Types of Mental Illness

Mental health disorders are one of the most common health conditions in the United States.

More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults — 51.5 million people — experienced a mental illness in 2019, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime.

Mental health disorders can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. These conditions may affect you for a short period of time, or they can be chronic. They can alter your ability to work, attend school, or relate to other people. Although most people living with mental health conditions live normal lives, some symptoms can affect your ability to perform daily tasks.

There are many types of mental health illnesses. Symptoms may vary from person to person, even when they share the same diagnosis.

Medical experts recognize more than 200 different types of mental illnesses. Some of the most common include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults aged 18 years and older each year. They’re the most common mental health condition in the U.S.

Anxiety disorders cause people to experience distressing and stressful episodes of fear and apprehension. While some anxiety or stress is normal, it should not routinely cause disruptions to your day-to-day life.

Some people experience anxiety related to a specific action or surrounding, such as public speaking or a crowded room. Others may experience anxiety without an obvious external cause. People with anxiety disorders have frequent symptoms for an extended period — six months or more.

If not treated, symptoms can worsen and increase, including:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, stomachaches, and headaches.
  • Nightmares.
  • Obsessive, ruminating, or intrusive thoughts.
  • Fear of leaving the house.

Examples of anxiety disorders include:

While anxiety can cause problems, you can take steps to manage your condition through regular and easy practices. Professional help, such as therapy and medications, is also available.

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What Are Mood Disorders?

Most people experience feelings of sadness, irritability, or a general case of the “blahs” at one time or another.

In most cases, those usually pass in a short period. But people who have mood disorders live with more sustained and severe symptoms and disruption. People coping with mood disorders find that their mood affects their mental and psychological well-being nearly every day, and often for much of the day.

About 1 in 10 U.S. adults suffers from some type of mood disorder, according to estimates. The most common conditions include depression and bipolar disorder.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, most of those living with mood disorders lead healthy, fulfilling, and productive lives. Without help or treatment, mood disorders can affect your quality of life, both physically and psychologically.

What Are Psychotic Disorders?

Psychotic disorders can affect your ability to perceive reality. People who suffer from psychotic disorders may lose their grasp on reality. They experience hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t true).

The most common psychotic disorder is schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder marked by significant disruption in both thoughts and emotions. It can have an impact on basic life functions. It can affect your language and communication, train of thought, and your perception of yourself and the world around you.

The most common symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Incoherent speech
  • Abnormal reasoning

People with other types of mental and physical health conditions — including mood disorders, dementia, substance use disorders, and brain tumors — also may suffer from these symptoms. It is important to see a mental health care professional for an evaluation and diagnosis.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are chronic conditions that can be serious and life-threatening if left untreated.

Nearly 29 million Americans will develop an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to a report by the Academy for Eating Disorders, Deloitte Access Economics, and the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders. Symptoms usually begin during adolescent years, but they can happen at any time. Females are twice as likely as males to have an eating disorder. However, anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of sex or gender.

There are different types of eating disorders, and symptoms and presentations can vary. Eating disorders usually involve obsessive and sometimes distressing thoughts and behaviors related to food or a person’s own body.

Some of the most common symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Reduction of food intake.
  • Overeating.
  • Feelings of depression or distress.
  • Concern about weight and/or body shape.
  • Poor self-image.

Eating disorders usually begin with a person eating smaller or larger portions than usual and practicing disordered eating. Over time, the urge to decrease or increase food intake can become obsessive and dangerous to their health.

The three most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa: People with anorexia are unable to maintain a normal body weight because of extreme, intentional weight loss. Anorexia may include self-starvation, excessive exercise, and vomiting or taking laxatives to lose weight.
  • Binge-eating disorder: People with binge-eating disorder have recurring or frequent episodes where they feel a loss of control over eating. Actions may include:
    • Eating very fast.
    • Eating large amounts of food when they are not feeling hungry.
    • Eating until they are uncomfortably full.
    • Feeling guilty or embarrassed about overeating.
  • Bulimia nervosa: Similar to binge-eating disorder, those with bulimia feel a loss of control with their eating. Episodes of excessive eating are followed by a compulsion to “purge.” This can involve vomiting, taking diuretics or laxatives, fasting, exercising excessively, or a combination.

Eating disorders are common conditions that can be serious. However, several different treatment options are available.

Mental Health Treatment

More than 51 million U.S. adults cope with or manage a mental health disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Fewer than half of them seek treatment.

Many people have concerns about their mental well-being from time to time. You do not need a diagnosed mental health condition to speak to a therapist or counselor.

If you have mental health concerns about you or a loved one, getting treatment is important. Many different options are available, such as therapy and medication. Many services are available as both in-person appointments and video visits.

To find behavioral health care at a UPMC location near you, visit our website.

Academy for Eating Disorders, Deloitte Access Economics, and Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders, Report: Economic Costs of Eating Disorders. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Learn About Mental Health. Link

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Anxiety Disorders. Link

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health by the Numbers. Link

National Institute of Mental Health, Eating Disorders. Link

National Institute of Mental Health, Mental Illness. Link

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Psychotic Disorders. Link

U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mental Disorders. Link

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.