Psychology: What does it involve?
A study published in 2015 by the Malaysian Ministry of Health identified that mental disorders in adults were about 29% prevalent in the country. (Source: NCBI)
With lives getting stressful, the occurrence of psychological disorders is increasing by the day. Let us learn more about these disorders and their classification.
What is psychology?
Psychology involves an integrated study of the human mind and behaviour, and its response to circumstances. Psychology makes use of various branches of science, including medical science and social science. It combines psychological theory and clinical practice to relieve/prevent various mental health conditions.
Psychological treatment (also known as psychotherapy) is carried out by specialists who talk to a patient about their thought, emotional and mental concerns, and traumas. These specialists are called psychologists.
Various factors may influence a person’s mental health. These include:
- Relationship issues
- Living conditions
- Childhood / past traumas
- Fears and phobias
Depending on a patient's requirement, psychology uses specialised techniques like psychotherapy, meditation, hypnotic therapy, relaxation techniques, and counselling.
Psychologists often work closely with psychiatrists, who prescribe the necessary medications that a patient may need along with psychotherapy.
What do psychologists do?
These professionals help diagnose and treat various psychological disorders and mental health diseases in patients. Clinical psychologists are often trained in various techniques like counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, group therapy.
Common psychological conditions and symptoms
Following are some of the most notable psychological conditions that require specialised help:
This is one of the most frequently occurring mental health conditions.
A study done by NCBI on depression and anxiety in the Malaysian population during Covid 19 (third wave) showed that 25.1% of participants had severe, whereas 18.7% had mild depressive symptoms. (Source: NCBI).
Common symptoms include:
- Persistently feeling sad, worthless, low, fatigued.
- Lack of interest in day-to-day activities.
- Increased/decreased appetite for no reason.
- Sleep pattern changes like insomnia.
- Changes in speech.
- Slowed movements.
- Suicidal or death-related thoughts.
- Poor concentration.
Left untreated, it may progress to acute depression and may need multiple treatment methodologies like counselling, therapy, and medication.
It may be noted that certain medical conditions like a deficiency in vitamins, hormonal imbalance, brain tumours, etc may also be the cause of depression.
It is defined as a feeling of fear or panic that is hard to get over and interferes with day-to-day decision-making and work performance. Anxiety disorders have been broadly classified as:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
The exact cause for anxiety to get beyond normal levels in people is unknown. However, reasons like traumatic childhood events, family history of mental health disorders, and having some health conditions could increase the risk.
Identifying signs include:
- Rapid heartbeat and palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden and unexpected behavioural changes
A thinking pattern that is unhealthy and affects a person’s normal social functioning may fall under a personality disorder. These may impact the daily functioning, decision-making, and relationships of the affected people.
Different personality disorders show different symptoms. However, often, the symptoms may be confusing and hard to classify under one disease. It is recommended to visit a psychologist if you or your loved one is suspected of having a personality disorder.
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Being suspicious of others
- Distrust over others' loyalty
- Imagining that others may try to harm you
- Exaggerated reactions on normal remarks
- Holding on to grudges and past incidences
- Complete lack of interest in socialising or personal relationships
- Poor ability to express or understand emotions
- Inability to understand social cues
- Liking to be alone all the time
- Inability to manage relationships
- Constant mood swings
- Sudden outbursts of anger
- Fear of abandonment
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal tendencies
- Eating disorders
- Impulsive behaviour
- Extreme behaviour like wanting things to be extremely tidy, perfectionism to unrealistic standards, excess focus on order and rules
- Dominating and controlling nature
- Inability to get rid of useless objects
- Inability to freely enjoy in a fun environment
- Stubbornness in thoughts
- Keeping peculiar beliefs
- Perceiving to believe non-existent voices
- Extreme social anxiety
- Inability to understand emotions
Other than these, there are various other classifications of personality disorders like Avoidant personality disorder, Narcissistic personality disorder, Dependent personality disorder.
Addictions happen when there is an extreme response towards a substance use or a particular behaviour. It is a chronic brain condition and can be attributed to genes, emotional state, or even environmental conditions.
Substance addictions include those towards alcohol, caffeine, or certain drugs that give a high. Behavioural addictions include gambling, video gaming, certain sexual behaviours etc.
Notable signs are:
- Denial or not accepting an addiction
- Not being able to understand the harms even after seeing
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Giving priority to the addiction over emotions of family/friends
- Lack of interest in day-to-day activities.
- Inability to think normally
- Sudden anger and agitation when the addiction need is not met
These disorders are characterised by sudden and impulsive outbursts or aggressive behaviour that is not proportionate to the situation. Road rage, throwing objects, frequent indulgence in physical fights are some examples.
Mental conditions that lead to unhealthy eating habits are classified as eating disorders. Some common ones include:
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Rumination disorder
- Purging disorder
- Night eating syndrome
Signs and symptoms include:
- Unhealthy weight (overweight/underweight)
- Unhealthy eating pattern
- Excess worry on gaining/losing weight
- Binge eating
- Indulging in purging behaviour
- Secret eating
- Nutritional deficiency
This is a condition that is triggered in some people who’ve witnessed a particularly traumatic event. It may start within a few days of the event or much later in life.
- Frequent nightmares
- Uncontrolled emotions
- Terrifying memories
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Avoiding certain people, places, activities
- Poor self-esteem
- Lack of interest in day-to-day activities
- Being easily startled
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Trouble concentrating
- Frequent temper outbursts
This is mostly a state of worry that one is unable to control with reason. It can be short-term (acute stress) or long-term (chronic stress).
Chronic stress conditions may show symptoms like:
- Poor memory
- Feeling unwell
- Headaches and neck pain
- Stiff jaw or teeth clenching
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Eating disorders
- Weight loss/gain
Diagnosis and screening for psychological conditions
Psychologists usually start by talking casually to a patient (or, in some cases, their loved ones) to understand their mental state. This is sometimes done through specifically tailored questions. Other diagnostic techniques may include tests to rule out a physical health condition, and tests for screening drugs.
Treatment options for psychological conditions
Psychologists use various treatment techniques (or a combination of a few) to treat a patient. The treatment may differ on a case-to-case basis.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
- Emotion-focused therapy (EFT)
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
- Mentalization-based therapy
- Creative arts therapy
- Play therapy
- Relationship counselling
- Motivational talks
Make an appointment at Gleneagles Hospitals
Psychological disorders have often been considered a taboo topic for discussion. Most patients (and even their loved ones) avoid disclosing these issues to a doctor, which causes the problem to develop into a chronic condition.
It is advisable to consult your psychologist when the symptoms are mild. Overall, there needs to be an acceptance that psychological issues are normal and treatable through the right approach.
Make an appointment with a psychologist at your nearest Gleneagles Hospital.
Mental disorders in Malaysia, Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8554924/#:~:text=The%20burden%20of%20mental%20disorders,%25%20CI%2027.9%E2%80%9330.5).&text=This%20is%20a%20threefold%20increase,prevalence%20rate%20identified%20in%201996 [Accessed on 26 February 2022]
Mental disorders, WHO, Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders [Accessed on 26 February 2022]
Mental illness, symptoms, and causes, Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968 [Accessed on 26 February 2022]