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Types Of Psychological Disorders Explained

In the past, abnormal behavior was largely attributed to possession by evil spirits, and therefore, in order to treat a person, people would use magic, spells or potions to try to excise those spirits.

Today, however, we look at abnormal behavior very differently, and as a result, the way that people are now treated for mental disorders is very different from how people used to be treated hundreds of years ago.

Psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists now tend to attribute the cause of a persons mental illness to one or more different factors, which can broadly be grouped under five headings: biological, psychodynamic, learning, humanistic and sociocultural.

These viewpoints represent the different schools of psychology and each of these viewpoints will influence the type of medical or psychological treatment that a person receives.

man on couch with psychologist

How mental illnesses are treated often depends upon one’s point of view.

It should be noted however, that there is no one “correct” viewpoint, as very often multiple viewpoints can be used to help explain someone’s behavior.

Below you will find a brief description of each of these different abnormal psychology viewpoints, and then afterwards, a list of some of the main types of psychological disorders.

1) Biological Viewpoint

The biological viewpoint assumes that an abnormal behavior occurs as a result of something being wrong with the body, in particular, the brain.

For example, genetics, hormonal levels, infections or a brain injury are all things which could cause a person to behave differently from how they normally would.

human body

The biological viewpoint assumes that the problems which a person is suffering from have a biological cause.

Biologically based psychological disorders tend to occur in adulthood, and are usually the result of some trauma or damage to the brain which affects a person’s ability to think or remember. This may occur due to an external factor such as a car accident, or an internal factor, such as a stroke.

Anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia are two examples of mental disorders that can be attributed to a biological cause, in this case, damage to the hippocampus.

bandaged head

Injury to the brain, either through trauma or illness, can lead to a rapid onset of cognitive problems that may not always be reversible.

Other psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, may occur without brain injury and appear unexpectedly causing a person much confusion and distress. Why mental illnesses such as schizophrenia occur is not entirely known, although many medical professionals attribute its cause to genetic factors or drugs use.

In general, there are two ways that biologically based mental disorders can be treated. If something is physically wrong with the brain, then surgery may be used, and if the brain is structurally intact, then psychiatric drugs may be used.

Unfortunately however, it can be very difficult to successfully treat a person if they have something physically wrong with their brain, such as due to injury, and so affected individuals usually require long-term care throughout the rest of their life.

2) Psychodynamic Viewpoint

The psychodynamic viewpoint holds the view that behavioral disorders occur as a result of repressed emotional conflicts and stem from Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual theory of development.

contents of mind

The psychodynamic viewpoint sees mental disorders as being caused by repressed conflicts in the unconscious mind.

This used to be a very popular explanation for why a person may be behaving in an irregular manner, but today, Freud’s views on mental illness are not as widely accepted as they once were and many of his ideas are viewed as being outdated or simply incorrect.

The treatment of psychological problems from a psychodynamic perspective largely focuses on what a person has stored in their subconscious mind, as this is thought to be responsible for driving their behavior.

As a result, a person is not usually treated with drugs, but rather is assisted via counselling that involves the discussion of unresolved issues a person may have from their past.

Hypnotherapy may also be used as part of a person’s treatment program, as some believe that hypnosis can be an effective tool for reprogramming the mind.

3) Learning Viewpoint

The learning viewpoint assumes that abnormal behavior is due to experiences that a person has had in their past, which they have subsequently learned to associate with a particular emotion.

For example, a person who is afraid of the dark may have been locked in a dark room when they were younger, thereby causing them to fear the dark as an adult.

girl smelling flower

The things which we experience during our childhood can cause us to become drawn to, or repelled from, those things in adulthood.

The learning viewpoint is most useful for dealing with disorders such as phobias which have been acquired through a process of classical conditioning, such as in the example just given.

Fortunately, many phobias can be quite successfully treated through a process of desensitization. Although there are many different ways that desensitization to a phobia can occur, most of the time it is done by gradually exposing a person to something which they are afraid of and increasing the intensity of that exposure with each subsequent treatment session.

