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Mental health topics




An addiction is a strong, uncontrollable need to do, take or use something to the point that it may be harmful. Problems with addiction can start as a way of coping with feelings that an individual is experiencing. An individual experiencing an addiction cannot control how they use it and may become dependent on it to get through their daily life. Addiction can lead to problems in people’s work life, home life and relationships.

Common addictions are drugs and alcohol, but other examples include gambling, shopping, chocolate, pornography, medication and sex.

Alcohol abuse and addiction

Alcohol and mental health problems are closely linked. There is evidence that mental health problems can result from drinking too much. But there is also evidence that mental health problems can cause people to drink too much. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to serious physical and mental illnesses, including cancer.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting almost 500,000 people in the UK. The exact cause of Alzheimer's disease is unknown, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition. These include:


Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. It's an everyday part of life and a natural response to feeling attacked, deceived, frustrated or treated unfairly. Feeling angry about something can help you identify problems or things that are hurting you, motivating you to create change, or helping you defend yourself in a dangerous situation by giving you a burst of energy.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) is a serious mental illness where people keep their body weight low by dieting, vomiting, using laxatives or excessively exercising. People with anorexia usually feel that their problems are caused by what they look like. They think that they appear fat even though they may look slim or even painfully thin to others. Their morale becomes low and their health can be seriously affected. People affected by anorexia usually hide their behaviour from family and friends.


Anxiety is a common, treatable condition most people can relate to.

It is normal to feel anxious when faced with something dangerous, difficult or unknown, for example when starting a job or sitting an exam. If everything goes well, the anxiety will most likely go away. This kind of anxiety can be helpful in stressful situations, because it increases alertness.

Asperger syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. It's a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people.

Asperger syndrome is mostly a 'hidden disability'. This means that you can't tell that someone has the condition from their physical appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas – social communication, interaction and imagination.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD refers to a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. A short attention span, being easily distracted and restlessness are common symptoms. ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability although it is more common in people with learning difficulties. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that covers everyone with conditions within the spectrum of autism. ASD is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

People with an ASD are likely to have difficulty in understanding the communication and language of others and also in communicating themselves. Many people with ASD are delayed in learning to speak and some do not develop speech.



Everyone will experience the pain and grief of loss or bereavement at some point in their lives. This may be because of the death of someone close to us, or even the loss of our home or health. All are serious losses. Everyone’s response to loss is different and it can be difficult to know what is ‘normal’ and to understand how we, or our families, may respond when faced with a serious loss. Experiencing grief is like going through a series of stages, where at first we feel shock, numb, panicky, weepy or unable to cry at all.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder characterised by swings in a person's mood from one extreme to another. These mood swings are characterised by ‘highs’ (feelings of extreme happiness, excitement and over-activity), ‘lows’ (intense feelings of depression, despair and hopelessness) and ‘mixed feelings’.

Bipolar disorder affects about one in 100 people. Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 18 and 24. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, is a serious mental illness where people feel that they have lost control over their eating and evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. People with bulimia nervosa can't stick to a healthy eating pattern. They tend to binge, that is, eating a lot at once. This makes them feel guilty and out of control so they then panic and punish themselves by starving, making themselves sick, taking laxatives or over-exercising.


Chronic pain and mental health

From Mental Health Compass: 'Chronic pain can lead to mental health problems as it wears you down, it's hard to sleep and often people's lives change as they are unable to work, look after their family or do the things that they used to enjoy. People who live with chronic pain often experience fatigue, low mood and other side effects. It is not uncommon to feel grief, frustration, isolation, depression and a diminished sense of self.'



Dementia is a syndrome associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. This includes problems such as memory loss, thinking speed, mental ability, language, understanding, judgement, concentration and perception.

People with dementia can become uninterested or lack enthusiasm for their usual activities, and may have problems controlling their emotions. They may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socialising, and have aspects of their personality that may change.


