Seven types of mental illness contribute to the rising suicide rates that are so much in the news these days. For millions of people who use substances, to feel better, mental illness is also the underlying cause drug use, both legal and illegal. Why are some people happy and well adjusted, and others have multiple difficulties coping?  When considering substance use and misuse, it’s important to know the underlying psychiatric diagnoses that need treatment and can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. We’ve unpacked the psychiatric suitcase to give you an overview of the types of mental illnesses.

In examining the DSM -5, the Fifth Edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the professional guidebook for clinicians, there are a number of diagnoses that cover a range of illnesses. One must meet certain criteria to be diagnosed with a mental illness. Also, each category of illness usually has at least 3-5 varying types of that specific mental illness and often times, a person may have more than one mental illness or also have a substance-use disorder such as alcoholism. Here we examine some of the more common mental illnesses.

Seven Most Common Types of Mental Illness

1. Depressive Disorders

There are a number of depressive disorders and the most common symptoms include “the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic [physical health] and cognitive [thought] changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function.” Depression is common and is estimated to affect 1 in 4 people.

2. Bipolar and Related Disorders

Common symptoms for the varying types of bipolar disorders include depression and mania (elevated mood, expansiveness, possible irritability, grandiosity, and high energy) or a hypomanic episode (symptoms similar to mania, but on a lesser scale).

3. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders such as phobias, social anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and generalized anxiety disorders are also fairly common. These disorders “share features of excessive fear and anxiety and related behavioral disturbances.” Also, the “anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive” and ongoing.

4. Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Related Disorders

With other disorders such as hoarding and hair and skin-picking disorders, OCD is “characterized by the presence of obsessions [intrusive thoughts/urges] and compulsions [repetitive behaviors].” For example, you cannot let go of thoughts which are intrusive and/or you use behaviors such as compulsive hand washing – perhaps as much as 50 times a day – or you have to count each step you take no matter how long the walk.

5. Trauma and Stress-related Disorders

Like the other categories, there are a number of trauma-related disorders with the most common being adjustment disorder and post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD). These are disorders “in which exposure to a traumatic or stressful event” are seen as the cause. While there are commonalities to anxiety disorders, these disorders include the exposure to difficult events. For an adjustment disorder, these are more common stressors such as a divorce or losing a job, with the emotional and behavioral symptoms being short-lived. However with PTSD, the stressful event is one that doesn’t commonly exist for everyone such as trauma from being in a war zone or being raped or being in a school where there was a shooting. With PTSD, the symptoms may be debilitating such as having flashbacks to the events, numbing out feelings or increased startle response (such as if someone touches you, your reaction may be to hit them), and not being able to cope effectively with everyday life.

6. Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders

This spectrum of disorders include abnormalities such as: hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things others don’t see or hear), delusions (thinking you are Jesus Christ or other past well-know figures, that you have special powers such as thinking you can fly, or believing that others are out to harm you [paranoia] and disorganized thinking/speech (non-sensical speech or jumbled thoughts). Others include unusual presentation (inappropriate laughter, odd physical movements or not moving at all), and negative symptoms such as difficulty in feeling emotions, poor eye contact, and struggles in feeling pleasure.

7. Personality Disorders

There are 10 personality disorders and the common symptoms include:

“An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior” that are significantly different from the person’s family and culture, is ongoing, inflexible and rigid, and leads to significant problems in functioning.”

Symptoms of personality disorders include:

  • Paranoia
  • Lack of attachment to others
  • Odd perceptions
  • Lack of morality
  • Impulsiveness
  • Perfectionism and control
  • Lack of empathy

The three most common personality disorders include:

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder (lack of morality, violation of others’ rights and values)
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder (struggles with relationships, impulsivity, poor sense of self, self-harm behaviors)
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (being grandiose about self and abilities, lack of empathy for others, and the need for others to adore you).

While there are more categories of disorders and significantly more mental illness diagnoses, these are the most common. To learn more, contact:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

Join Us

Sign up for our newsletter and receive our top articles
and promotions on our books and products!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.