Types of Mental Health Problems

It’s important to note that mental health conditions don’t mean you or your family did something “wrong.” With the right treatment plan—often a combination of medication and psychotherapy—you can lead a healthy, happy life.

Just like the weather, your mental health can go through bright bursts of positivity and darker days of despair. The types of mental health problems include:

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders include depression and bipolar disorder. They are the most common mental health disorders and a leading cause of disability. People with mood disorders have periods of low and high emotional response that affect their everyday functioning. Mood disorders may also lead to disruptive behavior, such as aggression and irritability.

Most people have some ups and downs in their mood, but if you experience significant changes that affect your quality of life, talk to a Mercy primary care provider or mental health professional about getting help. It’s important to get help as early as possible to reduce symptoms and the impact on your daily life.

There is no single cause of mood disorders, but they appear to be the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Various factors, such as difficult life events, family history, childhood abuse and medication use may contribute to their development. Most people with mood disorders respond to treatment. Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics can decrease symptoms. Therapy helps people learn to recognize warning signs of a manic or depressive episode, develop coping skills and stick to their medication schedule.

Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of anxiety disorders include extreme fear and worry, which can interfere with daily activities. They often affect sleep, eating and mood. They can also cause physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, muscle tension and trouble concentrating.

Anxiety disorders can be caused by genetics, childhood experiences and environmental factors. They can be difficult to diagnose, but treatment is available. Initially, doctors will rule out an underlying medical condition as the source of the symptoms. Once they have done this, they may refer a person to a mental health professional for an evaluation.

Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can help reduce anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches different ways of thinking, behaving and reacting to help people feel less anxious. It sometimes includes exposure therapy, which aims to get people to face their fears. Another type of talk therapy is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which offers a more flexible approach to negative thoughts than CBT. Medications can also relieve anxiety symptoms. They are most often antidepressants, such as SSRIs (escitalopram and fluoxetine) and SNRIs (duloxetine and venlafaxine). Other medications can be used to treat specific anxiety disorders.

Psychotic Disorders

A psychotic disorder causes a break with reality and involves hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thinking. It can occur alone or with other mental health conditions and can affect people of all ages. It can be very frightening and distressing for the person affected. It’s estimated that about 3 in 100 people will have an episode of psychosis at some point in their lives.

The most common type of psychotic disorder is schizophrenia. It’s characterized by delusions, which are false beliefs, and hallucinations, which are hearing or seeing things that don’t exist. It also includes unusual physical behavior and disorganized speech.

If you suspect someone has a psychotic disorder, talk to their GP. They will be able to refer them to a specialist for a diagnosis.

Support programs or care can also help people with psychotic disorders. This can make it easier for them to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. They may also benefit from medications, which can help restore normal brain functioning and improve their ability to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect both the body and the mind. These conditions can be deadly. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide, heart problems, and brain damage. They also have a high rate of comorbidity with depression and anxiety.

People with eating disorders have obsessive and distorted thoughts about food. They may eat too little or too much, and they may use compensatory behaviours such as forced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting to avoid weight gain. They also often have a distorted sense of their bodies.

These conditions can be found in people from all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, certain groups are more likely to have difficulty accessing services. These include people involved in the criminal justice system; homeless or precariously housed people; children and young people; and people who misuse drugs and alcohol. Stigma and a lack of understanding about mental illness contribute to these barriers. People need to understand that mental health conditions are real, treatable and not related to a person’s character or intelligence.

Personality Disorders

Often, people with personality disorders don’t realize that they have a problem. Their thoughts and behaviours feel natural to them. They may only seek help because of problems in relationships and work or because they are suffering from other mental health symptoms.

Personality disorders are characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, thinking and inner experience that deviate from those commonly accepted within a person’s culture. They are defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Personality disorders can include paranoid personality disorder where a person feels suspicious of others for no reason and believes that people are trying to harm them; schizoid personality disorder where a person has little interest in having close relationships and behaves strangely; and borderline personality disorder where people have intense emotions that change quickly, worry about being abandoned and act impulsively. Personality disorders can be difficult to treat. Changing inappropriate behaviours or thoughts typically takes a lot of time, usually more than a year, and requires individual psychotherapy.

Trauma-Related Disorders

Many people experience stress and anxiety as a result of traumatic events. However, these reactions do not necessarily indicate a mental health disorder. It’s important to get support from family and friends if you are feeling distressed, and seek therapy from an experienced therapist. This can help you to learn healthy coping skills and reduce your symptoms.

Trauma is a complex issue, and everyone responds to trauma differently. Some people may show clear criteria for PTSD, while others will display resilient responses or brief subclinical consequences that fall outside diagnostic criteria.

Some of the most common trauma-related disorders are PTSD, acute stress disorder, and dissociative disorders. These disorders share similar features, including dysphoria (a general sense of unease or dissatisfaction), irritability, numbness, and difficulty sleeping. However, they differ in how long the symptoms last and their severity. For example, PTSD lasts more than one month, while acute stress disorder is less severe and typically occurs after an event that causes significant psychological distress. Lastly, dissociative disorders are characterized by the absence of a conscious connection between your feelings and your body’s functions.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are conditions that cause changes in thinking, feelings, language, and physical abilities like movement and coordination. They usually start during childhood and can last into adulthood.

They are characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can include intellectual disability, communication disorders, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia. Symptoms vary between these disorders and may include difficulty picking up on social cues, poor communication skills, problems with motor functions, and even odd behaviors such as repetitive movements or grunting.

The causes of neurodevelopmental disorders are unknown, but they can be the result of genetics or environmental factors such as low birth weight, prenatal alcohol and drug exposure, and fetal trauma. Boys tend to be at higher risk for these disorders compared with girls.

Treatment options for neurodevelopmental disorders include behavior therapy, psychotherapy, and medications. Behavioral therapy can help individuals feel more in control of their behaviors as they learn to identify and challenge unhelpful patterns. Psychotherapy can also be very effective for those with neurodevelopmental disorders as it helps them learn to recognize and handle emotions and thoughts that are contributing to their symptoms.


Mental health disorders are medical conditions that disrupt your thinking, mood and feelings, and how you relate to others. They can also make it hard to do daily tasks. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD.

These disorders affect people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, wealth or education. They can cause all kinds of problems, from difficulty sleeping and eating to hallucinations or loss of touch with reality.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes mental illness, but they do know that certain things increase the risk of having one. These include genetics and how your brain works, as well as your life experiences and social environment.

Many people with mental health problems find relief through treatment. This includes psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. Some people find complementary and alternative treatments helpful as well. People with serious mental illness are more likely to have other medical illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They are also at higher risk for suicide. It’s important to get help when you have warning signs of a mental health problem, like extreme sadness or unusually strong emotions.

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