Find out more about some common mental health conditions.
Addiction means not having control over doing, taking or using
something, to the point that it may be harmful.
Common addictions include addictions to alcohol or drugs, but it
is possible to become addicted to anything, from gambling to
chocolate. You cannot control how you use whatever you are addicted
to, and you become dependent on it to get through daily life.
Find out more about addictions on NHS
Many people are able to stick to the recommended levels of
alcohol consumption (see box) so that drinking does not pose a
threat to their health. However, for some people, the amount of
alcohol they drink means that they face a real risk of developing
alcohol-related problems. These problems may be:
- physical - such as heart disease
- psychological - such as depression
- social - such as committing domestic abuse or acts of
Drinking levels of alcohol that can cause these types of problems
is known as alcohol misuse.
Find out more about alcohol misuse on NHS
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, which
is a group of symptoms associated with a decline in mental
abilities, such as memory and reasoning. Alzheimer's disease
attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that
carry messages to and from the brain).
Although Alzheimer's disease is often associated with increasing
age, the exact cause is unknown. Alzheimer's disease is a
progressive condition, which means that it will continue to get
worse as it develops.
Early symptoms include:
- minor memory problems
- difficulty saying the right words
These symptoms change as Alzheimer's disease develops, and it may
Find out more about Alzheimer's disease on NHS
- personality changes
- a total change in behaviour
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and a serious mental
health condition. People with anorexia have problems with eating.
They are very anxious about their weight and keep it as low as
possible by strictly controlling and limiting what they eat. Many
people with anorexia will also exercise excessively to lose
It is thought that people with anorexia are so concerned about
their weight because they:
- think they are fat or overweight
- have a strong fear of being fat
- want to be thin
Even when a person with anorexia becomes extremely underweight,
they still feel compelled to lose more weight.
Find out more about anorexia on NHS
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can
be mild or severe. Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at some
point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious
about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job
Feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, people
with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) find it hard to control
their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and
often affect their daily life.
There are several conditions for which anxiety is the main
symptom. Panic disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder
can all cause severe anxiety. These pages are about generalised
anxiety disorder (GAD).
Find out more about anxiety on NHS
Bipolar disorder - previously known as manic depression - is a
condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme
to another. If you have bipolar disorder you will have periods or
'episodes' of depression and mania.
Find out more about bipolar disorder on NHS
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that can
cause a range of distressing symptoms and patterns of abnormal
behaviour, such as:
- overwhelming feelings of distress, anxiety, worthlessness or
- difficulty managing such feelings without self-harming, for
example by abusing drugs and alcohol or taking overdoses
- difficulty maintaining stable and close relationships
- sometimes, periods of loss of contact with reality
- in rare cases, threats of harm to others
Personality disorders typically start in adolescence and persist
into adulthood. The cause is often a combination of genetic reasons
and a harmful childhood experience. Personality disorders range
from mild to severe.
Find out more about borderline personality
disorder on NHS Choices.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder and mental health
People who have bulimia try to control their weight by binge
eating and then purging the food from their body by being sick or
As with other eating disorders, bulimia has a number of
different causes, including depression, low self-esteem and
Find out more about bulimia on NHS
Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) that is
associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities.
People with dementia may also become apathetic, have problems
controlling their emotions or behaving appropriately in social
situations. Aspects of their personality may change or they may see
or hear things that other people do not, or have false beliefs.
Most cases of dementia are caused by damage to the structure of the
People with dementia usually need help from friends or
relatives, including help in making decisions.
Find out more about dementia on NHS
Depression is a serious illness. Health professionals use the
words depression, depressive illness or clinical depression to
refer to it. It is very different from the common experience of
feeling unhappy, miserable or fed up for a short period of
When you are depressed, you may have feelings of extreme sadness
that can last for a long time. These feelings are severe enough to
interfere with your daily life, and can last for weeks or months,
rather than days.
With the right treatment and support, most people can make a
full recovery from depression. It is important to seek help from
your GP if you think you may be depressed.