4) Humanistic Viewpoint

The humanistic viewpoint attributes abnormal behavior to an inability to become self actualizing.

For example, a person had dreams of achieving certain things when they were younger, but now they are an adult, they feel that they will never achieve what they wanted to do in life.

female figurine reaching towards sky

We all have certain things that we want to accomplish in life, and the humanistic viewpoint states that mental disorders can result from not accomplishing those things.

Such individuals may suffer from low self-esteem, low self-confidence and depression. Treatment therefore can vary from psychological counselling to the use of psychiatric drugs.

The ultimate aim of treatment, is to improve the way a person feels about themselves and to make them more accepting of their current condition so that they can move on and make the most of the rest of their life.

5) Sociocultural Viewpoint

The sociocultural viewpoint attributes the effect of society on the development of abnormal behavior.

For example, your house gets destroyed in a natural disaster and you lose everything because the insurance companies won’t pay out. So you become depressed, and think of committing suicide.

woman looking out of window on train

The way we feel about ourselves is largely dependent upon the things that happen to us in life.

The sociocultural viewpoint is strongly influenced by psychologists such as Les Vygotsky and Urie Bronfenbrenner whose theories stress the importance of social factors in personal development.

Again, the type of treatment that a person receives can vary depending on what psychological problems or issues they are experiencing.

But in the large majority of cases, solving problem issues in a person’s personal life will provide far greater benefit than drug based treatments. Although, for some people, such as those experiencing depression, medication may still be prescribed to help that person resolve their issues.

What Is Abnormal Behavior?

Abnormal behavior is behavior which deviates from what is considered “normal” behavior.

For example, if it’s normal behavior for a person to wash their hands after going to the toilet or before eating, but someone feels the need to wash or disinfect their hands after everything they touch, then this would be classed as “abnormal behavior” because it deviates from the norm.

man wearing pink wig

Abnormal behavior is defined as behavior which differs from what one would consider to be “normal”.

However, it is important to note that just because someone’s behavior differs from what is considered to be normal, it does not necessarily imply pathology (sickness).

This person could be germophobic and cleaning their hands helps them to relieve their fear of germs.  Or, they could simply be working in an environment where everything must be kept sterile or in an environment in which there is a high risk of infection.

As a result, it is important to remember that you cannot accurately classify a particular behavior as being abnormal without taking other factors, such as the context, into consideration.

General Characteristics of Mental Disorders

Mental disorders share common characteristics, and if a person displays one or more of these characteristics, then it may suggest that they are suffering from some kind of mental disorder.

Some of the most common characteristics of mental disorders are listed below.

1) Suffering

woman sitting on stairs sad

All types of mental disorders are associated with some degree of mental suffering.

Suffering, in one form or another, is very often associated with mental disorders.

Usually, it is the person who suffers in the form of emotional suffering, such as depression or anxiety, but sometimes, it can be other people who suffer as a result of that person’s behavior.

For example, a person who suffers from paranoia is distrustful towards other people, and so accuses someone of doing something which they didn’t do.

As a result of these accusations, an argument or violent act may break out causing the other person to experience emotional or physical suffering.

2) Self Defeating Behavior

woman at slot machine

Sometimes, people do things that make them feel good, but which also end up having long-lasting negative consequences on their life.

Self defeating behavior is behavior which provides some form of immediate gratification but comes at a costly long-term expense. In other words, the person satisfies themselves now but suffers later.

For example, compulsive gambling or shopping are both examples of self-defeating behavior, because even though they make a person feel good, they have a negative long-term consequence such as debt.

3) Self Destructive Behavior

pin to balloon head

When you do something to purposefully harm yourself, either physically or mentally, you are engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Self destructive behavior is behavior which injures or harms the body in some way. For example, overeating, drug addiction and self-inflicted injury are all types of self-destructive behavior.

4) Salient Behavior

imaginary friend

A salient behavior is something that you immediately notice because it sticks out as being unusual in some way.

Salient behavior is any type of behavior which tends to stand out as being particularly unusual. For example, talking to an imaginary friend or wearing shorts and a t-shirt during the winter would appear strange to most people.

