What is mental illness?

Mental difficulties such as anxiety and depression may be normal reactions to a stressful life situation and are often temporary. It is important not to pathologise normal reactions in life, while at the same time early identification of psychiatric conditions may have a positive effect on their prognosis.

Mental health according to WHO

The scope of the concept of mental health is debated among researchers. One consistent factor is that there are several dimensions of well-being, such as emotional, psychological and social well-being. According to the WHO definition, mental health is a state of mental well-being where each individual can realise his or her opportunities, cope with normal strains, work productively and contribute to the society in which he or she lives. Mental health thus encompasses something more than the absence of mental illness, involving both the individual’s experience and the relationship between the individual and the social context in which he or she lives.

Mental health and mental illness may occur simultaneously

The definitions of mental health are less clear, but most agree that it is something other than the absence of mental illness. Mental health is described as a condition in which multiple dimensions of the individual’s existence function well, so that the individual feels happiness and is comfortable with himself or herself, with others and in relation to society. Mental health and mental illness may occur simultaneously in the same person according to some researchers

How is mental illness diagnosed?

Serious mental illness is a psychiatric condition that manifests itself in a disorder that can be verified on the basis of various diagnostic criteria. One such diagnostic system is the WHO International Classification of Diseases. Another widely-used diagnostic system is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), issued by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The DSM manuals are clinically important outside the US as well, but officially the ICD is the tool used to establish diagnoses in the Swedish healthcare system.