Whether you’re experiencing mental health problems or trying to support someone living with a mental health disorder, you might be looking for information that can help.
That’s why we’ve created this mental health information page — to give you a comprehensive overview of some of the common mental health disorders out there, including the main symptoms, causes and treatments for each.
For more general information about mental health, visit our ‘What is Mental Health?’ page first.
A mental health disorder (also known as mental illness) is a health condition that involves changes in emotion, thinking or behaviour. There are many different mental health disorders, and they have different symptoms that can impact peoples’ lives in different ways.
One in four adults and one in ten children experience mental illness during their lifetime. If you haven’t, then you will know and care for someone who has.
Mental health disorders are treatable and the vast majority of individuals with mental health disorders continue to live well and function in their daily lives.
There are many different types of mental illness, mental health problems, and disorders.
Below are some of the most common mental health problems and disorders:
This is not an exhaustive mental health disorders list, but it gives you a rough idea of the huge variety of mental health problems and disorders out there.
One in four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, and there are some mental health problems that are more common.
While people can experience mental illness or mental health problems in very different ways, most people will share common signs and symptoms which characterise and indicate a specific mental health disorder.
Learning more about these common mental health problems and their more typical symptoms might help you to feel more confident about facing a problem and getting help, whether that’s for you or someone close.
You can find out more about common disorders here, including causes of mental health, symptoms and treatments.
The term ‘anxiety’ is often used to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear.
We all experience these feelings at some point in our lives and it’s perfectly natural to do so, especially if you’re nervous about a certain situation, a big decision, or an upcoming event such as an exam or an interview. During these times, feeling anxious can be normal.
However, if you feel anxious all or most of the time, then you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder (where you will experience panic attacks), social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
We don’t know exactly what causes anxiety and panic attacks, but there are some factors that may trigger or cause anxiety:
Anxiety can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Anxiety disorders can have many physical and psychological symptoms, and what you experience may be different from what other people experience.
However, here are some of the more common physical symptoms of anxiety:
Here are some common psychological symptoms:
If anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress, then it’s a good idea to see your GP. They will ask you about your symptoms and your worries, fears and emotions to try to find out more.
They may suggest treatments that can help ease your symptoms. These include talking treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or medication — such as beta-blockers like Propranolol or a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
There are some things you can do for yourself to help with anxiety, such as breathing exercises, mindfulness and meditation, or keeping a diary. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can all help with anxiety.
Bipolar disorder — also known as bipolar affective disorder — is a mood disorder which can cause periods or episodes of extreme low (depressed) and extreme high (manic) moods.
People who have bipolar disorder may feel well and have periods of ‘normal’ mood between episodes of mania and depression. Each extreme episode can last for several weeks, or possibly even longer.
There are different types of bipolar disorder, including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia. Bipolar disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist.
Bipolar used to be called manic depression.
The cause of bipolar disorder is not clear, but it is thought to be a combination of different genetic and environmental factors.
Here are a few possible causes of bipolar:
The symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you're experiencing — either the low (depressive) or high (manic) episodes of the disorder.
Symptoms of mania/a manic episode can include:
Symptoms of depression/a depressive episode can include:
To be treated for bipolar disorder, you will need to be diagnosed first. You can only be diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist — not by your normal GP.
However, if you think you’re experiencing bipolar moods and symptoms, then discussing this with your GP is a good first step. They will be able to guide you through the next steps, referring you to a psychiatrist who will be able to assess you.
The exact combination of treatments you’re offered will depend on whether you’re trying to manage a current bipolar episode — either depressive or manic — or are looking to manage your mental health in the long term.
If you’re currently experiencing a high or low episode, you are likely to be offered medication. Medications like mood stabilisers are used to manage mania and depressive symptoms and can be used as part of a longer-term medication plan.
You might be offered a talking therapy such as CBT or interpersonal therapy that is specially designed for you and bipolar disorder.
The aim of treatment is to help you maintain stable moods and manage your symptoms well.
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, affecting millions of people across the world. Many of us will experience depression over the course of our lives and the likelihood that you know someone who has or has had depression is very high. A lot of people who have depression will also experience anxiety too.
We all have times when our mood is low and we're feeling sad about things in our lives. Usually, these feelings will pass. If these feelings don’t go away or are interfering with your life, then you may have depression.
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, affecting your everyday life to the point where it is hard or impossible to have fun or enjoy life, or to do everyday things.
