Whats the difference between a mental health disorder and a mental illness?



Whats the difference between a mental health disorder and a mental illness?

In: Other


No offense to previous poster, but that’s not necessarily how I would describe it. From my perspective as a professional in the industry Mental illness would just be an overall state of being unwell mentally, where as mental health disorders are more specific and generally refer to a singular diagnosis from the DSM5. I also think the term mental illness sounds just a bit more like taboo or something for some reason. If I was speaking about a client of mine, I would never say that they are mentally ill, I would say they have a diagnosis of X. Yea, I think that saying someone is mentally Ill is just a bit old fashioned or something. I think I’d also like to add that mental health is dimensional not categorical. Almost all people are going to have some aspects of their mental health that can be improved or worked on. If you are a very rigid thinker and likes things done a certain way, we as a society just say that that person is “uptight, tightly wound, detail oriented, etc”. But if you can’t shut the refrigerator door unless everything is in its exact spot, then we might say “you have issues, anal retentive, controlling, etc”. Once that same issue begins to impact your ability to be successful in life, because for instance you can’t maintain a job or friendships/relationships, because you’re too focused on this other thing, then you have a diagnosable condition. You can meet all of the diagnostic criteria (kind of like symptoms) for a certain mental health diagnosis, but if you are not experiencing “clinically significant impairment in at least one major area of your life” then you don’t need to be “diagnosed”.

The way I see it, generally speaking even outside the field of mental conditions as a whole, illness is a general state of unwellness, while disorders actually impede your ability to function normally. For example, if you just have anxiety, that’s normal, everyone has it. If you have severe or chronic anxiety, then it becomes a mental illness. And if you have so much anxiety that it’s actually stopping you from interacting with others or going outside or eating, then it’s and anxiety disorder.

I think the term is used most often in the domain of mental illness though because unlike bodily issues which are most often acute, almost always impede your life in some way, and can very often be cured relatively quick with medication, mental illness is almost always chronic, and in most cases it is mild enough that it does not actually stop you from living and can usually only be controlled, not cured. So there, the distinction between illness and disorder is much more needed to disinguish between something you live with and something that stops you from actually living.