5) Illogical Behavior

person lying down on floor

Lying down for good luck before leaving the home is an example of illogical behavior. Unless of course, you believe that doing so will bring you good luck!

Illogical behavior is behavior which makes no sense. The individual performing the behavior may think that it makes sense, or may think that it doesn’t make sense but still does it anyway.

For example, a person recognizes that saying a certain mantra won’t protect them from physical harm, yet they feel compelled to say it anyway.

Classifying Mental Disorders

words of mental illness on back

Mental disorders can be classified according to the signs and symptoms that one displays.

A mental disorder is characterized by both abnormal behavior and the presence of pathological signs and symptoms.

What is a sign?

A sign is something which is noticeable by others, and is therefore external. For example, a person who constantly laughs to themselves even though they are not talking to anyone may be exhibiting a sign of a mental disorder.

What is a symptom?

A symptom is something that a person experiences, and is therefore internal. For example, a person may feel depressed, anxious or think that they hear people who others cannot.

What is a syndrome?

A collection of signs and symptoms is called a syndrome, and this is what mental health professionals use to diagnose and treat mental disorders.

Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

man looking at book with magnifying glass

Medical professionals use reference books to help them diagnose their patients.

The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM), is a reference book that is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to classify mental disorders.

It uses a five-axis system of classification as described below:

Axis 1 – clinical syndromes

Clinical syndromes are clusters of signs and symptoms that allow a determination to be made as to the type of mental disorder that a person is suffering from. This is the most important axis, because it gives a starting point to work from.

Axis 2 – personality disorders

Personality disorders may or may not be present, but if they are, then this can make it difficult to form an accurate diagnosis.

Axis 3 – medical conditions

The health of a person is important in treating a mental disorder. For example, a schizophrenic person who also suffers from diabetes will need to eat a special diet alongside any treatment that they receive.

Axis 4 – psychosocial problems

Psychosocial problems relate to problems interacting with other people, and the subsequent effect this is having on a person’s life. For example, a divorce or the loss of a job needs to be taken into account to determine its connection with the clinical syndrome.

Axis 5 – global assessment

This is a general assessment as to how well a person is functioning in everyday life. The patient is given a score out of 100, with 100 meaning that a person is functioning well and 20 meaning that a person is functioning poorly.

All of these five axis are used to give mental health professionals an understanding of the nature and status of a person’s mental disorder. This is important because it means that disorder can then be appropriately treated.

Types of Psychiatric Disorders

colorful angry face

The are many psychiatric disorders that people can suffer from, so it’s important to correctly classify them so that they can be appropriately and effectively treated.

Some of the main types of psychological disorders are listed below.

Anxiety disorders

•    Panic disorder
•    Obsessive-compulsive disorder
•    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
•    Social phobia
•    Agoraphobia
•    Phobias
•    Specific phobias
•    Generalized anxiety
•    Separation anxiety
•    Acute stress
•    Anxiety due to medical condition
•    Substance-induced anxiety disorder

Depressive disorders

•    Depression
•    Major depressive episode
•    Major depressive disorder
•    Dysthymia – chronic and mild depression.
•    Bipolar disorder
•    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
•    Cyclothymia
•    Postnatal depression

Personality disorders

•    Borderline personality disorder
•    Antisocial personality
•    Conduct disorder
•    Oppositional defiant disorder
•    Multiple personality disorder
•    Histrionic personality disorder
•    Schizoid personality disorder
•    Schizotypal personality disorder
•    Paranoid personality disorder
•    Narcissistic personality disorder
•    Dependent personality disorder
•    Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
•    Avoidant personality disorder
•    Personality Disorder NOS
•    Personality Disorder Due to General Medical Condition

Behavioral disorders

•    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
•    Autism
•    Asperger Syndrome
•    Rett’s syndrome
•    Drug abuse
•    Alcohol use
•    Alcohol abuse
•    Alcoholism
•    Addictions
•    Gambling addiction

Eating disorders

•    Anorexia Nervosa
•    Bulimia nervosa
•    Binge eating disorder
•    Disordered Eating
•    Eating Disorder not Otherwise Specified (ENDOS)
•    Psychotic disorders
•    Schizophrenia
•    Brief Psychotic Disorder
•    Delusional disorder
•    Shared Psychotic Disorder
•    Substance-induced Psychotic Disorder

Now that you have seen the wide range of psychological disorders that people can suffer from, below we will look at the main categories that these disorders fall into: somatoform, anxiety, dissociative, mood, psychotic, personality and organic mental disorders.

