Psychological Disorders: Types Explained
If you think that you might have a psychological disorder, you are not alone. Many people with psychological conditions can recover, especially if they begin treatment early and play an active role in their recovery.
Below are the signs, symptoms, and treatments associated with some common psychological disorders.
- changes in sleep
- changes in appetite
- loss of energy
- lack of concentration
- lack of interest in activities
- changes in movement
- a feeling of hopelessness or guilt
- physical aches and pains
- suicidal thoughts
If you have a combination of any of these symptoms and they have lasted for longer than 2 weeks, you should seek treatment from a doctor.
Other forms of depression can stem from unique circumstances, including:
- Persistent depressive disorder: This depressed mood lasts for 2 years or more. A person with persistent depressive disorder may have times of major depression and periods of less severe symptoms.
- Postpartum depression: People with postpartum depression experience major depression during their pregnancy, after delivery, or both. They may experience feelings of anxiety, sadness, and exhaustion.
- Seasonal affective disorder: This tends to cause social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain during seasons with less sun.
- Manic episodes: These last for at least 1 week. A person may be extremely high spirited or irritable for most of the day, possess more energy than usual, and notice a decreased need for sleep, increased activity, and increased risky behavior.
- Hypomanic episodes: These involve less severe symptoms of mania, and they usually only last for around 4 days.
There are three types of bipolar disorder:
|Bipolar I disorder||Manic episodes may last for at least 1 week. They usually occur along with major depressive episodes typically lasting for up to 2 weeks. Most people with bipolar I disorder will also experience times of neutral moods.|
|Bipolar II disorder||This can involve a pattern of hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes, usually with less severe symptoms than with bipolar I disorder.|
|Cyclothymic disorder||This milder form of bipolar disorder still involves periods of hypomania and depressive symptoms but is much less severe than bipolar I or II disorder.|
Occasional anxiety is a natural part of life and is to be expected in certain situations.
However, for those with anxiety disorders, those feelings of worry and fear are not just temporary. A person with an anxiety disorder experiences anxiety that simply will not go away and that can grow worse over time.
The symptoms can, and often do, interfere with elements of daily life, such as job performance, schoolwork, and personal relationships.
The most common types of anxiety disorders include the following:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: The symptoms of this condition can include:
- Panic disorder: Symptoms can include panic attacks, which are periods of sudden and intense fear that come on quickly and generally reach their peak within minutes.
- Phobias: This term describes an intense fear of a specific object or situation. The fear that people with phobias experience is generally out of proportion with the actual risk of danger from the object or situation.
- Social anxiety disorder: This can involve intense anxiety and discomfort over the idea of being embarrassed, rejected, humiliated, or looked down on in social situations.
- Separation anxiety disorder: A person with separation anxiety disorder has an excessive fear of being separated from people they feel close to.
Stress disorders may include the following conditions.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a long lasting condition wherein a person has recurring and obsessive thoughts or behaviors that they feel the need to repeat over and over again. These thoughts and behaviors can disrupt day-to-day life, including relationships, work, and school.
The symptoms of OCD may come and go over time, and they may improve or worsen. A person with OCD may try to avoid the triggers that bring on their obsessive thoughts and compulsions.
Treatments for OCD include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- caregiver interventions
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that some people may experience after living through a shocking, dangerous, or scary event.
People with PTSD have intense and disturbing thoughts and feelings relating to an experience that persist long after the event itself.
The symptoms of PTSD generally fall into four categories:
|reexperiencing||having flashbacks and nightmares|
|avoidance||avoiding thoughts, places, events, and objects that remind you of an event|
|arousal and reactivity||experiencing hypervigilance, feeling on edge, feeling anger, and having difficulty sleeping|
|cognitive and mood||having difficulty remembering the event, experiencing negative thoughts, and having feelings of guilt or blame|
Treatments for PTSD include:
- cognitive processing therapy
- prolonged exposure therapy
- stress inoculation therapy
- group therapy
|psychotic||experiencing hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thoughts|
|negative||having reduced motivation, fewer feelings of pleasure, and reduced expression of emotions|
|cognitive||having difficulty processing and using information and having difficulty focusing|
Treatments for schizophrenia include:
- antipsychotic medications
- self-management strategies
Similar conditions to schizophrenia include the following.
Treatment for schizoaffective disorder includes:
Psychosis describes conditions that affect the mind and alter a person’s perception of reality. During a period of psychosis, a person experiences disturbed thoughts and perceptions, and they may have a difficult time distinguishing what is real and what is not.
Symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations and delusions. They can also include incoherent or nonsense speech, anxiety, depression, and difficulty functioning overall.
Sleep disorders involve disruptions in the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, resulting in distress during the day and impairment in functioning. Sleep is critical to both physical and mental health.
Some examples of sleep disorders include the following.
Your doctor may want to do a comprehensive assessment in order to diagnose insomnia. This may involve:
- taking a medical history
- performing a physical exam
- interpreting your sleep diary
- conducting a sleep study
Chronic insomnia usually improves with a combination of behavioral therapy and sleep medications.
