Disclaimer: This list is for educational purposes only and is not to be used to self diagnose any condition listed. If you feel while reading this that you may have one of these conditions, please consult a Dr or a trained specialist.
Mental Health Problems – Introduction
In many ways, mental health is just like physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.
Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you’re frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.
Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. Anger only becomes a problem when it gets out of control and harms you or people around you. This can happen when:
- you regularly express your anger through unhelpful or destructive behaviour
- your anger is having a negative impact on your overall mental and physical health
- anger becomes your go-to emotion, blocking out your ability to feel other emotions
- you haven’t developed healthy ways to express your anger
How you behave when you’re angry depends on how well you’re able to identify and cope with your feelings, and how you’ve learned to express them.
Not everyone expresses anger in the same way. For example, some unhelpful ways you may have learned to express anger include:
- Outward aggression and violence – such as shouting, swearing, slamming doors, hitting or throwing things and being physically violent or verbally abusive and threatening towards others.
- Inward aggression – such as telling yourself that you hate yourself, denying yourself your basic needs (like food, or things that might make you happy), cutting yourself off from the world and self-harming.
- Non-violent or passive aggression – such as ignoring people or refusing to speak to them, refusing to do tasks, or deliberately doing things poorly, late or at the last possible minute, and being sarcastic or sulky while not saying anything explicitly aggressive or angry.
Anxiety is what we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – particularly about things that are about to happen, or which we think could happen in the future. Anxiety is a natural human response when we perceive that we are under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.
Most people feel anxious at times. It’s particularly common to experience some anxiety while coping with stressful events or changes, especially if they could have a big impact on your life. (See our pages on managing stress for more information about stress.)
Bipolar disorder is a mental health problem that mainly affects your mood. If you have bipolar disorder, you are likely to have times where you experience:
- manic or hypomanic episodes (feeling high)
- depressive episodes (feeling low)
- potentially some psychotic symptoms during manic or depressed episodes
You might hear these different experiences referred to as mood states, and you can read more about them in our page on bipolar moods and symptoms.
Everyone has variations in their mood, but in bipolar disorder these changes can be very distressing and have a big impact on your life. You may feel that your high and low moods are extreme, and that swings in your mood are overwhelming.
Depending on the way you experience these mood states, and how severely they affect you, your doctor may diagnose you with a particular type of bipolar disorder.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder related to body image.
You might be given a diagnosis of BDD if you:
- experience obsessive worries about one or more perceived flaws in your physical appearance, and the flaw cannot be seen by others or appears very slight
- develop compulsive behaviours and routines, such as excessive use of mirrors or picking your skin, to deal with the worries you have about the way you look.
If you have BDD, these obsessions and behaviours cause emotional distress and have a significant impact on your ability to carry on with your day-to-day life. In this way, BDD is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
BDD can vary in severity from person to person and from day to day. For some of us, concerns around appearance may make it difficult to go out in public or see other people. This can have an impact on our work life and relationships with other people.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a type of personality disorder. You might be diagnosed with a personality disorder if you have difficulties with how you think and feel about yourself and other people, and are having problems in your life as a result.
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.
Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders
Many people may experience dissociation (dissociate) during their life.
If you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. For example, you may feel detached from your body or feel as though the world around you is unreal. Remember, everyone’s experience of dissociation is different.
Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event.
Experiences of dissociation can last for a relatively short time (hours or days) or for much longer (weeks or months).
If you dissociate for a long time, especially when you are young, you may develop a dissociative disorder. Instead of dissociation being something you experience for a short time it becomes a far more common experience, and is often the main way you deal with stressful experiences.
Drugs – Recreational Drugs & Alcohol
Recreational drugs are substances people may take:
- to give themselves a pleasurable experience
- to help them feel better if they are having a bad time
- because their friends are using them
- to see what it feels like.
They include alcohol, tobacco (nicotine), substances such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, and some prescribed medicines.
An eating problem is any relationship with food that you find difficult.
Food plays an important part in our lives and most of us will spend time thinking about what we eat. Sometimes we may try to eat more healthily, have cravings, eat more than usual or lose our appetite. Changing your eating habits every now and again is normal.
But if food and eating feels like it’s taking over your life then it may become a problem.
Lots of people think that if you have an eating problem you will be overweight or underweight, and that being a certain weight is always associated with a specific eating problem. This is a myth. Anyone, regardless of age, gender or weight, can be affected by eating problems.
We might say someone is ‘hearing voices’ if you hear a voice when no-one is present with you, or which other people with you cannot hear.
People have many different experiences of hearing voices. Some people don’t mind their voices or simply find them irritating or distracting, while others find them frightening or intrusive.
It’s common to think that if you hear voices you must have a mental health problem.
But research shows that lots of people hear voices and many of them are not mentally unwell. It’s a relatively common human experience.
