MHB 02: An A to Z of Conditions

In subsequent blogs I (and others) will be mentioning different mental health condition so I thought it may be useful to do a very brief description of a wide range of mental health conditions. The below list should cover a good proportion (most) of the categorised mental health conditions. I have kept the descriptions short and brief (to make the blog readable), but in reality all the condition below have a wide range of issues and symptoms, so apologies if anyone thinks this oversimplifies a condition that they are suffering from. If you have a particular insight into a specific condition and would like to write a blog about if for one of the weekly slots please do get in touch.

It is due to it's nature quite a long blog, but will be a reference for future blogs.

Anxiety disorders:

Anxiety is an important/useful attribute. If you got rid of anxiety completely life may be more relaxed, but you wouldn’t know until it was too late when you were in trouble. The anxiety could help before you get into physical danger, financial issues and numerous other problems. The list below describes a variety of clinical anxieties. The difference between clinical anxiety and the anxieties that most people experience from time to time, is that the conditions listed below cause severe/extreme anxiety, and may be in relation to an irrational fear or an excessive reaction to a situation. They have a significant effect on the sufferer’s life.

 

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – is an excessive or exaggerated worry about everyday life events, rather than a specific event. This condition can take over a person’s life affecting areas including schooling, work & relationships.
  • Social anxiety disorder – sufferers experience extreme fear or anxiety when confronted by social situations. Some people may get so stressed that they completely avoid certain social situations like school, work, seeing friends and they may isolate themselves.
  • Panic Disorder – sufferers suffer regular panic attacks often without any clear cause/trigger. It can be a vicious circle because sufferers can begin to fear when the next panic attack will hit.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – is a lasting consequence of a traumatic ordeal. It can cause flashbacks or nightmares that make the sufferer feel like they are reliving the fear experienced during the original event.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – sufferers can get trapped in endless cycles of repetitive thoughts and actions. The sufferer may carry out specific rituals over and over again to try and alleviate the anxiety, and this can end up taking up hours each day.  
  • Phobias – are an extreme fear of a specific thing or situation. If this thing/situation is something the person may come across regularly it can be very debilitating.
  • Body dysmorphic disorder – is where the sufferer obsessively worries about one or more perceived flaws in their physical appearance. This flaw will either will not be visible to others or only very minor. This condition can lead to certain compulsive behaviours such as always looking in mirrors and doing things to cover the perceived flaw.

Mood disorders:

  • Depression – covers a very wide range. The most simplistic description is that it causes a low mood over an extended period of time that affects everyday life. At its most mild a sufferer may still be able to get on with normal life, but it will lower their mood and make tasks harder and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe sufferers are unable to do almost anything and will lose the will to live.
  • Bipolar Disorder – used to be known as manic depressive disorder. Sufferers will have periods when they are manic (overly happy, overly energized) and periods where they are depressive (sad, sluggish) in between the sufferer will return to a ‘normal’ state. These periods can last for weeks at a time and some sufferers only get very short periods of ‘normal’ state.

Psychotic Disorders:

  • Schizophrenia – can lead to abnormal social behaviour and a failure to understand what is real. The symptoms can include distorted thoughts, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. Unlike the common misconception, having schizophrenia does not mean you have a split personality.
  • Schizoaffective – is a condition where the sufferer has a combination of schizophrenia symptoms and a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar.
  • Psychosis –is normally a symptom of another condition, rather than a condition on its own. Sufferers perceive things in a different way to those around them, and they can be affected by delusions and hallucinations. Normally the effects of psychosis are negative, but in some situation such as someone seeing or hearing things from their past such as a lost relative can be a comfort to them.

Personality Disorders:

The 10 categories below are the ones generally used in the UK, they come under 3 clusters. Personality disorders can be quite controversial in the psychiatric community, some members don’t consider it a mental health issue but instead a fault with the core personality. Also the constraints of each category are similar to other mental health issues so can easily lead to misdiagnosis. On top of that the name itself can also cause distress to the sufferer and stigma from others who do not understand it. I am going to steer clear of all that and just list the categories.

