Extended Technical Definition


Mental Illness Defined

Bartol (2008) defines mental illness to be “a disorder of the mind that is judged by experts to interfere substantially with a person’s ability to cope with life on a daily basis.” Mental illness is manifested in a person’s behavior that seems to significantly digress from normal behavior. Mental illness, or mental disorder, is different from mental retardation. Mental retardation is a cognitive disability that is incurable. The terms mental illness and mental disorder can be used interchangeably. Doctors and Psychologists tend to use the term mental illness where in the criminal justice system; the term mental disorder is preferred. (Bartol, 2008)

Mental disorders can be evidenced in a variety of behaviors. They may be dangerous and harmful like the person who walks into a business establishment with the intent to kill all employees because they have been trained by the devil. Or the behavior could be completely harmless like the person who freezes mid stride while walking down the street and stays in that position for several minutes. (Bartol, 2008). Morse (1978) as sited in Bartol (2008) uses the term “crazy behavior” which is characterized as behavior that is strange and cannot be logically explained. There are four types of mental disorders as discussed below.

Types of Mental Disorders

Schizophrenic Disorder

There are four types of mental disorders. The first is schizophrenic disorder. Schizophrenia is the disorder that the public most often associates with Morse’s description of “crazy behavior”. The fourth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) summarizes five characteristics of schizophrenia:

1. Delusions (false beliefs about the world)

2. Hallucinations (sensing or perceiving things that others do not)

3. Disorganized speech

4. Grossly disorganized behavior

5. Inappropriate affect

At least two of these behaviors must be apparent in order for a person to be diagnosed schizophrenic and there must also be incessant indicators of symptoms for at least six months. (Bartol, 2008)

Types of Schizophrenia

There are five types of schizophrenia. Disorganized type is manifested by flat, inappropriate, or silly emotional responses and disorganized thought patterns. Catatonic type is represented by extreme disruptions in muscular and voluntary movement such as senseless repetition of words or phrases or even periods of being completely silent. They may even assume a bizarre position for long periods of time. Paranoid type is symptomized by delusions and hallucinations. This type of schizophrenia is the most often represented in criminal behavior. Undifferentiated type is characterized by psychotic symptoms that can’t be classified into any of the previous types of schizophrenia. The last type is Residual type in which a person has had one schizophrenic episode with signs that schizophrenic symptoms are continuing to be manifest by this person. (Bartol, 2008)

Delusional Disorder

The next type of mental disorder is classified as delusional disorders. This type of disorder is sometimes called paranoid disorder. It is characterized by nonbizarre delusions that are present for at least one month. It is important that these delusions are nonbizarre as bizarre delusions are a sign of schizophrenia rather than delusional disorder. (Bartol, 2008)

Depressive Disorders

The third category of mental disorders is known as depressive disorders. Symptoms of depressive disorders include an extreme depression that lasts for at least two weeks. This depressed state must be accompanied by a slowdown of mental and physical activity as well as gloom, despair, and frequent thoughts of suicide. It is believed that depression may be strongly associated with delinquency (Kovacs, 1996; Obiedallah & Earls, 1999; Teplin, 2000, as cited in Bartol, 2008) and it is believed to play a significant role in mass murders.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is the fourth type of mental disorder and it is characterized by mothers who kill their children. It is broken down into three categories. Postpartum blues is the most common. It is portrayed by anxiety, crying spells, and rapid mood changes. The symptoms of postpartum blues may last for a few hours to a maximum of two weeks after delivery. The second category of postpartum depression is labeled as such. Its symptoms include disinterest in the newborn child, loss of appetite, fatigue, and thoughts of suicide and occur during the weeks and months after childbirth. The third type of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis and is regarded as a severe mental disorder. The symptoms are similar to serious bipolar depression.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder (APD) is the fifth and last type of mental disorder to be discussed. The criterion to be considered for APD closely resembles the Robert Hare definition of a psychopath. Three of the following seven behavioral patterns must be present to be considered APD.

1. Failure to conform to social norms or criminal laws

2. Irritability and aggressiveness

3. Irresponsibility

4. Impulsiveness

5. Deceitfulness

6. Recklessness to self or others

7. Lack of remorse

Additionally, the person must be eighteen years old and have exhibited symptoms of conduct disorder prior to the age of fifteen. (Bartol, 2008)

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