Find out more about depression on NHS
A drug is a chemical substance that acts on the brain and
nervous system, changing a person's mood, emotion or state of
consciousness. Drugs are often classified by the effect they
- Stimulants, such as cocaine, make people feel full of
- Depressants (or sedatives), such as heroin, make people feel
- Hallucinogens, such as LSD, make people see, feel or hear
things that are not real.
Drug misuse is when a person regularly takes one or more drugs to
change their mood, emotion or state of consciousness.
Find out more about drug misuse on NHS
Eating disorders are characterised by an abnormal attitude
towards food that causes someone to change their eating habits and
A person with an eating disorder may focus excessively on their
weight and shape, leading them to make unhealthy choices about food
with damaging results to their health.
Find out more about eating disorders on NHS
Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person feels that they
are trapped within a body of the wrong sex. The condition is also
sometimes known as:
- gender identity disorder
- gender incongruence
People who have long-lasting and extreme gender dysphoria are known
Find out more about gender dysphoria on NHS
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health
condition that is usually associated with both obsessive thoughts
and compulsive behaviour.
OCD is one of the most common mental health conditions. It is
estimated that about 1-3% of adults and 2% of children and
teenagers have OCD.
Find out more about obsessive compulsive disorder
on NHS Choices.
Panic disorder is where you have recurring and regular panic
attacks, often for no obvious reason.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain
times during their lifetime. It is a perfectly natural response,
particularly when you are in a dangerous or stressful situation.
However, for people with panic disorder, feelings of anxiety,
stress and panic occur regularly and at any time.
Find out more about panic disorder on NHS
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect
how people manage their feelings and how they relate to other
Disturbances of feeling and distorted beliefs about other people
can lead to odd behaviour, which can be distressing and which other
people may find upsetting.
Find out more about personality disorder on NHS
Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression some women
experience after they have had a baby. It usually develops in the
first four to six weeks after childbirth, although in some cases it
may not develop for several months. There is often no reason for
PND can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but you should
be reassured that there are many treatments available. As long as
PND is recognised and treated, it is a temporary condition that you
can recover from.
Find out more about postnatal depression on NHS
Psychosis is a condition that affects a person's mind and causes
changes to the way that they think, feel and behave. A person who
experiences psychosis may be unable to distinguish between reality
and their imagination.
Psychosis is not a condition in itself, it is a symptom of other
conditions. The most common cause of psychosis is a mental health
condition, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic
Find out more about psychosis on NHS
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that causes
a range of different psychological symptoms. These include:
- hallucinations - hearing or seeing things that do not
- delusions - believing in things that are untrue
Hallucinations and delusions are often referred to as psychotic
symptoms or symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis is when somebody is
unable to distinguish between reality and their imagination.
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. However, most
experts believe that the condition is caused by a combination of
genetic and environmental factors.
Find out more about schizophrenia on NHS
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that
has a seasonal pattern. It is characterised by episodes of
depression that recur at the same time each year.
SAD is sometimes known as 'winter depression' because the
symptoms are more apparent during the winter.
Like any type of depression, SAD can be a difficult condition to
live with. Symptoms can make you feel tired, stressed and unhappy.
However, a number of treatments and medications are available.
Find out more about seasonal affective disorder on
Self-harm is when somebody damages or injures their body on
purpose. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE)
describes it as 'self-poisoning, or injury, irrespective of the
apparent purpose of the act'.
Self-harm is not usually an attempt at committing suicide, but a
way of expressing deep emotional feelings, such as low self-esteem.
It is also a way to cope with traumatic events, or situations, such
as the death of a loved one, or an abusive relationship. Self-harm
is not an illness, it is an expression of personal distress.
The physical effects of self-harm can usually be treated with
dressings or stitches. The emotional causes may need a
psychological (mental health) assessment and counselling (talking
therapy) to deal with the underlying issues.
Find out more about Self-harm on NHS
Stress is the feeling of being under pressure. A little bit of
- increase productivity
- be motivating
- improve performance
However, too much pressure or prolonged pressure can lead to
stress, which is unhealthy for the mind and body. It can cause
symptoms such as:
Find out more about stress on NHS
- difficulty sleeping
- lack of appetite
- difficulty concentrating