuring behaviors.

Indicators of self-harm include:

  • frequent unexplained injuries

  • clues like bandages in trash cans.

  • clothing inappropriate for the weather (long pants or sleeves when it’s hot)

It’s important when someone confides in self-harm to try to be as nonreactive and nonjudgmental as possible. At this time there are no medications for treating self-injuring behaviors. But some medications can help treat mental disorders that the person may be dealing with, like depression or anxiety. Mental health counseling or therapy can also help.603

Self-injury can be difficult to detect because it can be hidden under clothing.^[[Image](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Auto-Mutilation.JPG) by [Degagebouche](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Degagebouche) is licensed under [CC BY-SA 3.0](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)]

(#fig:fig-13_29)Self-injury can be difficult to detect because it can be hidden under clothing.604 Suicidal Behavior

Adolescence who feel like there is no possible resolution to their mental health struggles may consider, attempt, or commit suicide. Suicidal behavior causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide. On average, 112 Americans die by suicide each day. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds and more than 9.4 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide within the past 12 months. But suicide is preventable.

Warning Signs of Suicide

If someone is showing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. The following warning signs should not be ignored. Help should be sought immediately.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself

  • Looking for a way to kill oneself

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

  • Acting anxious or agitated

  • Behaving recklessly

  • Sleeping too little or too much

  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

  • Displaying extreme mood swings605


If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In this chapter we looked at:

  • Physical growth and the changes in the body during puberty

  • Weight management, obesity, and eating disorders

  • Risk factors, and consequences of adolescent pregnancy and sexual health

  • Substance and drug abuse

  • Mental health issues for teens

In the next chapter we will look at adolescent cognitive development.