Disorders & Issues Articles & Resources

Imogen Sharma
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor

Ad Disclosure: Some of our recommendations, including BetterHelp, are also affiliates, and as such we may receive compensation from them if you choose to purchase products or services through the links provided

What are Disorders & Issues?

With average life expectancy rising, it's inevitable that an increasing number of people will experience mental and medical disorders and issues in their lifetimes. (1) Life issues, illnesses, and diseases can affect the body, thoughts, emotions, and behavior and make daily life more challenging. Although many transmittable diseases can now easily be treated or healed, the abundant, fast-paced, and high-stimulation society people live in has seen an increase in noncommunicable diseases. (2) 

The number of adolescents and adults reporting mental disorders is increasing. (3) Plus, lifestyle-related medical disorders are the largest global cause of mortality, accounting for 74% of all deaths. (4) These types of disorders and issues are highly complex and interrelated, and lifestyle is a primary risk factor in their occurrence. 

The convenience, choice, and freedom that come with modern life put people at a higher risk of physical and mental disorders. While genes and environment are risk factors for any illness, individuals and families can play a major role in reducing their chances of developing a mental or physical disorder. By seeking treatment and making gradual lifestyle shifts, people with a diagnosis can manage or reduce their symptoms. (5)


Mental Disorders

Diagnosing a mental disorder is complex. (6) Unlike a broken bone or viral infection, it isn't possible to take an X-ray or a sample to confirm someone has a psychological illness. Medical professionals must use their extensive specialized knowledge of various symptoms and the patient's self-description to reach a conclusion. As such, getting a diagnosis for a mental disorder often requires patience and persistence.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve an obsessive preoccupation with weight, food consumption, and body image. (7) They negatively impact daily life and harm the individual's physical and mental health. Examples include:

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are characterized by disproportionate levels of worry and fear regarding future events. (8) Individuals with the following conditions have difficulty functioning in daily life because of their symptoms:

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders impact an estimated 21% of adults in the United States. (9) Affected individuals experience severe and persistent disturbances to their moods that hinder their ability to work, go to school, and have healthy relationships. Some mood conditions include:

Psychotic Disorders

Psychosis is an inability to separate reality from imagination that's usually caused by extreme stress, viruses, and changes in brain functioning. (10) Psychotic disorders include:

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders result from abnormal brain development and affect communication, cognition, and behavior. (11) They include:

Trauma-Related Disorders

Distress and trauma present psychological symptoms, but they have a physical impact on the brain and central nervous system. (12) The changes they make can make daily life difficult for those with the condition. Below are some trauma-related disorders:

Impulse Control Disorders

Impulse control disorders cause people to act in unwanted ways and cause disruption to their own or other people's lives. (13) Here are some examples:

Substance Use and Addictive Disorders

Substance use disorders and behavioral addictions involve continuing to habitually take substances or engage in risky behaviors, despite negative outcomes. Some common addictive disorders include:

Personality Disorders

People with personality disorders have markedly different experiences of the world compared to average people. They think, feel, and relate to others in chronically unhealthy ways that impede their experience of daily life. Some examples are:

Medical Disorders

Medical disorders often develop over time as a result of a range of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Unlike communicable diseases, they aren't contagious and can't be passed from one person to another in the same way as viral or bacterial infections. (14) However, they're often at least partly hereditary—and lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing them are highly heritable. (15)

Heart Disease 

Heart disease is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that affect the heart, and it's the leading cause of death in the United States and globally. (16) High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and tobacco use are the leading risk factors. Coronary artery disease, in which the arteries that transport blood to the heart and brain are narrowed, is the most common type of heart disease. 


Cancer is a group of illnesses characterized by unhealthy cell growth, and it's the second-leading cause of death behind heart disease in the United States. (17) Around 90% of cancer cases are attributed to environmental and lifestyle factors, including tobacco, alcohol, poor diet, sun exposure, environmental pollution, infections, obesity, and physical inactivity. (18) 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is the third-leading cause of death globally and is thought to be preventable for many people. (19) People with the illness have narrowed airways and struggle to carry out day-to-day activities due to breathlessness. 

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can't produce enough insulin to effectively manage blood sugar. (20) It's one of the leading causes of heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and stroke. A person can prevent or delay the disease with medication, regular physical activity, and a healthy diet, as well as avoiding tobacco.

Neurodegenerative Disorders

Neurodegenerative disorders are diseases of the brain characterized by a decline in cognitive abilities. (21) Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are other types.  


A stroke is caused by a blockage that hinders blood supply to the brain or a burst blood vessel in the brain. (22) Blood delivers oxygen to the brain and facilitates speech, movements, memories, thoughts, and emotions. Lack of oxygen causes brain cells to die within minutes, which results in a stroke.  

Wellness & Personal Development

Wellness encompasses the steps a person takes to maintain good health and stave off physical and mental disorders. The more an individual focuses on the personal development of health-promoting habits, the easier it is to avoid mental and medical disorders. (23)

Even someone who grew up in a household where smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress were commonplace can learn new habits and reduce their risk of developing chronic illness. However, overhauling an entire lifestyle isn't easy and often requires professional help. A coach or counselor can help with:

  • Learning how to eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Getting motivated to do regular exercise that feels good 
  • Quitting smoking, drinking excessively, or using substances
  • Journaling to stay in touch with emotions and help with the upkeep of new habits
  • Nurturing positive relationships  

Life Issues

Mental illness impacts almost one in five Americans, but everyone will experience a problem in their life at some point. (24) People with a mental or medical disorder might be more vulnerable to their symptoms when they experience stress related to life issues. Examples include:

  • Relationship problems, such as divorce, infidelity, and loss of friendships
  • Financial issues, such as debt, overspending, and job loss
  • Mental health issues
  • Health issues
  • Bereavement

The philosophy of lifespan development encourages people to view themselves as being in a continual state of development from birth to older age. By learning about the milestones everyone goes through—and potential hurdles along the way—individuals are better prepared for the future. 


The first step for anyone concerned they may have any type of disorder is to reach out to a healthcare professional. After diagnosis, they can help patients devise a treatment plan that might include:

  • Physical therapy: In cases of heart disease, stroke, or cancer, physical therapy might be necessary. The human brain and body are capable of astounding feats of healing, and many people can regain full function following a major illness, provided they work hard.
  • PsychotherapyCognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, emotion-focused therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy are examples of evidence-based therapeutic approaches used by mental health professionals. 
  • MedicationPhysical and mental disorders might require the use of medication to help manage symptoms.
  • Rehab: In some cases, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation might be the best solution. 

Treatments & Interventions

In addition to self-care, wellness, and healthcare, a number of complementary and alternative approaches show promise in helping people manage the symptoms of illness. Here are some popular complementary therapies:

  • Acupuncture
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Aromatherapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Massage
  • Tai chi
  • Meditation 
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness
  • Music and art therapy
  • Visualization 

Getting diagnosed with a medical or mental disorder can be distressing and disorienting, and it can make people with existing conditions feel overwhelmed. Although it's challenging, there's no other time when practicing self-care and healthy habits are more important. Taking time to focus on the long-term benefits of eating well, getting plenty of exercise, and connecting socially can help people resist the urge to resort to unhealthy but familiar behaviors.