Somatoform Disorders

Somatoform disorders are disorders in which a person’s anxiety is converted into a bodily symptom.

However, even though they may appear to have symptoms resembling a physical illness, they do not actually have a physical illness that can be detected by a medical examination.

But this does not mean that such individuals are faking their illness, as sufferers genuinely believe that they are unwell.

The four main types of somatoform disorders are:

1) Somatization Disorder

woman in car unhappy

Sometimes there is nothing physically wrong with a person, but they still complain about some pain or illness which they think they have.

Somatization disorder is characterized by a person who complains a lot about their health.

For example, they are always saying that their legs ache, they have a headache or other such health complaints which may sometimes lead others to incorrectly labelling them as a hypochondriac.

A true hypochondriac is someone who is diagnosed by their physician as suffering from hypochondriacal disorder.

2) Hypochondriacal Disorder (hypochondriasis)

worry lines forehead

Hypochondriacs are constantly worrying about their health. Often, this stems from a fear, and lack of acceptance of, death.

Hypochondriacal disorder is characterized by excessive worry about health.

For example, a person with stomach pains starts to worry that they have stomach cancer, or a person whose heart starts to beat fast thinks that they are having a heart attack.

People who suffer from hypochondriasis often take large amounts of vitamin pills and/or visit their doctor regularly. They may also be engaging in risky health behaviors such as excessive drinking of alcohol or smoking cigarettes, which can further aggravate their hypochondriasis.

3) Pain Disorder

man in pain

People with pain disorder complain of being in pain, but the cause of their pain cannot be medically explained.

Pain disorder is characterized by someone who says that they feel pain all the time, even though their doctor is unable to find anything wrong with them.

However, it should be noted that this is a very difficult disorder to accurately diagnose, as nobody can say for certain (except you) whether or not you are feeling pain and how much of it you are feeling.

4) Conversion Disorder

brain scan

Conversion disorders resemble neurological problems, yet upon neurological examination, no abnormalities can be found.

Most conversion disorders are characterized by symptoms which resemble neurological problems, such as paralysis or the loss of sight or hearing.

These are called pseudoneurological symptoms, which are defined as the existence of symptoms which falsely indicate a neurological disorder.

In order for this diagnosis to be made, an individual will usually undergo some type of brain imaging scan to examine the structural integrity of their brain and to check for any abnormalities. This may involve the use of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) or PET (positron emission tomography) scans for example.

In the past, conversion disorders were called hysteria.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders revolve around fear, a fear that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen to you.

Freud recognised anxiety disorders during his research on patients, and made the distinction between two classes of anxiety: neurotic anxiety and rational anxiety.

Neurotic Anxiety

Neurotic anxiety is an irrational anxiety. For example, you are afraid of spiders even though there is very little chance that you will be harmed by one.

Irrational anxiety tends to be fairly widespread throughout the general population, as almost all worries that people have relate to things that will probably never happen to them.

anxious woman biting fingernails

A person who is neurotic worries about things that aren’t really a threat to them.

This type of anxiety can commonly lead to the development of phobias. In classical conditioning, this occurs through a process of generalization, whereby a bad past experience with a particular stimulus, such as spiders, leads to a generalization or transference of that fear onto all spiders.

Stimulus generalization can occur with virtually anything that you encounter in life to which you have a particularly strong emotional reaction to or unpleasant experience with, which can then lead to irrational fears that continue to affect you throughout your adult life.

Most irrational fears can be traced back to some event in a person’s childhood, although it is also true that such fears can develop at any point in a person’s life regardless of their age.

