Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
September 1, 2022
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, races, religions, and genders. It is a problem that has been around for centuries, but only recently have we begun to understand it deeper.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, we strongly recommend seeking professional help as soon as possible.

In this article, we will discuss what mental disorders are, how they are diagnosed, and some of the most common symptoms. 

We will also talk about brain fog and its relationship to psychological disorders.

Let’s get started.

What is a mental illness, exactly?

Mental illness is a general term that covers a wide range of mental health conditions. Some mental disorders can be mild, while others are more severe.

Psychological disorders are usually characterized by mood, thinking, and behavior changes. These changes can interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, school, or at home.

Types of Mental Health Disorder

There are four main types of mental health disorders, such as:

  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders

Mood Disorders

Mood disorder is a general term that covers a group of conditions that affect a person’s mood. The most common mood disorders are depression and bipolar disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and unease. The most common of these mental health disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are characterized by unhealthy eating habits that can lead to serious health problems. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Substance Abuse Disorders

Substance abuse disorder is a general term that covers a group of conditions involving substance misuse. The most common substance abuse disorders are alcohol use disorder and drug use disorder.

Thinking about mental illness can be scary, but it is important to remember that help is available. Mental disorders are treatable, and many people with mental health disorders live full and happy lives.

What causes mental disorders?

The cause of a mental health problem is not fully understood, but studies show that it could be a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Your genes and family history

You are more likely to develop a mental health disorder if you have a family member with a mental disorder. This could be due to genes or shared environmental factors, such as exposure to stress or trauma.

Your brain structure and function

Certain changes in the brain have been linked to mental health problems. For example, people with depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion.

Your life experiences

Traumatic or stressful life events, such as abuse, neglect, or the death of a loved one, can trigger mental health problems.

Your environment

Factors such as poverty, social isolation, and exposure to violence can increase the risk of mental illness.

Psychological factors

Cognitive, behavioral, and emotional factors can contribute to mental illness. For example, negative thinking patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, can lead to depression.

Traumatic brain injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can increase the risk of developing a mental illness, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental Illnesses that Have Brain Fog as a Symptom

There are many mental disorders that can cause brain fog, but the most common are the following:

Depression

Depression is a mental illness that is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue. Brain fog is a common symptom of depression, and it can make it difficult to concentrate, remember things, and make decisions.

Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Appetite changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How to Manage

If you think you might be depressed, it is essential to see a doctor or mental health professional. Depression is a treatable condition, and there are many effective treatments available. The most common treatments for depression are medication, therapy, and self-care.

Also, some coping strategies that you can do at home include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Doing things you enjoy
  • Connecting with friends and family that are healthy for your mental health.

Anxiety Disorders

These mental health disorders are a group of mental illnesses that are characterized by fear, worry, and stress.

There are many different types of these mental health disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Brain fog is a common symptom of anxiety disorders, and it can make it difficult to focus, recall important details, or think clearly.

Symptoms

  • feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • being easily fatigued
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • having an increased heart rate
  • breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • feeling unreal or detached from yourself.

How to Manage

It is critical to see a doctor or mental health professional if you believe that you have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are common and treatable conditions. There are many effective treatments available, so there’s no need to suffer in silence. Reach out for help from a specialist to get started on the road to recovery.

Some helpful coping strategies to do at home are:

  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings.

People with bipolar disorder can experience periods of mania, where they feel excessively happy and energized, and periods of depression, where they feel sad and hopeless.

Brain fog is a common symptom of bipolar disorder, particularly during the depressive phase.

Symptoms

During mania, a person with bipolar disorder may experience:

  • feeling excessively happy or “high.”
  • having a decreased need for sleep
  • talking more than usual
  • feeling like your thoughts are racing
  • being easily distracted
  • engaging in risky behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, or reckless driving.

During the depressive phase, a person with bipolar disorder may experience:

  • feeling sad or “low.”
  • loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
  • insomnia or sleeping too much
  • appetite changes.

How to Manage

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that requires treatment. If you think you might have bipolar disorder, it is important to see a doctor or mental health professional.

There are many effective treatments available for bipolar disorder, so there’s no need to suffer in silence. The most common treatments are medication, therapy, and self-care.

Some helpful coping strategies that you can do at home include:

  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental illness that is characterized by problems with focus, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Brain fog is a common symptom of ADHD, and it can make it difficult to concentrate, pay attention, or remember things.

Symptoms

The symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • being easily distracted
  • having difficulty focusing on one task
  • being impulsive
  • acting without thinking
  • being hyperactive.

How to Manage

ADHD can be managed in a few ways: medication, therapy, and self-care.

Here are some helpful coping techniques that you may use at home:

  • Sticking to a regular routine
  • Breaking tasks into smaller parts
  • Using a planner or calendar
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting screen time.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a car accident, or military combat.

Some people may have complex PTSD, which is a more severe form of the disorder that can develop after experiencing long-term or repeated trauma, such as child abuse or domestic violence.