Hoarding is acquiring or saving lots of things regardless of their value.
If you hoard, you might:
- have very strong positive feelings whenever you get more items
- feel very upset or anxious at the thought of throwing or giving things away
- find it very hard to decide what to keep or get rid of.
Hypomania and Mania
Hypomania and mania are periods of over-active and excited behaviour that can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life.
- Hypomania is a milder version of mania that lasts for a short period (usually a few days)
- Mania is a more severe form that lasts for a longer period (a week or more)
You might have hypomania and/or mania on their own or as part of some mental health problems – including bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, postpartum psychosis or schizoaffective disorder.
Some people find hypomania and mania enjoyable. Or you might find them very uncomfortable, distressing or unpleasant.
We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone’s experience of loneliness will be different.
One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. But loneliness is not always the same as being alone.
You may choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people, while others may find this a lonely experience.
Or you may have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family, and still feel lonely – especially if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has two main parts: obsessions and compulsions.
- Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. They can make you feel very anxious (although some people describe it as ‘mental discomfort’ rather than anxiety).
- Compulsions are repetitive activities that you do to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be something like repeatedly checking a door is locked, repeating a specific phrase in your head or checking how your body feels.
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement.
Paranoia is thinking and feeling like you are being threatened in some way, even if there is no evidence, or very little evidence, that you are. Paranoid thoughts can also be described as delusions. There are lots of different kinds of threat you might be scared and worried about.
Paranoid thoughts could also be exaggerated suspicions. For example, someone made a nasty comment about you once, and you believe that they are directing a hate campaign against you.
Our personality is the collection of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that makes each of us the individuals we are.
We don’t always think, feel and behave in exactly the same way – it depends on the situation we are in, the people with us and many other interconnecting factors.
However, if you experience significant difficulties in how you relate to yourself and others and have problems coping day to day, you may receive a diagnosis of personality disorder.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is an extreme form of fear or anxietytriggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or object (such as spiders), even when there is no danger.
Postnatal Depression & Perinatal Mental Health
A ‘perinatal’ mental health problem is one that you experience any time from becoming pregnant up to a year after you give birth.
Having a baby is a big life event. It’s natural to experience a range of emotions during pregnancy and after giving birth. But if any difficult feelings start to have a big effect on your day-to-day life, you might be experiencing a perinatal mental health problem.
This may be new mental health problem, or an episode of a problem you’ve experienced in the past.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which you may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. The condition was first recognised in war veterans and has been known by a variety of names, such as ‘shell shock’. But it’s not only diagnosed in soldiers – a wide range of traumatic experiences can cause PTSD.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can cause many emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before you start your period. It is sometimes referred to as ‘severe PMS’.
While many people who are able to have periods may experience some mild symptoms of PMS, if you have PMDD these symptoms are much worse and can have a serious impact on your life. Experiencing PMDD can make it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships. In some cases, it can also lead to suicidal thoughts.
Psychosis (also called a ‘psychotic experience’ or ‘psychotic episode’) is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to ‘lose touch’ with reality.
Some people have suggested that schizoaffective disorder sits in the middle of a continuum, with schizophrenia at one end and bipolar disorder at the other. However, schizoaffective disorder is recognised as a separate diagnosis to both schizophrenia and bipolar, despite sharing many similar symptoms.
You could be diagnosed with schizophrenia if you experience some of the following symptoms:
- a lack of interest in things
- feeling disconnected from your feelings
- difficulty concentrating
- wanting to avoid people
- hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things others don’t
- delusions (which could include paranoid delusions) – strong beliefs that others don’t share
- disorganised thinking and speech
- not wanting to look after yourself
Delusions and hallucinations are types of psychosis.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects your everyday life.
If you have SAD, you’ll experience depression during some seasons in particular, or because of certain types of weather.
Explains how to incSelf-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change.
Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences.
Everyone needs sleep, but many of us have problems with it. You might recognise some of the experiences listed below, or have other difficulties with sleep that aren’t mentioned here.
- find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up earlier than you’d like to.
- have problems that disturb your sleep, such as panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares or psychosis
- find it hard to wake up or get out of bed
- often feel tired or sleepy – this could be because you’re not sleeping enough, not getting good quality sleep or because of health problems
- sleep a lot – which could include sleeping at times when you want, or need, to be awake.
Explains what stress is, what might cause it and how it can affect you. There’s no medical definition of stress, and health care professionals often disagree over whether stress is the cause of problems or the result of them.
Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a condition where your face and/or body make sudden, jerky or slow twisting movements which you can’t control. It can develop as a side effect of medication, most commonly antipsychotic drugs.
Going through very stressful, frightening or distressing events is sometimes called trauma. When we talk about emotional or psychological trauma.