Difference Between Mental Illness and Mental Disorder

Mental Illness vs Mental Disorder

Mental illness and mental disorder are two words that are used interchangeably to define the same thing. But some can argue that there is a difference between the two words depending on the basis of the definition. In the normal day to day use, there is absolutely no issue if we use one instead of the other. But in legal and medical terms there may be certain incidents where the difference matters.

Mental Illness

“Ill” as we all know is an abnormal state of our functioning. When the mind fails to function in the normal pattern and when there is clearly visible change in the thinking ability, expression, and behavior due to a condition related to mind, we identify it as a mental illness. However mental retardation is not taken under this category because it is treated as a disability rather than a sickness. A person who is mentally ill can have various reasons to become one. Difficulty in maintaining interpersonal relationships, traumatic experiences, various physical injuries and accidents, alcoholism, and drug abuse are very common reasons as to why people become mentally ill. These can be seen as potential threats to cause chemical imbalances in neurotransmitter chemicals, in the brain and so on, where the end result is a mental illness.

To identify a mentally ill person there is a common set of symptoms to be looked for; intense anxiety, noticeable personality changes over time, disorganized thinking, difficulty in reasoning and decision making, extreme highs and lows in mood, denial of help, suicidal and self harm thoughts.

Mental Disorder

Mental disorder holds a slight difference compared to mental illness. A mental disorder is defined by a unique set of characteristic behaviors and reasons related; therefore, it is more defined. By looking at a person’s behavior one can come to an assumption “this person is mentally ill” but it may not be the case in mental disorder and his behavior change may be temporary. One cannot come in to a conclusion if a person has a mental disorder because you need to be specific and name “which mental disorder”, and this analysis requires expertise in the field of psychology and psychiatry. The classification of mental disorders is according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM – IV) by American Psychiatric Association.

Mental disorders related to anxiety are phobias, panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and etc. There are also conditions like mood disorders, bipolar disorder, and major depression. Some are associated with belief and perception of reality. Schizophrenia and delusional are the famous ones causing hallucinations and delusions. There are also personality disorders such as borderline, anti social, dependent, and so on. Eating disorders, sleeping disorders, substance use disorders, and sexual and gender identity disorders are also very commonly occurring mental disorders. Some of these could be dealt only with psychological counseling and therapy, but some require medical attention and medication.

What is the difference between Mental Illness and Mental Disorder?

• Mental illness and mental disorder are terms that can be used interchangeably.

• However, it is arguable that mental illness is less defined than mental disorder because mental disorder is defined by a unique set of symptoms and causes.