Rational Anxiety

Rational anxiety comes from a real fear. For example, you are afraid of a certain type of spider because it is poisonous to humans and therefore possess a real threat to your safety and to your health.

woman scared of spider

Rational anxiety is defined as worry relating to a genuine threat to one’s safety or physical well-being.

Rational fears tend to occur less frequently than irrational fears because they require a person to think predominantly using their logical rational brain, their neocortex.

As a result, in this state of mind a person is much less likely to become afraid of something because they are able to assess the likelihood of that threat actually happening, which in the majority of cases, will be very low.

Irrational fears on the other hand, tend to occur predominantly as a result of people thinking using their emotional brain, their limbic system.

In this state of mind, a person tends not to weigh up all the available evidence/information, and so is much more likely to come to a conclusion that something is a threat to them when in actuality it is not.

Types of Anxiety

Although there are many different types of anxiety that a person can suffer from, there are four types which tend to be the most common:

1) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by an overall feeling of dread, like something bad is going to happen to you but you don’t know what or when. This results in chronic worry and a feeling that you cannot escape from this impending doom (sometimes this is called free-floating anxiety).

man hiding under duvet

Generalized anxiety causes the sufferer to have a constant sense of doom and gloom. This then causes them to become fearful of their environment.

A person with generalized anxiety tends to have a pessimistic outlook on life, because they always think that bad things are going to happen to them.

Unfortunately, this can very often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby what a person expects to happen then causes them to behave in ways that makes it happen.

2) Phobic disorder

Phobic disorders result in anxiety that stems from a specific source. The main types of phobic disorders are:

A – Specific phobias

Specific phobias involve the fear of some object or situation. For example, the fear of heights is called “acrophobia”, and the fear of confined spaces is called “claustrophobia”.

Specific phobias tend to have quite a high success rate in terms of treatment as once the cause of a persons anxiety has been identified, specific measures can then be taken to combat it.

Specific phobias are usually treated with desensitization therapy. This involves exposing someone to something that they fear gradually until they learn that it is not a threat to them.

woman holding spider

Desensitization therapy is often used to help people overcome phobias. In this case, a woman has overcome her fear of spiders and is now holding a tarantula.

A person who is afraid of heights for example, may be taken up a large building over a period of several weeks or months by going up to a higher floor each treatment session until they eventually reach the top.

In order to do this however, one usually requires the assistance of a medical professional or psychologist in order to push that person slightly outside their comfort zone during each session.

Without assistance, most people will not be able to do this on their own as it is a natural reaction for a phobic individual to stay away from what they fear.

B – Social phobia

Social phobia is a fear of the opinions of other people, usually because that person does not want to be judged harshly or criticized by others. This can cause them to become shy and withdrawn, and if they are criticized, angry.

Almost all social phobias can be traced back to a person’s childhood. Either they had a bad experience with other children at school, or they were put down frequently by their parent(s).

woman sitting on chair

People with social phobia prefer to spend time by themselves or with a select circle of close friends. This usually occurs due to one fearing the opinions of others.

Such experiences can cause a person to become overly sensitive to criticism or cause them to feel that people are paying more attention to them than they actually are, thereby making them feel as though they are being watched. In psychology, this is known as the “spotlight effect” and can greatly enhance the severity of a person’s social phobia.

Some social phobias can occur as a result of a person being overly self-conscious about the way that they look, which can also usually be traced back to a negative childhood experience.

This can cause a person to feel uncomfortable in the presence of other people, and suffer anxiety when the attention of a large group is directed at them such as when speaking in a classroom or giving a speech.

C – Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a fear of leaving the home or leaving an area which is familiar to a person. Suffers of agoraphobia will spend the majority of their time in their home and will not travel very far away from it.

To the agoraphobic their house is their comfort zone, and they will stay there until they feel comfortable to re-enter the world again. How long this will take can vary depending on the severity of their agoraphobia and the assistance that they receive.

girl looking out window

Agoraphobics prefer to stay indoors, as they experience an overwhelming sense of anxiety when in the company of strangers.

Those using cognitive behavioral therapy for example, can usually be treated quite rapidly and will soon return back to living a normal life outside the home.

