Mental disorders: a challenge for society


Following their widespread diffusion, mental disorders have an increasing incidence in modern society and represent an ever greater challenge that the national public health system is called to face. Despite this, to date, they still do not receive the attention they deserve in public opinion, in the world of work and within the family. It is not uncommon for the sufferer to be blamed for their ailment or even considered lazy or irresponsible.

This is because mental illness is often perceived as less real and is, in most cases, much less recognized than physical illness.

The spread of mental disorders is characterized by some peculiar data:

First, the high frequency in the general population, regardless of age, social class or cultural background.
It is associated with significant levels of impaired personal functioning such as, for example, difficulty in carrying out daily activities, in the workplace, in interpersonal and family relationships.
Finally, it almost always represents a high social and economic cost for those affected and their families (Tansella and De Girolamo).

How mental disorders appear

Given the underlying causes, mental disorders appear in several ways. Most of them are characterized by two fundamental aspects:

the emotional suffering which is an integral part of the disorder. An example is the anxiety and panic that accompany agoraphobia;
the consequences of the disorder which are usually interpersonal and cause suffering to the patient. For example, it may happen that an individual suffering from social anxiety can limit, and often even completely avoid, the opportunities for meeting and relating with others.

Many mental disorders are also due to hereditary factors for which they tend to arise in already predisposed subjects. Added to this is the interaction with environmental factors.
The alarming data in Italy

A recent Istat survey

“Health conditions and use of health services” in 2013, carried out on a widely representative sample of 72,476 individuals aged between 18 and 64 years, highlighted a very significant incidence of depressive disorders and disorders of ‘anxiety. These disorders are the most common in the general population, affecting people on a personal, relational and working level. According to this analysis, at the national level, the percentage of subjects who have a high probability of presenting anxious and / or depressive disorders is 14.

8%. It should be noted that although the incidence is high in all regions, there are still large regional variations: from 9.6% of the Bolzano PA to 18.5% of the Marche. Applying this percentage to the general Italian adult population, we obtain an overall figure that exceeds five million people. A figure, therefore, far higher than that which spontaneously refers to suffering from other diseases that are important to public health, such as, for example, diabetes and ulcers.

The most common psychological disorders

In this section, some of the most common disorders are presented, divided by age group and, for each of them, the psychotherapeutic treatment of choice is indicated (according to guidelines and / or research data).

Adult ailments

  • Most of the symptoms related to mental health appear in adolescence or, in any case, around the age of twenty. In other cases, the genetic component affects. Below, we will analyze the most frequent:
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessions are thoughts that disturb the mind in OCD. Hands full of germs are one of the crazes of OCD.
  • Eating disorders: characterized by wrong eating habits, they can be common among women as well as men. These include: anorexia and bulimia but also binge eating.
  • Depression (major depressive disorder): about 15 out of 100 people suffer from it, regardless of age or sex. Symptoms need to be analyzed very carefully.
  • Dysthymia: or dysthymic disorder is a mood disorder. We can define dysthymia a chronic depression that is milder in symptoms than major depression but prolonged over time.
  • Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia: consists of a state of intense fear that reaches its peak within ten minutes, characterized by the often unexpected appearance of very unpleasant physical symptoms due to the activation of the sympathetic system and catastrophic thoughts (fear of dying , to go mad, faint).
  • Personality disorders: they constitute relatively inflexible ways of perceiving, reacting and relating to other people and events; such modalities heavily reduce the possibility of the subject to have effective and satisfying social relationships for himself and for others.


Tic disorder and tourette syndrome: The average age of onset is 5 years, although more than 40% of subjects develop the first symptoms at an earlier age. Complex tics generally appear later than simple tics, as vocal tics usually follow motor tics.

School phobia: When we talk about school phobia (school refusal) we refer to a disorder in which the level of anxiety and fear of going and staying in school are such as to significantly compromise regular school attendance and cause short-term sequelae. and long term.

Attention deficit and hyperactivity: it is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders and occurs, in early childhood, mainly with two classes of symptoms: an evident level of inattention and a series of behaviors that denote hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Attachment disorders: the characteristics of early attachment play a crucial role in determining protective conditions or in representing risk factors for psychopathological development in childhood.



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