Cluster A:

  • Paranoid personality disorder – sufferers find it difficult to trust other people, and they are very guarded. They are always on the lookout for clues to validate this distrust. Therefore it can be hard to socialise and they tend to struggle to build close relationships.
  • Schizoid personality disorder – sufferers tend to be uninterested in close relationships, and prefer to be alone with their own thoughts. They have little interest in social or sexual situations, they have no interest in social norms and choose to live their lives free from outside interference.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder – sufferers both do and think things that others would think of as odd, both verbally and physically doing things that people may find erratic/eccentric. They may believe they have magical/special powers. They may believe others are harmful so they fear social situations.

Cluster B:

  • Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) – people have a disregard for other people’s feelings. They do not abide by social rules, they can be aggressive, act spontaneously and fail to feel guilt when they have done something wrong or mistreated someone. They are likely to have a criminal record.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD) – sufferers do not have a strong sense of whom they are, and for this reason they can have a sense of emptiness and fear being abandoned by people. They can have unstable relationships with friends, are prone to emotional instability, can be very angry and have impulsive tendencies. Suicidal thoughts and self-harming are common under this diagnosis
  • Histrionic personality disorder – sufferers lack a sense of worth. They seek the approval of others to give them a sense of wellbeing. They may be overly dramatic so as to be seen or heard, and can act overly charming (some people may feel inappropriately flirtatious) to ensure they get attention. As they are so dependent on the attention of others they are open to being exploited by other people.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – people have a sense of entitlement. They rely on other people to admire their worth, and can be envious of other people’s success. They can be controlling, selfish, hard and if they are undermined can have a destructive rage.

Cluster C:

  • Avoidant personality disorder – people believe they are socially awkward and inferior to others, they live in fear that they may be ridiculed, told off or rejected. Due to this they isolate themselves, avoiding friendships/relationships, as they fear the rejection. They are therefore often lonely.
  • Dependent personality disorder – people feel needy and are unable to make decisions for themselves. They try and let other people make decisions for them. They feel they are inadequate so latch onto other people, even agreeing to do things they may not agree with so as not to lose the support. As they are so reliant on other people they can be liable to exploitation.
  • Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) – sufferers have to have everything in order and under control, they may be preoccupied by rules and details. They may be perfectionists which makes it hard for them to finish tasks to their satisfaction. People with OCPD can come across as rigid and controlling. They can struggle to understand the world and feel out of control, with their thought process being very black and white. Relationships can be strained due to their inflexibility in attitude.

Eating Disorder:

  • Anorexia – at its simplest is someone who does not eat enough to stay healthy. The person may not be eating (eating very little) for many reasons. A couple of these include: that they irrationally feel they are too large, or that they want to have some control over themselves.
  • Bulimia – is where a person eats a large amount of food in a short time (binging) and then does something to get rid of the food (purging).  Most people assume purging is done by throwing up, but laxatives and excessive exercise after binging are also a form of purging. Often these people binge because they feel nervous or anxious and then they may feel ashamed by binging so they purge. They are normally not confident of their body size or shape.Diabulimia is a specific condition where Type 1 diabetes sufferers deliberately take less insulin to lose weight.

Addiction Disorders/Impulse Control:

People can become addicted to certain substances and activities, for example alcohol, drugs, betting etc. These addictions can take over the person’s life making it hard if not impossible for them to carry out simple everyday tasks.  There are also people who have impulses that would seem odd to the general public and also sometimes dangerous/illegal. A couple of these include starting fires (pyromania), stealing (kleptomania) and the person will not do this out of malice or for personal gain but just purely because they have an urge to do it. These people can easily end up in trouble and often very seriously stigmatised.

Some Caveats:

I have not included perinatal, prenatal or postnatal issues in the list, as pregnancy can be a trigger for almost all of the conditions above, including perinatal anxiety, postnatal depression etc. These are serious issues but I felt it better to put the standardized conditions above and just make this note here. Also there is a blog scheduled regards mental health issues surrounding pregnancy at a later date, obviously not written by me.

I have also not included Autism Spectrum Disorder as though it can lead to mental health issues it is not itself normally classified as a mental health disorder. Again there will be a blog on the Autism Spectrum and a personal account on Asperger’s in a subsequent blog.

 

I am doing this walk to improve my own mental health, hopefully spread some interesting views on mental health and to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation.

charles compton