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There’s often confusion around different mental health conditions. Yet, mental health is just as important as physical health. Figures from the Mental Health Foundation show that one in six people over the past week will have experienced a mental health condition. Although it might not be as clear to the eye, there are many people out there struggling.
Educating ourselves on these different conditions helps us to improve our understanding of mental health and support others who need it. This is why we’ve put together an easy-to-understand A-Z guide on the most common mental health conditions.
Remember—if you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. You’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support if you need it.
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness and unease. It’s the bodies response to stress, so most people will feel anxiety from time to time when they face difficult situations. But when these worries begin to affect different areas of life in the long term, it could be a sign of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD causes feelings of anxiety about a range of different circumstances or problems.
GAD can cause changes in behaviours and thought processes. Symptoms include:
• Concentration problems
• Feelings of unease
• A withdrawal from social connections and events
Everyone experiences changes in mood. But for people with bipolar disorder, these mood changes can be drastic and have a big impact on their overall life. Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood episodes that can quickly swing from depression (feelings of hopelessness) to mania (feelings of intense energy or euphoria).
Bipolar is a condition of two extremes. So symptoms may vary depending on the phase a person is in. Here are some common symptoms:
• Swinging between high and low moods in a short period
• Experiencing symptoms of mania and depression at the same time
Body dysmorphic disorder causes feelings of anxiety about appearance and body image. It’s a mental health condition where people become excessively worried about perceived flaws in their physical appearance and spend a lot of time comparing their looks with others. In some cases, BDD can also lead to depression, self-harm and thoughts of suicide.
BDD can affect work life, social life, and relationships. Common symptoms include:
• Spending a lot of time worrying about perceived flaws in appearance
• Persistently trying to conceal flaws
• Skin picking
• Avoiding or continuously checking mirrors
Borderline personality disorder is one of the most common types of personality disorder. It affects mood and how a person thinks, behaves and interacts with others. Many people with this condition have other mental health or behaviour problems too. It’s suggested that the condition is caused by contributing genetic and environmental factors. Most people with BPD have suffered from some kind of trauma and neglect.
The symptoms of borderline personality disorder can range in intensity. They fall into four different areas:
• Emotional instability
• Disturbed patterns of thinking
• Intense yet unstable relationships
• Impulsive behaviours
Depression is an extended period of low mood that lasts for a few weeks or months. Depression has a range of symptoms that can differ between people. There are mild, moderate and severe types of depression. The condition can range from suicidal thoughts and a loss of enjoyment of everyday activities that makes daily life a struggle.
• Feeling down, upset or tearful
• Avoiding social events and activities
• Physical aches and pains
• Finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
There are a range of different dissociative disorders. These disorders cause people to feel disconnected from their thoughts, emotions, and the world around them. They can sometimes occur after a traumatic event as a coping mechanism of the mind. Many people with dissociative disorders also experience other mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder.
• Struggling with your identity
• Experiencing the world around you as lifeless and distant
• Feeling like you’re looking at yourself from the outside
• Problems remembering personal information
Eating disorders affect mental health and relationship with food. People with an eating disorder use food to cope with emotions and difficulties. There are a range of eating disorders that affect people differently. These include (this list isn’t exhaustive):
Anorexia – controlling food intake and exercising a lot to keep weight as low as possible.
Bulimia – a cycle of binging then taking drastic action not to put on weight (such as vomiting).
Binge Eating Disorder – eating large quantities of food to the point of feeling uncomfortably full and experiencing shame or guilt about the binge.
Different eating disorders come with different symptoms. But things to look out for include:
• Spending a lot of time worrying about your weight
• Avoiding socialising around food
• Changes in mood such as feeling anxious or depressed
This mental health condition is a rare form of child abuse. It causes parents or carers to exaggerate illness symptoms in the child and try to convince medical professionals that the condition is worse than it is.
Fabricated or induced illness causes behavioural changes in the parent or caregiver including:
• Persuading healthcare professionals their child is ill
• Exaggerating or lying about a child’s symptoms
• Manipulating a child’s test results
• Deliberately inducing symptoms of illness
A hoarding disorder is when someone collects items to an excessive extent that starts to interfere with their life and relationships. People with a hoarding disorder might not always realise that it’s causing a problem. Hoarding becomes a problem when the clutter interferes with everyday living and causes significant distress in relationships.
People with a hoarding disorder typically:
• Find it difficult to manage everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning
• Struggle to make decisions
• Problems maintaining relationships with family or friends
• Have difficulties categorising items
This mental health condition causes a person to pretend to be ill, or deliberately induce symptoms of illness in themselves. Typically, the reason for this behaviour is to receive the care and attention of others.
The condition causes behavioural changes including:
• Purposely trying to get ill
• Pretending to have physical symptoms such as stomach pain or sickness
• Pretending to have physical symptoms like hearing voices or hallucinations
OCD causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours that can interfere with day-to-day life. The condition can affect men, women and children, and it usually starts to develop after puberty in early adulthood.