The exact reasons for agoraphobia are unknown, although some psychologists believe that it is a more extreme form of social phobia. Thus treating a persons social phobia, will also usually treat their agoraphobia.

3) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by thoughts which induce anxiety and actions which are taken to relieve it. For example, if a person is afraid of dying as a result of an infection, they may constantly wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces in public.

woman cleaning ocd

The desire to always do something in a particular way is characteristic of OCD sufferers. For anxiety disorders, carrying out such actions serves to reduce the anxiety that a person is experiencing.

Most rituals that people perform, such as knocking on wood to prevent something bad from happening, are actually a mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder. Where OCD starts to become a problem, is when the rituals that a person performs begins to interfere with their normal everyday activities.

OCD also tends to be self reinforcing which can make it difficult to treat, as the more a person carries out a particular behavior, such as hand washing, the more they believe that they should be doing that behavior and so the harder it becomes to stop doing it.

4) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is anxiety which occurs as a result of being exposed to a traumatic or life threatening situation.

This is something which is commonly experienced by military veterans, although it is also common amongst the general public such as with people who survive a natural disaster, a car accident or experience a strongly emotional life event such as rape.


Military veterans can return back home psychological scarred by the things which they have witnessed and experienced.

Treatment of post traumatic stress disorder is generally carried out using desensitization therapy in order to reduce the negative emotional impact of a past event.

Military veterans for example, may be treated in a virtual reality simulator which recreates the scene from their memory so that they can gradually desensitize themselves to it.

Recently, drug based treatments are being used to treat PTSD which act to degrade a person’s memory of a past event so that they recall it less vividly and less frequently.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders occur when an individual experiences either a loss of personal identity or forms a distorted view of who they are.

There are four main types of dissociative disorders, each of which will be described below.

1) Psychogenic Amnesia


Psychogenic amnesia can cause a person to forget who they are. This however, is relatively rare, unlike what one is led to believe in the movies.

Psychogenic amnesia is a loss of personal memories, which subsequently destroys a person’s sense of self-identity.

For example, if a person is involved in a car accident and then afterwards does not remember anything about their life, such as their name, where they live, who their family is etc.. they will begin to question who they are (their identity).

It is important to note however, that the loss of memory occurs due to psychological factors and not as a result of physical trauma to the brain.

Using the above example, the psychological factor which leads to a person suffering from psychogenic amnesia may be the death of a passenger that individual was travelling with or the death of another motorist.

2) Psychogenic Fugue

people looking at map

In addition to forgetting who they are, people with psychogenic fugue also forget where they are.

Psychogenic fugue is similar to psychogenic amnesia in the sense that a person has lost their sense of identity. However, in addition to this, they also do not know where they are or how they got there.

For example, a person is wandering around in a strange city not knowing who they are or where they are.

3) Dissociative Identity Disorder

split personality

Creating multiple personalities within one individual is how some people believe that governments train mind controlled assassins.

Dissociative identity disorder is most commonly known as multiple personality disorder, and describes a person who displays different types of personalities (different selves).

4) Depersonalization Disorder

woman looking in mirror

This disorder is characterized by a person disowning the things they don’t like about their body. In some cases, this can lead to a person desiring to amputate one of their limbs.

Depersonalization disorder occurs when there is a change in the way a person perceives themselves.

For example, they may imagine that they are too tall, too short, ugly or that there is something wrong with the way that certain parts of their body looks. As a result, they try to dissociate themselves from certain parts of their body because they do not like the way it is.

In some cases, this may cause a person to have an out-of-body experience where they leave their body and are able to see it from the outside.

Depersonalization disorder may also lead to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which an individual may then try to address through cosmetic surgery.

Individuals who are identified as suffering from such dissociative disorders will usually be refused cosmetic surgery, as they are unlikely to ever be completely happy with the results that they get.

Such individuals may also develop an addiction to plastic surgery, which eventually can result in them making drastic changes to the way that they look to the point of looking abnormal.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, also called affective disorders, are characterized by mild or extreme fluctuations in a person’s emotional state. These fluctuations can broadly be grouped into either positive moods (happy and optimistic) or negative moods (sad and pessimistic).