We don’t know exactly what causes depression, but there are several ideas about causes of depression. This can vary between different people, and depression can be a result of a combination of different things. Some people find that they are depressed without an obvious reason.
Here are some possible causes of depression:
There are many different signs and symptoms of depression that people may experience. For some, these may be milder — you may feel low but will be able to live life as you normally would. For others, the symptoms of depression can be so severe that they are life-threatening because they can make the sufferer feel suicidal.
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression:
There are various treatments that have been found to help with depression.
Talk to your doctor if depression is affecting your day-to-day life and you feel unable to cope. They will ask you about your symptoms and your feelings to try to find out more, and then suggest one of the treatment options below:
Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude towards food. This can involve unhealthy thoughts, extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviours involving food, weight and body shape. This can lead to the person with the eating disorder changing their eating habits and behaviour, making unhealthy choices about food that can result in damage to their health.
There are a number of different types of eating disorders, including:
There are certain myths about eating disorders and who can be affected — lots of people think that this is typically a problem experienced by younger women, or that people who have eating disorders will either be overweight or underweight. It is worth remembering that anyone — regardless of gender, age or weight — can be affected by eating problems.
Eating disorders are often blamed on the social pressures to be thin or look a certain way — particularly in young people. This could come from social circles, family members or wider social influences like social media, magazines, celebrities or influential figures.
However, the causes are usually more complex and can include a number of different factors:
As you can see, there are many reasons and risk factors when it comes to why people have eating disorders and how eating disorders start.
Symptoms can vary between individuals and depending on the eating disorder you have. It is also possible to experience more than one eating disorder or to experience some symptoms from each disorder.
Here are some more common psychological symptoms of eating disorders:
Here are some of the physical symptoms that can happen as a result of various eating disorders:
The first step when it comes to how to treat eating disorders is to talk to your doctor. They will be able to refer you to more specialist services.
These services and treatments can help you develop balanced, healthy eating habits, as well as help you face the underlying issues which may be causing your eating problem.
Some typical treatments for eating disorders are online self-help programmes (you’ll receive support sessions alongside the programme to help you), talking treatments specifically for eating disorders such as CBT-ED (cognitive behavioural therapy for eating disorders), or family therapy (this is offered especially to younger people with anorexia).
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a mental health diagnosis given to someone who experiences obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.
People with OCD have repeated and constant thoughts or fears which are unwanted and unpleasant, causing feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease.
These disturbing and obsessive thoughts (known as ‘obsessions’) can cause sufferers to perform certain rituals or routines (known as ‘compulsions’) — a repetitive behaviour or act that the sufferer feels they need to carry out. This may temporarily relieve the unpleasant feelings and anxiety caused by the obsessive thought.
OCD symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people with OCD may find that their obsessions and compulsions are manageable and don’t impact their lives that much, but for others, OCD can completely take over and make day-to-day life extremely difficult.
We don’t know exactly what causes obsessive-compulsive disorder, but there are thought to be a few main factors linked to the condition developing:
None of these factors can really fully explain every individual’s experience of OCD, but research suggests that the above are likely to be involved in causing the condition.
OCD affects people differently, but there are some signs and symptoms to look out for, such as obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and compulsive behaviour (followed by a feeling of temporary relief before the cycle begins again).
Some common types of obsessive thoughts/obsessions include:
Some common types of compulsive behaviours/compulsions include:
People with OCD are often reluctant to seek treatment because they feel ashamed, anxious, scared or embarrassed about their thoughts and what people will think about them. This can make it difficult to get help.
However, it is important to remember that your GP can help you to get treatment, which will help you to manage symptoms like these thoughts, and have a better quality of life.
OCD is usually treated with talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication. You may also be offered exposure and response prevention (ERP) alongside CBT to help you deal with situations or things that make you anxious or frightened. This type of therapy is specifically designed to treat OCD — it encourages you to confront your obsessions and resist the urge to carry out compulsions through exposure to difficult or anxiety-inducing situations.
One in four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime, and there are some mental health disorders that are more common — some of which we have covered above.
Learning more about these common mental health disorders and their possible symptoms, causes and treatments might help you to feel more confident about talking and listening when it comes to mental health problems.
If you think you might have a mental health disorder, or someone close to you is struggling with a mental health disorder, then reading up on symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options and where to go for support can help. Your doctor will be able to help you take the next steps and get the support you need.
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