Mental Health Disorders: Explained
There are many different types of mental health conditions – and many misconceptions surrounding them. While it is great that more people are speaking openly about mind health, often these conditions can be misunderstood and subsequently stigmatised in society and culture. In the past, mental ill-health was considered taboo and an uncomfortable topic of conversation. This perpetuated the circulation of myths, rumours and damaging stereotypes, some of which still exist today. These common misconceptions can prevent people from reaching out and seeking help. In order to end the stigma and dispel these myths, we must educate ourselves on the facts. In this blog, we guide you through the definitions and symptoms of five different mental health conditions.
[Bi = two] [Polar = opposite]
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health condition which mainly affects your mood. While everyone experiences changes of mood, individuals with bipolar disorder can experience extreme and overwhelming mood swings which can last for weeks. The symptoms will depend on which mood you’re experiencing (as there are different types) and are often referred to as mood episodes or states. If you have bipolar disorder, you may experience:
- Manic episodes: feeling very high and overactive
- Depressive episodes: feeling very low and lethargic
- Psychosis: a distorted perception of reality which can include delusions and hallucinations
You can find more information on the mood states, feelings and behaviours here.
In between episodes, individuals may feel well or experience phases of less extreme mood states. The pattern of episodes is not always the same and one state may occur more than another. This is why bipolar disorder is often broken down into types and subtypes. These are bipolar I and bipolar II as well as cyclothymia, rapid cycling bipolar, bipolar with mixed features, bipolar with seasonal pattern and unspecified bipolar.
The main difference between bipolar I and II lies in the severity of the manic episodes caused by each mood state. A person with bipolar I will experience a full manic episode while a person with bipolar II may only experience a hypomanic episode (less intense, though no less serious).
For more information on the different types of bipolar, click here.
Psychosis is a mental health condition which causes a person’s perception of reality to be altered. It can manifest itself by impacting on emotions, motivation, thoughts & beliefs and perception of the World.
During an episode of psychosis, the main symptoms are:
- Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing and experiencing other senses which do not exist outside of the mind.
- Delusions: False, unshakeable beliefs which are not shared by others.
- Disturbed thought patterns: disorganised thinking and speech including racing thoughts and flight of ideas (sometimes referred to as ‘formal thought disorder’).
Experiencing a combination of these symptoms may be referred to as a ‘psychotic episode’. The individual may be unaware that the episode is not real causing fear and distress. It is important to note that psychosis and psychotic episodes are not related to psychopathy. Psychosis is often a symptom of a condition whereas psychopathy is a personality disorder.
You can find out more information on the different types of psychosis here.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental health condition consisting of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are reoccurring and intrusive thoughts which cause feelings of anxiety and unease. Compulsions are repetitive behaviours or rituals that a person feels compelled to perform to prevent or reduce the obsession.
Examples of obsessions:
- Fear of contamination
- Need for order and symmetry
- Doubt and inability to tolerate uncertainty
- Unpleasant sexual or aggressive thoughts
Examples of compulsions:
- Following strict routine
Compulsions may be both related and unrelated to an obsession. An individual may only have symptoms of either obsession or compulsion. The symptoms can be distressing and interfere with a person’s daily routine. People with OCD may suspect that their obsessions are unrealistic but will have great difficulty disengaging from the obsessive thoughts and behaviours, and may become stressed if they cannot perform them.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is having frequent and uncontrollable worries about different aspects of everyday life. People experiencing symptoms of GAD may worry about a variety of things relating to health, money, work, school and relationships.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time, but those experiencing GAD or chronic anxiety may find it incredibly difficult to control their worries which can affect their day-to-day life. Anxiety can manifest itself in various ways physically and mentally.
- Excessive worry and nervousness
- Negative self-talk
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disturbed sleep
- Heart palpitations
- Red blotches on skin
- Feeling faint or lightheaded
- Muscle tension
- Dry mouth
- Shortness of breath
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Borderline Personality Disorder is a type of personality disorder characterized by emotional instability, self-harming and unstable relationships. People with BPD will usually display a range of symptoms which have a significant impact on their daily life and relationships. In general, individuals with BPD experience uncertainty and difficulty in the way they view themselves and others.
Symptoms of BPD:
- Emotionally unstable (the psychological term for this is affective dysregulation)
- Disturbed patterns of thinking and perception
- Impulsive and dangerous behaviour
- Unstable sense of self and self-image
- Intense and unstable relationships
- Fear of abandonment
For more information on BPD and the different types of personality disorder, please click here.
Everyone knows it is important to work on our physical health but what about our mind health? Struggling with your thoughts and feelings is normal and can happen to anyone at any stage of life. Remember, if you, or someone you know is having a difficult time, you are not alone. We are here to support anyone in seeking the help and support they need.