Mental illness gets bad rep

Nov 272005
Authors: Kristen Majors

Six subtypes of Adjustment Disorder

1. Depressed mood – symptoms include feeling depressed, tearful and hopeless; person no longer takes pleasure in the things he or she used to enjoy

2. Anxiety – symptoms include nervousness, worry, inability to concentrate, difficulty with memory and feeling overwhelmed

3. Mixed anxiety and depressed mood – symptoms fit both the above types of adjustment disorder.

4. Disturbance of conduct – marked by behavioral problems including violence and impulsive behavior. Children and adolescents may skip school, vandalize property and fight

5. Mixed disturbances of emotion and conduct – depression, anxiety and behavioral problems are all experienced by the suffering person

6. Unspecified – symptoms that do not fit the other subtypes are included in this category.


More than a quarter of college students enter college with a diagnosable mental illness, but only about one-third of those students seek treatment.

Dr. Kathleen McKinney , a therapist at the University Counseling Center (UCC), said this is probably because of the "fear of being labeled as weird or a 'freak.'" She said these students are then likely to turn to alcohol or other substances to deal with their problems.

McKinney hopes to rid this negative labeling on campus. She recently brought Active Minds, a national organization, to CSU.

"It's an advocacy education and awareness organization strictly devoted to reducing the stigma around mental illness," she said.

The program offers speakers, movie nights and discussion groups to educate students and faculty about mental health issues and "spread the word about the counseling services and what's available out in the community as well," McKinney said.

The group does not replace counseling services for students with mental illness, but hopes to help provide prevention techniques and promote wellness on campus.

Jackie Nguyen, outreach coordinator at the UCC , said the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in CSU students is adjustment disorder. The UCC diagnoses approximately 25 percent of the people who come in seeking help with this mental illness.

The Medline Plus Web site defines adjustment disorder as "an abnormal and excessive reaction to a life stressor, such as starting school, getting divorced or grief."

The illness is marked by symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder, but can be traced to a specific life event. Symptoms usually begin within three months of the event and always interfere with daily life.

Nguyen said a person experiencing depression will "typically exhibit symptoms of depressed mood, tearfulness, crying spells and hopelessness." Anxious mood, nervousness and worried feelings accompany anxiety. Sometimes depressive and anxious symptoms plague a person with adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorder, unlike most other mental illnesses, is not a chemical imbalance. It is difficult to predict who will suffer from this illness, but Nguyen said that "the later in life you experience the symptoms of adjustment disorder, the more likely you'll be able to return to your pre-functioning state."

In most cases, doctors don't prescribe medication to treat adjustment disorder. Psychiatrist Hermann Moreno from Mountain Crest Regional Behavioral Healthcare Center, 4601 Corbett Dr., said a person suffering from adjustment disorder would be medicated if it had been determined that he or she did not have an addictive personality and was in need of symptom relief.

"The thought is that if it is truly only an adjustment disorder, then the person's coping skills and supportive environment and a number of other things are going to help them bounce back on their own," Moreno said. "Medications are safer than they've ever been, but they're not entirely safe."

Psychiatrists use therapy to treat patients rather than prescription drugs because of the possible danger associated with medication.

The UCC offers treatment for mental illness, including different types of therapies like stress management, relaxation techniques and problem solving training. If, after assessment, a patient is thought to need a form of medication for his or her mental illness, the person is referred to a psychiatrist at Hartshorn Health Service.

"It's important to seek treatment for mental illness because typically the condition will only get worse over time," Nguyen said. "If it's left untreated and gets worse, it takes more time and resources to be able to treat it."

Nguyen said research shows combining counseling and medication is the "gold standard" in effectively treating most mental illness.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.