How to Diagnose and Treat Common Mental Illnesses

Diagnose and Treat Common Mental Illnesses

“Mental disorder” is a catch-all phrase for any condition that affects how you think, feel, and behave – often to the point of impairing function. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association lists hundreds of them in its latest edition, each with its own unique symptoms or diagnostic criteria.

Before we admit patients into our care, Roots Through Recovery uses these guidelines to diagnose which type of mental illness a person has. From there, we can identify what kind of treatment works best for their mental health.

Diagnosis of the Most Common Types of Mental Illness

Mental illnesses with similar symptoms are grouped into categories. Depending on which category a patient falls under, it gives us a general picture of their day-to-day experiences – as well as how to best deal with them.

According to the updated version of DSM-5 there are 19 types of mental disorders. Roots Through Recovery offers treatment programs for:

  • Substance-related disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Trauma-related disorders

Our mental health facility also provides specialized care for people with co-occurring mental disorders.

1. Substance Use Disorders

Psychoactive substances refer to any substance that affects mental functioning. These include alcohol, anti-anxiety medications, cannabis, hallucinogens, hypnotics, opioids, sedatives, and stimulants. When abused, they can lead to substance use disorders such as alcohol abuse and drug addiction.

Each type of drug is associated with certain behavioral and physical symptoms. However, there are three main symptoms to watch out for in substance abuse:

  • Tolerance or the decreasing responsiveness to a drug. As a person’s tolerance increases, they will feel less of its effects. It prompts them to gradually increase their dose, which can then lead to drug dependence.
  • Dependence or the need to constantly use an addictive substance. This is in spite of its negative impact on their physical and mental health, as well as its consequences on their work, relationships, and social lives.
  • A withdrawal phase which arises whenever a user attempts to quit after becoming dependent to a drug. During withdrawal, a user will experience unpleasant symptoms, including craving for the abused drug.

How is Substance Abuse Diagnosed?

Substance use disorders can be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. Lab tests can help check for drug use. But to properly evaluate for substance abuse, mental health professionals rely on the DSM-5.

2. Depressive Disorders

Depressive disorders are defined by a persistent and pervasive sadness. The feeling can be so intense that it interferes with a person’s daily function.

There are two major types of depressive disorders:

  • Major depression where a person will feel sad throughout most of the day and symptoms are present almost every day for at least 2 weeks. It can occur once in a person’s life, although some people experience several episodes.
  • Persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia where symptoms can last for at least two years. People who have it will experience alternating episodes of major depression and depression with less severe symptoms.

How is Depression Diagnosed?

Depression is mainly diagnosed by a psychiatrist, although some facilities may employ the assistance of other health professionals. Regardless of who is involved, the following tests are usually performed:

  • Psychological evaluation. An interview and/or a questionnaire can assess for symptoms of depression.
  • Physical exam. It rules out the possibility that symptoms are caused by other health conditions.
  • Laboratory tests. The presence of hormonal imbalances, alcohol, or drugs suggest that doctors need to check for thyroid problems, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders.

The DSM-5 also states that a person must have at least five or more of these symptoms before they can be diagnosed with depression:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Significant decrease in pleasure or interest in activities
  • Sudden changes in weight and appetite
  • Feeling tired and sleeping more often
  • Feeling worthless and blaming one’s self often
  • Slowed thinking and decreased physical activity
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts and plans, or having attempted suicide

3. Anxiety Disorders

Feeling anxious once in a while is normal. But if it persists and gets worse with time, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Like all other types of mental illness, it can impair your ability to function.

Some types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) which is characterized by excessive worrying over one’s health, social interactions, work, and other personal circumstances. Its symptoms last for at least six months and are severe enough to negatively affect one’s life.
  • Panic disorder where a person experiences frequent and recurrent “panic attacks” or sudden periods of intense fear. Each panic attack lasts for several minutes. It can be triggered by an event or a feared object, though it can also happen unexpectedly.
  • Phobias such as agoraphobia and social phobia are classified as anxiety disorders. The hallmark of phobia-related disorders is an intense but irrational fear and aversion to objects or situations which pose no actual threat or danger.

How is Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

The DSM-5 provides a diagnostic criteria for each type of anxiety disorder. Doctors use them to make a diagnosis, but they may also perform a physical exam, lab tests, and a psychological evaluation to make sure that no other conditions are causing the anxiety disorder.

4. Trauma-Related Disorders

These are mental illnesses that result from an extremely stressful and traumatic event such as physical or emotional abuse, an accident, sexual assault, war, and other forms of violence. A few examples are post-traumatic stress disorder and childhood trauma.

People with trauma-related disorders will continue to feel an intense fear long after a traumatic event has ended. Whenever they are exposed to a person, object, or situation that reminds them of their experience, they will appear shaken and distraught, or they may react violently.

Other signs of trauma-related disorders include:

  • Anxiety
  • Night terrors
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings

How is Trauma Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose trauma by exposing the individual to their triggers and observing for signs of mental and emotional distress. The diagnostic criteria for trauma-related disorders are outlined in the DSM-5.

Treating Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Mental illnesses can occur independently of one another, or they can occur simultaneously. When a person suffers from both substance abuse and mental illness, it is called dual diagnosis.

At Roots Through Recovery, we can provide various therapies and programs for:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Childhood and adult trauma
  • Drug abuse and addiction
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Dual diagnosis disorders

By providing specialized care for your condition, we can ensure the best possible care. You can learn more by visiting our mental health treatment center in South Bay located at at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or calling us at (866) 766-8776 .

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