The four main types of mood disorders are:

1) Dysthymia

man face shouting

Dysthymia means to be in a bad mood for most of the time.

Dysthymia is characterized by depression which appears to occur most of the time.

The word dysthymia literally means “bad” (dys) “mood” (thymia), thus a person suffering from dysthymia will seem to be in a bad mood most of the time.

Another word for dysthymia is neurotic depression.

2) Major Depressive Episode

man sad eating

In addition to experiencing depression, those with major depressive episode can also lose their appetite.

Major depressive episode is frequent severe depression, usually accompanied by a loss of appetite and an inability to enjoy peaceful sleep.

People who suffer from such depression are very likely to have thoughts of suicide, and commit suicide.

Note: Both dysthymia and major depressive episode are known as unipolar mood disorders, because they only display one emotional direction (one type of emotion, a negative mood).

3) Cyclothymia

woman laughing

Cyclothymia is characterized by sudden changes in mood.

Cyclothymia describes changes in a person’s mood. For example, one minute they may be happy and then the next they are sad.

When a person is in a dysthymic phase, a bad mood, they may have difficulties concentrating, making decisions, feel irritable, helpless and experience a lack of motivation.

During a euphoric phase, a good mood, a person is likely to feel overly optimistic, have racing thoughts, engage in risky or compulsive behaviors and may be aggressive or hostile towards others.

4) Bipolar Disorder

woman face with pills on glasses

People with bipolar disorder can be very difficult to live with due to their wildly fluctuating and extreme moods. This disorder is often treated with medication.

Bipolar disorder is a more severe form of cyclothymia, and occurs when a person’s mood changes rapidly from one extreme to another.

For example, a person is feeling very happy and then they have a sudden outburst of extreme rage. The important point to note here is the extremes of behavior that an individual displays, which range from severe depression to mania. This may increase an individuals risk of having suicidal thoughts and psychosis.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive disorder.

Note: Both cyclothymia and bipolar disorder are classified as bipolar mood disorders, because they involve different types of emotional directions (positive mood & negative mood).

Along with depression, bipolar disorder is the most common type of mood disorder that people suffer from.

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are disorders in which a person loses touch with reality and suffers from delusions and/or cognitive distortions.

What are delusions?

Delusions are false beliefs about something that most people would regard as being impossible or “crazy”. For example, a person may think that they can fly or that they possess some magical ability.

man jumping flying

Think you can fly? If you can’t, you’re deluded.

Such individuals are said to be deluded because they tend to ignore information which is contrary to their own beliefs.

What are cognitive distortions?

Cognitive distortions are thoughts that are illogical or irrational.

There are several different types of cognitive distortions that a person may have, some of these include:

Splitting: Thinking in all or nothing terms with no belief that something may lie between two extremes. For example, you are either in love with me or you hate me. There is no room for alternatives, such as a person liking you as a friend.

Overgeneralizing: The tendency to apply what happened in one situation to all situations.

Mental filter: Focusing on a, usually negative, aspect and ignoring everything else.

Jumping to conclusions: Making incorrect assumptions/conclusions about something based on limited amounts of information.

Personalization: Saying that something was someones fault even though they had no control over the situation.

Emotional reasoning: Assuming that something must be true because you feel a certain way about it.

Magnification: Overreacting to a situation and making it out to be more than it is.

Disqualifying the positive: Playing down anything good that happens.

Psychotic disorders are usually accompanied by hallucinations (false perceptions), such as seeing or hearing someone who isn’t actually there.

The two main types of psychotic disorders are schizophrenia and delusional disorder, and these are usually treated with psychiatric medication. In severe cases, an individual may require hospitalization.

1) Schizophrenia


Schizophrenics feel that they are constantly being watch and scrutinized by a third-party.

A schizophrenic person suffers from delusions and cognitive distortions causing them to have a distorted and false view of reality. Schizophrenia is sometimes called dementia praecox, which means madness at an early age.

There are four main types of schizophrenic disorders:

A – The paranoid type

The paranoid type describes a person who is very mistrustful or suspicious of other people. For example, they may believe that they are being followed when driving their car or that the government is watching them.

