Common Mental Health Issues – Brief Descriptions


Depression refers to a wide range of mental health problems characterised by the absence of a positivity, low mood and a range of associated emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms such as:

  • unreactive to circumstances throughout the day
  • irritability and tearfulness
  • social withdrawal as well as diminished activity resulting from a loss of interest and enjoyment in life
  • an exacerbation of pre-existing pains and fatigue
  • reduced sleep and loss of appetite
    OR urge to sleep more than usual and an increase in appetite
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and deserving of punishment
  • lowered self-esteem and/or loss of confidence
  • feelings of helplessness
  • thoughts of suicide and/or attempts of self-harm

Cognitive symptoms include:

  • poor concentration
  • reduced attention
  • tendency to view the worst in everything/everyone
  • negative thoughts about oneself, one’s past and future
  • mental slowing and rumination


Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the chronic and uncontrollable worry of all things associated with everyday life. Symptoms include:

  • excessively apprehensive about the outcome of routine activities
  • anticipation of a catastrophic outcome from mild physical symptoms or from a side effect of medication
  • being discouraged, ashamed, and unhappy about carrying out daily routines that appear normal for others
  • restlessness
  • easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • high levels of muscle tension
  • disturbed sleep


Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder also known as social phobia is a subtype of GAD. Social phobia is characterized by a constant and irrational fear of being judged by other people that can be extremely debilitating to their everyday lives. Fears are either triggered from the real or imagined scrutiny from others and is characterized by symptoms such as:

  • avoiding particular social situations which can impact educational and vocational performance
  • fear of being judged, embarrassed and/or humiliating oneself
  • panic attacks are common
  • development of depression symptoms common
  • development of alcohol and drug misuse to cope with disturbing and disabling symptoms

Physical symptoms include excessive:

  • blushing
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • palpations
  • nausea


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often develops in response to one or more traumatic events such as deliberate acts of interpersonal violence, severe accidents, personal loss, and even natural disasters.

Those at risk include:

  • individuals exposed to long-term emotional, mental, and physical abuse
  • survivors of violent crimes such as physical and sexual assaults and sexual abuse
  • women who survived traumatic childbirth
  • being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
  • members of the armed force and other emergency personnel

Symptoms include:

  • involuntary re-experience aspects of the traumatizing event in a vivid and distressing way
  • flashbacks occur as if they were reliving the moment
  • reoccurring nightmares and sleep problems
  • repetitive, distressing, and intrusive images or other sensory impressions of the event
  • hypervigilance to threat and exaggerated startled responses
  • irritability
  • trouble concentrating
  • avoidance of trauma reminders
  • emotional numbing can also happen resulting in the inability to have feelings, detaching from others, giving up on previous activities, and amnesia


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD is characterized by the presence of obsessions or compulsions, but commonly both. An obsession is defined by unwanted intrusive thoughts, images or an urge that repeatedly enters the person’s mind.

Note: Obsessions originate in the persons mind rather than imposed by the external world.
Common obsessions in OCD include:

  • contamination of dirt, germs, viruses, body fluids, and so on.
  • fear of harm
  • excessive concern with order and symmetry
  • obsession with the body or physical symptoms
  • religious, sacrilegious, blasphemous thoughts
  • sexual thoughts (for example, of being a pedophile or homosexual)
  • the urge to hoard unnecessary belongings
  • thoughts of violence or aggression

Common compulsions include repeatedly:

  • checking on things or repeating acts
  • cleaning and washing
  • mental compulsions (for example, repeating special words or prayers in a set manner)
  • exact order of things, symmetry
  • hoarding, collecting, and counting


Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92254/