Mental Health Topics & Disorders

On this page you will find information on many common mental health concerns, including warning signs of mental disorders, treatment options, and preventative measures.

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with your treating physician.  To locate a psychiatrist in your area, click here.


Professional Treatment


The medical specialty concerned with the origin, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Physicians specializing in this field - psychiatrists - hold a medical degree and spend four years or more in approved residency training. They must be licensed by their state in order to practice. Psychiatrists are physicians, medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy and are the only mental health professionals licensed to prescribe medication.  


An academic discipline, a profession, and a science dealing with the study of mental processes and behavior of people and animals. A psychologist holds a degree in psychology from an accredited program. Many providers of clinical psychological services are licensed under state law, whereas those who teach or do research are usually exempt from licensure requirements. Licensed psychologists generally hold a doctoral degree in psychology and have two years of supervised work experience.


Psychotherapy is the treatment of individuals with emotional problems, behavioral problems, or mental illness primarily through verbal communication. In most types of psychotherapy, a person discusses his or her problems one-on-one with a therapist. The therapist tries to understand the person's problems and to help the individual change distressing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. The therapist helps patients understand the basis of these problems and find solutions. Treatment may take several sessions over a several weeks, or many sessions over several years. 


A theory of the psychology of human behavior, a method of research and a system of psychotherapy, originally developed by Sigmund Freud. Through the analysis of free associations and the interpretation of dreams, emotions and behavior are traced to instinctive drives that are repressed and defenses against them in the unconscious. The goal of treatment is to eliminate or reduce the undesirable effects of unconscious conflicts by making the patient aware of their existence, origin and inappropriate expression.


Addiction is a serious illness. Health, finances, relationships, and careers can be ruined. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is by far the leading cause of preventable illnesses and premature death in our society. The importance of substance abuse treatment cannot be overstated, and fortunately many effective treatments are available. The road to recovery, however, begins with recognition.  Learn more about Addiction


Anxiety and fear are often used to describe the same thing. When the word "anxiety" is used to discuss a group of mental illnesses (anxiety disorders), it refers to an unpleasant and overriding inner emotional tension that has no apparent identifiable cause. Fear, on the other hand, causes emotional tension due to a specific, external reason. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic-stress disorder. These disorders are severe enough to interfere with social functioning.  Learn more about Anxiety.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers. If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.  Learn more about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism, which affects thought, perception and attention, is a broad spectrum of disorders that ranges from mild to severe. If an infant does not cuddle, make eye contact, respond to affection and touching, or has abnormal responses to a combination of senses such as hearing, balance, smell, taste and reaction to pain, parents should be seriously concerned. This lack of responsiveness may be accompanied by an inability to communicate appropriately, and by a persistent failure to develop two-way social relationships. Language skills may be poor, even nonexistent, sometimes repeating words or phrases in place of normal language, or using gestures and pointing instead of words. In addition, the child may show unusual or extreme responses to objects, either avoidance or preoccupation.  Another feature of autism is a tendency toward repetitive activities of a restrictive range, like spinning and rhythmic body movements.  Learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is control by one partner over another in a dating, marital or live-in relationship. Domestic violence occurs in every culture, country and age group. It affects people from all socioeconomic, educational and religious backgrounds and takes place in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships.  Learn more about Domestic Violence

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which time-consuming obsessions and compulsions significantly interfere with a person’s routine, making it difficult work or to have a normal social life. OCD often begins in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Afflicting over four million Americans, OCD is equally common in men and women and knows no geographic, ethnic, or economic boundaries.  Learn more about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Panic Disorder

A panic attack, the core feature of panic disorder, is a period of intense fear or discomfort that strikes suddenly, often in familiar places, where there is seemingly nothing threatening an individual. But when the attack comes, it feels as if there is a real threat, and the body reacts accordingly. The discomfort and sense of danger the attack brings is so intense that people with panic disorder often believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness.  


“Fear” is the normal response to a genuine danger. With phobias, the fear is either irrational or excessive. It is an abnormally fearful response to a danger that is imagined or is irrationally exaggerated. People can develop phobic reactions to animals (e.g., spiders), activities (e.g., flying), or social situations (e.g., eating in public or simply being in a public environment). Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the world.  

Post-Partum Depression

Having a baby is supposed to be a joyous time in your life, but for women suffering with depression it can become very distressful and difficult.  An estimated 13 percent of new mothers experience depression after childbirth (postpartum depression).  Depression is a treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference, and anxiety.  

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A disorder that develops after a person experiences a psychologically distressing event outside the range of usual human experience - a natural disaster such as an earthquake, an accidental disaster such as a plane crash, or a manmade disaster such as war or rape. Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance of stimuli associated with it, or a numbing of general responsiveness that was not present before the trauma.  Learn more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects more than one percent of the population. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, trouble with thinking and concentration, and lack of motivation. However, when these symptoms are treated properly, a large portion of those diagnosed will greatly improve over time. These symptoms must last longer than six months to fall into the category of schizophrenia.  Learn more about Schizophrenia

Seasonal Affective Disorder

During the fall and winter months, some people suffer from symptoms of depression that can appear gradually or come on all at once. These symptoms often dissipate as spring arrives and stay in remission through the summer months. For some people, this is a sign that they suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  

For more information about mental health and specific disorders, visit...

National Institute of Mental Health
National Alliance on Mental Illness