Paranoid schizophrenia has been linked to cannabis usage.

B – The catatonic type

The catatonic type describes a person who doesn’t speak (but are able to), and lies, sits or stands in awkward or unusual positions.

C – The disorganized type

The disorganized type is characterized by silly and inappropriate behavior. For example, a person may laugh or make strange noises every time someone speaks to them.

The disorganized type is also known as hebephrenic schizophrenia.

D – The undifferentiated type

This is a category that is used when a person exhibits multiple types of schizophrenic disorders, and so cannot be placed in one category.

2) Delusion Disorder

weird man wearing glasses

Delusion disorder is a type of paranoia where a person believes something to be true that is not true.

Delusion disorder is not a type of schizophrenia, but rather, a form of paranoia. However, this should not be confused with schizophrenial paranoia, as delusion disorder paranoia appears organized whereas schizophrenial paranoia is not.

For example, someone says that they are an alien from another planet who is visiting earth to save it from destruction. No matter how much you question them they seem to have an answer for everything, and may even provide “evidence” to support their claim that they are from outer space, such as pictures of their spaceship.

A person with schizophrenic paranoia would reveal holes in their story after they have been questioned for some time, and they would not be very convincing.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders involve a type of behavior which is not effective in coping with the challenges of life and may very often be self-defeating or self-destructive.

Personality disorders can be hard to diagnose initially, because they do not obviously stick out as a mental disorder. For example, an individual may not be suffering from anxiety, depression or be psychotic, so to the average person, they appear normal.

The three main types of personality disorders are:

1) Narcissistic

confident looking man

A narcissist believes that they are superior to others in every way.

A narcissistic personality disorder occurs when a person is in “love” with themselves. They think that they are better than everyone else, and as a result, tend to display a lack of compassion towards other people.

2) Antisocial

man with hands on table business meeting

With antisocial personality disorder, a person doesn’t feel guilty or see anything wrong in cheating or harming others.

Antisocial personality disorder describes a person who can knowingly harm or cheat others without feeling guilty for their actions.

On the surface they may appear to be very nice and friendly, but this is only done to benefit themselves (i.e. to trick you into giving something to them).

3) Obsessive-Compulsive

girl arranging sticks neatly

The desire for complete control in one’s environment is characteristic of an obsessive-compulsive personality.

People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder want everything to be perfect and to have total control over their environment.

Note: This type of psychological disorder differs from obsessive-compulsive disorder because it is a personality disorder not an anxiety disorder. A person with obsessive-compulsive (anxiety) disorder, does things repeatedly to reduce the anxiety caused by their thoughts.

Organic Mental Disorders

Organic mental disorders are a collection of signs and symptoms that suggest there is physical damage to the brain or nervous system. This damage may be caused by an injury, toxicity, disease, genetics, infections or a vitamin deficiency.

There are three main types of organic mental disorders.

1) Alcohol Amnestic Disorder

man drinking beer

Drinking too much alcohol, as you probably already know, can lead to memory problems. In extreme cases, this can lead to a permanent loss of aspects of one’s memory.

Alcohol amnestic disorder is general loss of memory as a result of prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption.

Memory loss may be due to a deficiency of thiamine, which is caused by alcohol abuse. This type of memory loss can usually be reversed with nutritional therapy.

Memory loss may also be due to neuronal damage, which is not reversible.

2) Dementia of the Alzheimer’s Type

elderly man

Dementia is a gradual decline in one’s cognitive abilities, and the risk of suffering from this disorder increases with age.

Dementia of the Alzheimer’s type is a progressive loss of mental functioning, such as a decline in the ability to think, learn, remember, make decisions and understand things.

This type of mental degeneration is characterized by tangles of fibres within nerve cells and amyloid plaques (protein deposits between nerve cells).

During the later stages of the disease, a person becomes weak and unable to move.

3) General Paresis

man's legs

A person with general paresis suffers from both dementia and paralysis.

General paresis describes a person who suffers from both dementia and paralysis, and is linked to syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease).

Reviewed – 26th March 2016

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