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Types of Mental Health Disorders

May 9, 2022

Written by
Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Specialist

Mental health disorders have been classified into a few broad categories. The list below is not exhaustive and should not be used to self-diagnose. If you have concerns or questions, please contact a mental health professional.

Anxiety Disorders

We feel nervous or worried from time to time. This is helpful since it warns us of danger or trouble. However, an anxiety disorder can cause unhelpful and untimely anxiety that impacts our lives adversely. 

Anxiety disorders include: 

  • Phobias- an intense fear of an object, animal or situation;
  • Panic disorders- causes panic attacks for no apparent reason;
  • Agoraphobia- fear of being in a situation where a person can’t escape or find help if they experience a panic attack or other feelings of anxiety. A person with agoraphobia may avoid public places or even avoid leaving their homes.
  • Social anxiety disorder- an intense fear of being judged negatively or embarrassed by others and causes people to avoid social situations. Unlike shyness, social anxiety disorder can have a big impact on work or school and personal relationships.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder- intense anxiety around a number of everyday problems, or minor concerns, for more than six months. Many people experience physical symptoms too, including muscle tension and sleep problems.

Mood Disorders

Everyone experiences changes in mood. We go from happy to sad, energetic to feeling lethargic, or sociable to irritable; but these moods don’t last long. Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, are conditions which cause people to feel intense, prolonged emotions and it negatively affects their mental well-being, physical health, relationships and behaviour.


Unlike a ‘bad day’, without treatment, depression can last a long time. Signs of depression include feeling worthless, hopeless, sad and/or anxious. A person may lose interest in things they used to enjoy, withdraw from friends and family, have trouble with decision making, and have trouble eating or sleeping. Depression can even cause physical health problems.

Bipolar disorder

With bipolar disorder, someone may experience episodes of depression and episodes of mania. The episodes of depression are similar to other types of depression. Mania is an unusually high mood and may make a person feel like their thoughts are racing and makes them feel hyperactive. They may feel unrealistically confident, happy, or very powerful. Many people don’t sleep much, may act without thinking and do risky things they wouldn’t normally do when they experience mania.

Eating Disorders

We receive so many messages from the world around us about how our bodies should look or what the latest standard of beauty is. These can have a serious impact on how feel about our appearance. Poor body image can lead to several mental health disorders, including eating disorders.
It’s important to understand, eating disorders aren’t just about food. It can be a way to cope with problems or regain a sense of control. They are complex illnesses and can have seriously affect a person’s sense of identity and self-worth. Also, the signs of an eating disorder often start before a person looks unwell, so weight should never be the only consideration.

The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating.

Anorexia Nervosa

A person with anorexia may refuse to keep their weight in the normal range for their height/age. They may restrict their food, exercise more than required and may always feel overweight regardless of their actual weight.
Anorexia nervosa can cause heart and kidney problems, bone loss, digestive issues, low iron, low heart rate and blood pressure and fertility issues for women. Anorexia nervosa is a serious health condition, as many as 10% of people who experience it die of health problems or suicide.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa involves periods of binge-eating followed by purging the body of food, either by vomiting or laxatives. Health problems caused by bulimia nervosa include kidney problems, dehydration and digestive problems. Vomiting can also damage the throat, teeth and mouth.


Binge-eating disorder involves periods of uncontrollable over-eating, usually followed by feelings of distress, depression and guilt. Many people try to keep bingeing a secret. Binge-eating can be a way to cope or find comfort, and it can sometimes develop after dieting. Some people may fast (not eat for a period of time) or diet after periods of binge-eating.

Binge-eating disorder can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or weight concerns.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Most of us have habits or “quirks” that make us feel better, like wearing a lucky hate during a game or a specific morning routine, but we can also live without them. For someone with OCD, these behaviours become more intense or disruptive and their absence can cause a lot of distress.

OCD is a complex disease to understand, but it is a real illness and requires treatment. A person may suffer obsessive thoughts, like a fear of germs in their home, or compulsions, like washing their hands several times a day, or both. Often, compulsions are actions that are meant to reduce the person’s anxieties caused by obsessive thoughts.

OCD requires medication as well as a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A frightening situation can leave its impact on a person. It may cause difficulty sleeping, being in a certain situation or cause a person to feel anxious constantly. These are feelings and experiences are normal and usually go away with time.

However, PTSD can last a lot longer and can seriously disrupt a person’s life. PTSD can be caused by a single event involving death or the threat of death, or serious injury. It can also be caused by ongoing trauma, like an abusive relationship.

PTSD can cause symptoms like re-experiencing the traumatic event. A person may even have vivid flashbacks and nightmares that come out of nowhere, causing them to avoid situations that remind them of the event, for example a car crash survivor may avoid driving. PTSD can make people feel very nervous or ‘on edge’ all the time. Many feel startled very easily, have a hard time concentrating, feel irritable, or have problems sleeping well. They may often feel like something terrible is about to happen, even when they are safe. Some people feel very numb and detached. They may feel like things around them aren’t real, feel disconnected from their body or thoughts, or have a hard time feeling emotions.

People also experience a change in their thoughts and mood related to the traumatic event. For some people, alcohol or other drugs can be a way to cope with PTSD.


Schizophrenia is a complex biochemical brain disorder that distorts a person’s ability to determine what is real and what isn’t. A person with schizophrenia may suffer delusions, hallucinations, social withdrawal and disturbed thinking.

At the beginning of an episode, the person may have difficulty concentrating and communicating and they may feel things around them are strange or different. At the height of such an episode, the person may suffer a break from reality called a psychosis.

The course and impact of schizophrenia is different for each person. For some, they may have an episode once in their lifetime, some may have them very frequently or even go years between episodes.

While there is no cure for schizophrenia, medication and therapy can help reduce the impact of the symptoms on your life, work etc. Professionals like occupational therapists and social workers can help with daily living, social skills, employment or volunteer training, and community activities. They can also connect you with community supports like home care, housing, and income assistance.

All mental illnesses require a diagnosis from a mental health professional in order to receive the correct treatment. Call our team at SCHC to book an appointment if you or anyone you know needs help.