• Frequent unwanted pleasant thoughts
• A compulsion to act out a repetitive behaviour to relive unpleasant feelings
• Relationship intrusive thoughts
• Violent intrusive thoughts
This is an anxiety disorder that causes regular attacks of panic or fear. These feelings can cause someone to feel anxious, stressed and panicked most of the time without any apparent reason. These feelings can also cause regular unexpected panic attacks and interfere with daily life.
• Regular panic attacks
• Fearing that you might have another panic attack
• A Racing heart, sweating and difficulty breathing
• An overwhelming sense of terror
Personality disorders cause someone to think, feel and behave differently than most people. The most common is borderline personality disorder, which we mentioned earlier. But there are a variety of disorders that fall into three types: suspicious, emotional and impulsive and anxious.
There are different types of personality disorders. So symptoms can vary depending upon what type you have. An example is antisocial personality disorder which causes people to:
Phobias cause people to feel intense and overwhelming fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. These feelings can be very intense and are more exaggerated than normal fears—often to a debilitating extent. A phobia may cause someone to avoid the thing causing the anxiety, leading to a restricted life with excessive stress.
Because a phobia is caused by a specific trigger, the symptoms might not occur until you are in the presence of this trigger.
• Trembling or shaking
• Breathing difficulties
Postnatal depression is a common problem that affects more than one in ten women—and some men too. It’s a kind of depression that affects many parents, and it can occur at any time in the first year after birth. Many parents experience the baby blues after giving birth, but if these feelings continue for longer than two weeks, it could be postnatal depression you’re dealing with.
The symptoms of postnatal depression include:
• Cutting off contact with other people
• Distressing thoughts – that could be to do with harming the baby
• A persistent low mood
• Lack of energy and feeling drained all of the time
Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental condition that requires urgent medical attention to protect the mother and the baby. It’s a serious mental illness that occurs within the first two weeks after birth and sometimes almost immediately. The condition affects around one in 500 mothers after they give birth.
It’s important to reach out to your GP or 111 as soon as you notice the below symptoms:
• Rapidly changing moods from manic to extreme lows
• Extreme confusion
• Delusions and hallucinations
• Feeling fearful or suspicious
This mental health condition develops because of a traumatic event. It’s common for people to experience PTSD symptoms after a traumatic event, but these symptoms pass with time for many.
When symptoms last longer than a month, a diagnosis for PTSD might then be given. You may notice that these feelings start to interrupt everyday aspects of your life, including keeping up relationships, sex drive and work life. There are different types of PTSD, including delayed-onset PTSD, complex PTSD, and birth trauma.
Everyone’s experience of PTSD will be different. But here are some common symptoms:
• Intrusive thoughts, feelings, and vivid flashbacks
• Disturbed sleep patterns
• Feeling numb and unable to remember the details of the event
• Feeling unsafe and untrusting of others
Psychosis causes someone to lose touch with reality. Someone with psychosis may experience psychotic episodes where they suffer from the symptoms. It’s important to seek help for psychosis as early as possible. A medical professional can help you understand potential reasons for your psychosis.
Psychosis has two main symptoms. The combination of these two symptoms can lead to severe distress and erratic behaviour. These are:
Hallucinations – seeing, hearing or tasting things that aren’t there. These feelings often feel very real to the affected person.
Delusions – holding strong beliefs that aren’t shared by others.
Schizophrenia causes someone to struggle to distinguish their thoughts from reality. It’s a long-term condition that is sometimes described as a kind of psychosis. Schizophrenia does not cause someone to be violent or have a split personality. It’s believed that the condition is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. But it can also be triggered by stressful life events and drug misuse.
• Avoiding friends and family
• Confusing thoughts based on hallucinations or delusions
• Losing interest in daily life
• Delusions and hallucinations
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months (although it can sometimes affect people during the summer too). It’s suggested that the condition stems from a lack of sunlight during the winter months that may affect the production of melatonin and serotonin.
• Not enjoying things you normally do
• Feeling down for extended periods
• Problems sleeping and feeling tired during the day
Although stress isn’t a mental health condition itself, it is closely linked to many mental health problems. Long-term stress can increase the risk of mental health problems—and it can also make existing problems worse. Stress can affect someone physically, mentally and emotionally. Because of this, it's important to pay attention to the role that stress plays in your life and look out for signs when they occur.
Physical symptoms: headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, stomach problems
Mental symptoms: concentration problems, feeling overwhelmed, finding it difficult to make decisions
Behavioural symptoms: irritability, problems sleeping, eating too much or little, drinking and smoking more
Trichotillomania is a condition that causes someone to feel an intense urge to pull out their hair. This can be hair on the head, eyebrows and eyelashes. It tends to occur more in teenagers and young adults. Trichotillomania can be a way of dealing with stress or anxiety and may occur as a result of hormone changes during puberty.
• An intense urge to pull out hair on the head or body
• A sense of relief after pulling the hair out
• Hair pulling in response to a stressful situation
• Feelings of low self-esteem and embarrassment about the hair pulling
This information has been adapted from the NHS website.
If you think you or someone you know is struggling with any of the above conditions, we’d recommend reaching out to your GP as soon as possible. They can help you access the support you need.
If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact the Health Assured 24/7 confidential helpline.
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