Different Mental Disorders and Their Challenges

There are numerous different mental disorders, and they all have their challenges. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the official guide to psychiatric disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (2013), contains 20 separate chapters listing and explaining nearly 300 different mental illnesses (List of Mental Illnesses). While all are different, all have something in common: the different mental disorders, each in its own way, create challenges. They disrupt life, interfere with functioning, cause emotional and/or physical pain, and generally create a great deal of distress.

Different Mental Disorders vs Distress

Indeed, all of the different mental disorders have unique challenges, but they share this important feature: they all cause impairment and distress. Distress, though, is common to everyone whether or not someone lives with mental illness. Perhaps it is this that leads often well-meaning people to say things like, "Why can't you just get over it?" Many people living with different mental disorders and all of their challenges find this question and, ultimately, the lack of understanding of mental illness by others, to be among the greatest struggles.

It's true that mental disorders aren't something that people can "just get over." All of the different mental illnesses go beyond ordinary distress in these ways:

  • mental disorders are internal to the person and are brain-based;
  • mental disorders cause significant harm and dysfunction, such as great personal suffering, relationship difficulties, an inability to work, and increased mortality risk.

The different mental disorders and their challenges also negatively affect these important areas of healthy functioning:

  • spirituality (not specific to religion, spirituality refers to personal values, beliefs, optimism, purpose, ethics, and inner peace)
  • self-regulation (a sense of self, mastery, worth, humor, creativity, physical health)
  • work
  • friendship
  • love

Different mental illnesses each have their challenges. Discover the general as well as unique challenges to different mental illnesses?

Challenges of Internalizing Mental Disorders

Some mental illnesses are considered to be internalizing disorders because the majority of their symptoms are projected inward against the person living with the mental illness. The different mental disorders in this category include such things as:

These mental illnesses have unique challenges. People living with internalizing mental disorders are at heightened risk of withdrawal from people and society, isolation, loneliness, poor self-concept and self-efficacy (the belief in oneself and one's ability to achieve goals).

Challenges of Externalizing Mental Disorders

Mental illnesses whose symptoms are expressed outwardly toward the world are referred to as externalizing disorders. These include, but aren't limited to:

Externalizing disorders involve social dysfunction and can wreak havoc on the person's life in a drastically different way than can the internalizing disorders. Those experiencing externalizing disorders often face social problems, legal problems, and contentious clashes at school, work, home, and any other place that is frequented.

All of the different mental disorders in all 20 disorder chapters in the DSM-5 have significant challenges that severely interfere in life and the healthy living of it.

Different Mental Disorders, Shared Challenges

As mentioned above, while different kinds of mental illness have unique challenges, they also have shared challenges. Whether someone experiences an internalizing disorder or an externalizing one, he or she often feels apart from the world, unwelcome both within him/herself and in society.

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all affected by the different mental disorders. Together, all of this is a perfect, swirling storm that increases the risk of suicide.

That is the biggest challenge of all among all of the different mental illnesses. While most people who experience mental illness don't die by suicide, suicidal ideation is common; further, more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (University of Washington, 2015).

Learning about mental illness and all of its facets, the different mental disorders and their challenges, can help reduce the challenges and increase functioning and wellness.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, October 23). Different Mental Disorders and Their Challenges, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: March 18, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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