Read an expert’s perspective on treating chronic insomnia here.
Types of sleep apnea include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep. A person who is experiencing sleep apnea may have repeated episodes of airway obstruction while they sleep. This causes snoring, snorting, gasping, or pauses in breathing.
- Central sleep apnea: With central sleep apnea, the brain does not properly control your breathing during sleep. This causes breathing to start and stop.
- Sleep-related hypoventilation: A person with sleep-related hypoventilation experiences episodes of shallow breathing, elevated blood carbon dioxide levels, and low oxygen levels during sleep. This frequently occurs alongside other medical issues, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and medication or substance misuse.
The following are some examples of eating disorders.
Anorexia nervosa is a condition wherein a person may avoid food, severely restrict food intake, or eat extremely small quantities of certain foods.
There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa:
- Restrictive: This involves severely limiting the amount and type of food you consume.
- Binge-purge: This involves restricting foods and experiencing binge eating and purging episodes. This can lead to the consumption of large amounts of food in a short time, followed by vomiting or using laxatives.
Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which a person has persistent and repeated episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food. They often feel a complete lack of control over such episodes.
These periods of binge eating are generally followed by behaviors that compensate for the overeating. These behaviors can include one or a combination of the following:
Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is a condition in which a person loses control over their eating and has repeated episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food.
Unlike bulimia nervosa, these episodes do not cause episodes of purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. Because of this, people with binge eating disorders may be overweight.
Dissociative disorders can involve issues with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self.
- significant memory loss regarding people, times, or events
- out-of-body experiences
- mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide
- a sense of detachment from your emotions or emotional numbness
- lack of a sense of self-identity
Types of dissociative disorders include:
- Dissociative amnesia: Dissociative amnesia can cause difficulty remembering important information about yourself. It may be due to a specific traumatic or stressful event.
- Depersonalization disorder: Depersonalization disorder involves ongoing or recurring experiences of one or both of these conditions:
- Depersonalization: This is an experience of unreality or detachment from your mind, self, or body. A person may feel that they are outside their body and watching things happen to them.
- Derealization: This is an experience of unreality or detachment from your surroundings. You may feel as if things or people in the world around you are not real.
- Dissociative identity disorder: Dissociative identity disorder was formerly known as “multiple personality disorder.” It can cause a person to alternate between multiple identities.
Treatment for dissociative disorders generally involves therapy to help the person gain control over the dissociative process and the symptoms it causes.
Dementia involves a loss of one’s ability to think. It may lead to difficulty remembering and reasoning.
Symptoms of dementia vary but can include:
- memory loss, poor judgment, or confusion
- difficulty speaking, understanding, expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
- wandering and getting lost, even in what should be a familiar neighborhood
- repeating questions
- using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- taking longer than usual to complete daily tasks
- losing balance and having issues with movement
No treatment currently exists to stop or slow dementia.
Learn more about dementia here.
The sections below look at these conditions in more detail.
ADHD can cause inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. For instance:
|inattention||being easily distracted or bored, having difficulty focusing, not paying attention, having a lack of motivation, and having difficulty processing information|
|hyperactivity||having difficulty sitting still, talking excessively, and having difficulty doing quiet tasks|
|impulsivity||exhibiting impatience or recklessness, having difficulty sharing, and interrupting others|
There is no single test that can lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. Talk with a doctor to gather all the necessary information.
- behavioral therapy
ASD is a developmental condition that involves continuing challenges with social communication, restricted interests, and repetitive behaviors. For example:
|social communication deficits||being less likely to share interests with others, having difficulty appreciating emotions, having an aversion to eye contact, having difficulty with nonverbal gestures, and interpreting abstract ideas literally|
|restricted interests and repetitive behaviors||having difficulty coping with change, experiencing sensory hypersensitivity, arranging things in a particular way, and making repetitive movements|
Concerns about a child’s behavior should lead to an evaluation by a medical specialist. The evaluation may include conducting an interview with the parent or caregiver, observing and interacting with the child in a structural manner, and carrying out additional tests to rule out other conditions.
Management options for ASD include:
- social skills training
- speech or language therapy
- occupational therapy
- behavioral therapy
Although risk factors can vary within psychological disorders, there are a few factors that are common among most conditions.
These factors include:
- life circumstances
- brain changes
- drug or alcohol misuse
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of these or other psychological disorders, it is important that you talk with your doctor.
It is understandable that this might be daunting or worrying. Knowing what to expect from your first appointment can help ease any worries you may have about discussing this topic with your doctor.
Your initial appointment may include:
- questions about your medical history
- questions about your family history
- questions about your symptoms and concerns
- blood tests
- additional medical tests to rule out any other health conditions
- a referral to a mental health specialist
Psychological disorders are conditions that affect your moods, behaviors, or thoughts. These disorders can, and often do, have a major effect on day-to-day living, relationships, and other elements of functioning.
Psychological disorders are more common than most people think, but the majority of them are highly treatable. People have made great strides in recent years to help break the stigma around mental ill-health.