Mental illness looks different for everyone, even among people with the same condition. For example, one person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may only battle nightmares and occasional anxiety in the months or years following a traumatic event. Another person with a similar traumatic event may have nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia and debilitating anxiety. One person with bipolar disorder may have mild and more gradual shifts in their mood, while another has intense periods of mania that are more quickly followed by severe depressive episodes.
The one thing all mental illnesses have in common is that they can significantly impact a person’s overall quality of life. Depending on the specific condition, you may see impacts on your:
- Family life
- Ability to maintain friendships
- Diet or food habits
- Sleep habits
- Ability to distinguish reality from fiction
- Sex drive or ability to engage in intimacy
This is far from an inclusive list. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, one question is most likely foremost in your mind: Can mental illness be cured?
Can Mental Illness Be Cured?
In most instances, “curing” a mental illness doesn’t mean the same as curing a cold. When you cure a cold, it goes away permanently — or at least until you catch another virus. But mental disorders don’t usually work that way.
Can you cure mental illness in this context? Rarely.
A cure to mental illnesses most often means symptoms are being successfully managed through medication, therapy and other treatments. In this context, you’d be “cured” of your mental health disorder when the symptoms no longer interfere with your life.
Can disorders be cured in this second context? Almost always.
Mental Illnesses That Can Be Cured
A few forms of mental illness can be cured in the traditional sense. These include:
- Drug-induced schizophrenia. This mental illness shows all the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia but is directly caused by taking an illicit substance. Often, people will be completely cured within a few weeks of ceasing the drug that caused their symptoms.
- Brief psychotic disorder. This generally happens after a traumatic event but is different from PTSD. Instead of ongoing symptoms, hallucinations and delusions are short-lived and sometimes disappear within a month.
- Postpartum depression/anxiety. This only affects women who’ve recently given birth or, in some cases, suffered a miscarriage late in their pregnancy. Symptoms can be severe but will almost always subside within 1 to 2 years of giving birth.
Mental Illnesses That Require Lifelong Management
Most mental illnesses require lifelong management through therapy, training, medications, lifestyle changes and general support. Although this list isn’t exhaustive, a few mental illnesses that require lifelong management (and what that looks like) are discussed below.
Extreme mood swings between mania and depression characterize bipolar disorder. During manic episodes, people have lots of energy and feel very happy or excitable. Conversely, during depressive episodes, people may feel sad or have little to no motivation. These mood shifts occur in cycles lasting for days, weeks, months or (more rarely) years.
Management for bipolar disorder will generally include a mood-stabilizing medication like benzodiazepines. Medication may also include a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), anticonvulsant or antipsychotic. Psychoeducation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and support groups are also beneficial. If you have bipolar disorder, you may also find it helpful to keep a journal to track your mood cycles.
Depression is a mental illness characterized by ongoing low moods or feelings of loss. In men, depression sometimes presents with intense episodes of anger, while some people also state that depression feels like a lack of emotion rather than sadness. Although the cause of depression isn’t known, experts believe that genetics, a brain chemical imbalance, traumatic experiences and faulty mood regulation in the brain could all contribute.
Depression management generally includes an SSRI, which may sometimes be paired with a mood stabilizer. CBT, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy have been shown to help manage depression symptoms.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, each with its own symptoms. Examples include panic attack disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and other specific phobias. However, the one symptom all anxiety disorders share is that they revolve around fear or worry.
These disorders are often treated with individual therapies, support groups and antianxiety medications. SSRIs and exposure therapy may also be used in some instances.
Schizophrenia is a disorder that alters the way a person feels, thinks and acts by distorting their perception of reality. In other words, people with schizophrenia have difficulty distinguishing between their hallucinations or delusions and the real world. Those with untreated schizophrenia are at a high risk for psychosis, which is a complete break from reality.
Those with schizophrenia will always require medications, which most often include antipsychotics but may sometimes include SSRIs or antianxiety medications. CBT, family therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may also be helpful.
The most commonly known eating disorders include anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is characterized by dangerously low body weight and a fear of eating that coincides with a distorted perception of the physical self. Bulimia is characterized by binge eating episodes followed by purging through vomiting, fasting, laxatives or other methods.
Treatment can be complex, but cognitive behavioral therapy is very effective in changing how people with eating disorders view food. Medications for anxiety may also be used.
A Brief List of Other Mental Health Illnesses Requiring Ongoing Management
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Impulse control disorder
- Body dysmorphic disorder
- Personality disorders
- Dissociative disorder
Seek Help Today for Your Mental Illness
Mental illness can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being. Regardless of whether your condition is curable, it’s essential to seek help and get the support you need. At Restore Mental Health, we understand the impact of mental illness and how important treatment in a supportive, compassionate environment is. Take the first step on the road to mental well-being and contact us today.