D​epression is more than feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. It is not the same as the normal feelings of sadness that people feel when they experience difficult events in their life. A person suffering from depression will experience intense emotions of anxiety, hopelessness, negativity and helplessness, and these feelings will stay with them. Depression prevents people from progressing normally with their lives and taking part in activities they normally enjoy. These are just some of the signs someone may be depressed:

Drug abuse and addiction

Recreational drugs are chemical substances taken for enjoyment or leisure purposes, rather than for medical reasons. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are all common recreational drugs. Recreational drugs are usually started for pleasure but they can lead to addiction, health and social problems, road traffic accidents and crime.

Many people take drugs because they make them feel good for a short time and sometimes people use drugs to self-medicate. Continual use can lead to a dependency, which often results in withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped.


Eating disorders

Eating disorders are serious conditions that can be potentially life-threatening. They consist of complex symptoms centred around food, body weight, body shape and low self-esteem. The most common eating disorders are:


Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person feels that there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the genitals. Gender identity is the gender that a person ‘identifies’ with or feels themselves to be.

While biological sex and gender identity are the same for most people, this is not the case for everyone. For example, some people may have the anatomy of a man but identify themselves as a woman, while others may not feel they are definitively either male or female.


Hearing voices

Mental health professionals usually define hearing voices as a symptom of medical illness. Hearing voices can be a very disturbing experience, both for the person who hears voices and family and friends. It can be overwhelming, making it very hard for the voice hearer to manage their life. However, many people who hear voices are able to live with them and may consider them a positive part of their lives, coping with them without psychiatric intervention.


Many of us collect things, such as books or stamps. The difference between a ‘collection’ and a ‘hoard’ is how items are organised. A hoard is usually very disorganised and takes up a lot of room. This is not always a problem. However, when the items are largely inaccessible and interfere with everyday living so that, for example, you might not be able to use the kitchen or bathroom and cannot access other rooms, it can contribute and connect to mental health issues. The clutter may cause significant distress or negatively affect your life or that of your family.

Homelessness and rough sleeping

The term ‘homelessness’ is often considered to apply only to people ‘sleeping rough’. However, statistics on homelessness relate to the statutorily homeless. Such households are rarely homeless in the literal sense of being without a roof over their heads, but are more likely to be threatened with the loss of, or are unable to continue with, their current accommodation.

Rough sleepers are defined as:


Learning disabilities

A learning disability is usually the result of a life-long condition that starts before adulthood. Learning disabilities can occur as a result of genetic or developmental factors, or damage to the brain, often at birth. They affect a person’s level of intellectual functioning, usually permanently, and may also affect their physical development.

LGBT mental health

If you are lesbian, gay or bisexual, issues such as homophobia, isolation and discrimination can take their toll on mental health. You might experience rejection, negative reactions or hostility from family members, friends, strangers, employers or members of religious communities. This can have a big impact on your self-esteem and may mean that you might feel unable to be open about your sexual or gender identity.


Loneliness is an emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. It typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other people. Loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. Feeling lonely is part of being human, but when it persists it can adversely affect your mental health, for example making you feel anxious about talking with others, causing a lack motivation to stay in touch with people, or feeling affected by stigma around your mental health.


Mental wellbeing

Signs of good mental health include being able to feel relatively confident and have positive self-esteem, to feel and express a range of emotions, cope with the stresses of daily life and adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty.



Panic disorder

Panic disorder is where you have recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no obvious reason. It is a perfectly natural response to feel anxious when you are in danger or in a stressful situation but people with panic disorder experience feelings of anxiety, stress and panic regularly and at any time. Panic affects your body, your mind and the way you behave. When someone has a panic attack they may think that they are dying, suffocating or having a heart attack because the physical symptoms can feel similar, such as tightening of the chest or difficulty breathing.


