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Times of India
07 October
By , Monami K. Thakur,

Three days away from the 2011 World Mental Health Day on October 10th, let's take a look at some of the most misunderstood mental health problems affecting human lives.

Often misdiagnosed, mental disorders affect millions of people every year. Still, more than 60 percent of people with psychiatric disorders do not seek help or treatment. It is true that you can't test for bipolar disorders the same way you can for blood pressure. But, still there are measures that can be put in place including proper support and rehabilitative care to prevent the worsening of symptoms.

7 most misunderstood mental ailments
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
Characterized by inattentiveness and hyperactivity, ADHD is another widely misunderstood mental ailment. Contrary to what most people think, ADHD is not a 'made-up' mental condition to seek attention. The causes are much deeper as it is almost always associated with developmental or behavioral problems like depression.

Obsessive compulsive disorder:
Although a treatable disorder, studies have indicated that people with this disorder often suffer unnecessarily for years. This is mainly due to the fact that people with OCD try to hide their condition due to fear of embarrassment or stigma. Combined with low awareness programs, many people refrain from seeking help until the symptoms worsen. This severe anxiety disorder is characterized by repetitive thoughts and ideas leading to both obsessions and compulsions. A very common misconception associated with this condition is that it occurs to weak-minded individuals with poor upbringing, but this is not the case. OCDs can occur to individuals from any sector of the society.

Presently, Schizophrenia affects around 1 percent of the world's population. Even then, it is probably one of the most misunderstood mental ailments in the world today. Major symptoms of this complex debilitating condition include problems paying attention, social isolation, hallucinations and rigid postures. Many people with Schizophrenia also have problems separating fantasy from reality. Hence, it is essential to seek medical help as early as possible. Common myths perpetuated in television shows about this condition include schizophrenics have split personalities, all people with this condition are dangerous and that they will never get better. On the contrary, experts state that such people do get better in time with proper medical care.

Eating disorders:
Every other day, we hear of a famous celebrity or supermodel suffering from anorexia, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder. Yet, no one knows exactly how these disorders are caused and which section of society is at risk. While, we often tend to believe that eating disorders occur only in women, surveys indicate that many men are also dealing with them. Largely misunderstood, many people believe that these conditions are nothing but means to attract attention from friends and family. This is a myth as it is often seen that people following such abnormal diet habits suffer from other mental conditions like depression and anxiety.

Bipolar disorder:
Common symptoms of this mental ailment include frequent changes in mood, functioning and energy. While the exact cause of bipolar disorder remains unknown, scientists maintain that it is treatable and manageable. Also known as manic depressive disorder, most people believe that the condition is just a dramatic term or a fancy name used to describe mood swings. However, the truth is that Bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition that has wrecked lives of many people. If these mood swings are not controlled in time, it can lead to deadly lifestyle choices and even attempts of suicide.

Autism is not a disease but a developmental disorder which typically occurs in the first three years of life. Such individuals face great difficulty in communicating with other people and relating to the social world. The main causes of misunderstanding autism are due to the lack of proper diagnosing modes and limited knowledge about the factors causing the ailment.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD):
According to Joyce Burland, Director, NAMI Education, "there is perhaps no serious mental illness more maligned and misconstrued than borderline personality disorder." Truly enough, the agony and stigma associated with this complex and challenging mental illness is far beyond our understanding. Characterized by recurrent suicidal behaviors, fear of abandonment and frequent mood shifts; BPD diagnosis is often found to be missed or ignored. The main cause of misunderstanding associated with this condition manifests itself in hundreds of different ways in different people.

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