Many people with PTSD experience brain fog, which can include problems with concentration, memory, and decision-making.

Symptoms

The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • intrusive thoughts or memories of the trauma
  • avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
  • negative changes in your beliefs and feelings
  • constantly feeling on edge.

How to Manage

PTSD is a serious mental illness that requires treatment. Some effective treatments for PTSD include medication, therapy, and self-care.

Some helpful coping strategies that you can do at home to manage your symptoms include:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that is characterized by obsessions and compulsions.

Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or urges that cause anxiety. Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental rituals that you feel compelled to do in order to reduce your anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes significant brain fog, which can make it difficult to focus, recall information, or make decisions.

Symptoms

The symptoms of OCD can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • intrusive thoughts or images
  • avoiding things that trigger your obsessions
  • performing compulsions
  • feeling anxious or stressed
  • having difficulty concentrating.

How to Manage

Although often dismissed as a personality quirk, OCD is a real and severe mental illness that responds best to treatment, including medication, therapy, and self-care.

A few home remedies that might help alleviate your symptoms include:

  • Identifying and avoiding your triggers
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet.

Paranoia

Paranoia is a mental illness that is characterized by suspicious or distrustful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

People with paranoia often feel like they are being watched, followed, or plotted against. They may also have delusions, which are false beliefs that are not based on reality.

Paranoia can cause brain fog, making it difficult to think clearly, filter thoughts, and make decisions.

Symptoms

The symptoms of paranoia can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • distrustful or suspicious thoughts
  • delusions
  • feelings of being watched or followed
  • irrational fear or anxiety.

How to Manage

Paranoia is a debilitating mental illness, but there are several treatments that can help, including medication, therapy, and self-care.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider utilizing some of these at-home coping strategies:

  • Keeping a diary
  • Questioning and challenging your paranoid thoughts
  • Looking for support around you
  • Learning to relax
  • Looking after yourself with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking.

People with schizophrenia often have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is not. They may see or hear things that others do not or believe things that are not based on reality.

Brain fog is a side effect of schizophrenia that can make it difficult to think rationally or come to logical conclusions.

Symptoms

The symptoms of schizophrenia can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disordered thinking
  • inability to concentrate.

How to Manage

Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. Some effective treatments include medication, therapy, and self-care.

If you’re struggling with schizophrenia, consider using some of these coping mechanisms:

  • Identifying your triggers
  • Avoiding stressful situations
  • Sticking to a routine
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that are characterized by disruptions in consciousness, memory, identity, and perception.

There are several types of dissociative disorders, such as:

Dissociative Amnesia

It involves not being able to remember details from stressful or traumatic experiences. This can manifest as having no memory at all of the event, but it can also include only partially remembering what happened.

Dissociative Fugue

A disorder where people often lose their memories, and in some cases, they may even create new identities as they have no recollection of their past or who they are.

Depersonalization Derealization Disorder

Having depersonalization means feeling disconnected from your body or thoughts. It’s like watching someone else live their life and not feeling like it’s really happening to you. You might not even recognize yourself when you look in the mirror.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Where two or more distinct personalities coexist in the same individual without the knowledge of their existence, it’s also known as multiple personality disorder.

People with dissociative disorders often feel disconnected from themselves or their surroundings. They may also have difficulty recalling certain memories or information.

Dissociative disorders can cause brain fog, making it difficult to think clearly, focus, or remember things.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dissociative disorders can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

  • disruptions in consciousness
  • memory loss
  • identity confusion
  • perceptual changes.

How to Manage

Dissociative disorders are complex mental illnesses, but there are treatments that can help. Some effective treatments include medication, therapy, and self-care.

If you’re struggling with a dissociative disorder, consider utilizing some of these coping strategies:

  • Learning to ground yourself
  • Engaging your senses
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating healthy
  • Being kind to yourself

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are mental illnesses that are characterized by an abnormal relationship with food.

There are a few types of eating disorders, such as:

Anorexia Nervosa

An eating disorder that is characterized by weight loss, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image.

Bulimia Nervosa

An eating disorder that is characterized by binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise.

Binge Eating Disorder

An eating disorder that is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating without any compensatory behaviors.

People with eating disorders often have a distorted body image and may see themselves as being overweight even when they are not. This can lead to extreme weight loss or gain as they try to achieve their ideal body type.

Eating disorders can cause brain fog, making it difficult to think clearly or make decisions.

Symptoms

The symptoms of eating disorders can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

How to Manage

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses, but there are treatments that can help. Some effective treatments include medication, therapy, and self-care.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, consider utilizing some of these coping strategies:

  • Meal prepping
  • Eating regular meals
  • Avoiding trigger foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Building a support system.

That’s a Wrap!

We hope this beginner’s guide has helped you better understand mental illnesses and brain fog. Remember, if you’re struggling with a mental illness, there are treatments that can help. You are not alone. Reach out to a therapist or counselor today for more support.

If you want to learn more about beating brain fog and improving your overall brain health, check out our plethora of helpful resources on our blog.

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