We all hold beliefs which help shape us as individuals, and how we respond to the world around us.  These beliefs are personal to us. Paranoia is believing and feeling that you are under threat even though there is no (or very little) external evidence that you are. Paranoid thoughts are sometimes described as delusions, even though they are very real to the person experiencing them. There are lots of different kinds of threat you might be scared and worried about, for example the fear of something bad happening or that someone wants to do you harm.

Personality disorders

Personality disorders affect the way we think, feel and behave. Personality disorders are a group of conditions characterised by an inability to get on with other people and learn from experience. People with a personality disorder may find that their beliefs and attitudes are different from those of most other people. Others may find their behaviour unusual, unexpected or perhaps offensive.


A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

Phobias are more pronounced than fears and are a type of anxiety disorder. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.

If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-to-day life, it can also cause them considerable anguish.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. It can be anything that is out of the ordinary or deeply distressing to someone such as an accident, a fire or witnessing a traumatic event such as a death. It can also be large scale following a major natural disaster. Deliberate acts of violence, for example, being held at gunpoint or raped, are more likely to result in PTSD than natural events or accidents.

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is what happens when an individual becomes depressed after having a baby. It is different from the ‘baby blues’. It usually develops in the first four to six weeks after childbirth although in some cases it may not develop for several months. New mothers may also have an existing depression, which they have experienced before and during pregnancy. Many new mothers experience this severe depression without recognising it or realising that it is a treatable illness. This causes needless distress, which also affects family and friends.

Problems with sleeping

Age, lifestyle, environment and diet all play a part in influencing the amount of sleep a person needs. Most healthy adults sleep for about seven to nine hours a night. As a person gets older, it becomes more difficult to maintain that amount of sleep even though it might still be needed. Sleep problems are very common and affect people in different ways. There isn’t a ‘right’ amount of sleep as everyone is different – some people need a bit more and others need a bit less.


Psychosis is a mental health problem that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. It stops the person from thinking clearly, being able to tell the difference between reality and their imagination, and from acting in a normal way.



Schizophrenia affects thinking, feeling and behaviour and will affect about one in 100 people. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterised by disturbances in a person's thoughts, perceptions, emotions and behaviour. Doctors often describe schizophrenia as a psychotic illness. This means sometimes a person may not be able to distinguish his or her own thoughts and ideas from reality.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience at a particular time of the year or during a particular season. The episodes of depression tend to occur at the same time each year, usually during the winter. The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They're most severe during December, January and February.


Our self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. When we have healthy self-esteem, we tend to feel positive about ourselves and about life in general. It makes us able to deal with life’s ups and downs better. When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our life in a more negative and critical light. We also feel less able to take on the challenges life throws at us. Living with low self-esteem can harm your mental health, leading to problems such as depression and anxiety.


Self-harm is a method of dealing with very difficult feelings, old memories, overwhelming situations or experiences. Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages or injures their body. It is a way of coping with or expressing overwhelming emotional distress. It can be physical harm, such as cutting oneself, putting oneself in risky situations or not looking after one’s physical or emotional needs. After self-harming, the person may feel better and be able to cope for a while. However, self-harm may bring up very difficult feelings that make the situation worse.


Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life but for others it requires more attention and support. Everyone reacts differently to stress, and some people may have a higher threshold than others. Some stress can be positive. A moderate level of stress can motivate us and make us perform better and more alert.


Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life.There is no single reason why someone may try to take their own life but certain things can increase how vulnerable a person is to suicidal thinking and behaviour. Most people who choose to end their lives do so for complex reasons. Certain factors are known to be associated with increased risk of suicide. These include drug and alcohol misuse, history of trauma or abuse, unemployment, social isolation, poverty, poor social conditions, imprisonment, violence and family breakdown.


Talking therapies

Talking Therapies are a type of treatment that involve talking to a therapist about your thoughts and feelings. They are sometimes referred to as counselling, talking treatments or psychological therapies. While there are different types of Talking Therapies, they all have the same goal - to help you cope better with your emotions and deal with matters that may trouble you.