happy in my own skin

Common Mental Illnesses A-Z

Remember: mental illness is a flaw in chemistry, not character.

You may be asking yourself: “Why do I feel scared all the time” or “Is my child depressed?” or wondering what kinds of mental illness children, teens and adults may experience. Well, there are a lot. The brain is a complicated organ, but luckily, there are lots of professional treatment options for all of these common conditions to get you, a loved one or friend back to thriving!

It’s important to know that it’s normal to feel some of the different symptoms associated with mental illness from time to time. But if it’s affecting your everyday life, if you stop participating in activities you love or if it’s disrupting your success in school, you may want to seek help. Rule of thumb: if you’re suffering, get professional mental health help. You don’t have to feel this way.

Please note: only some commonly diagnosed mental illnesses are listed. is a trusted site for more information.

Anxiety Disorder

Your heart’s racing. Your mind goes blank. Your face begins to flush and you feel dizzy and tingly all over. But you’re not gearing up to make a speech in class or to kick off the big game. You’re just sitting in your room listening to music and hanging out. So why do you feel this way?

Anxiety disorders are a group of conditions that make you feel scared, distressed, excessively worried – even when no real threat exists. In fact, if left untreated you may find yourself so uneasy that you no longer feel comfortable hanging out with friends or going to school.

Other symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

  • Constantly worrying over big issues and little ones
  • Restlessness, on edge and unable to relax
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Sweating, nausea or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath or fast heart rate

There are several types of anxiety disorders, and know that if you feel anxious from time to time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have one.

Would you like to learn more about anxiety disorders? Click here.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

You can’t sit still. Your mind is going in a gazillion different directions. You’re constantly shifting gears and can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time.

While it’s normal to feel overly stimulated and act on impulse from time to time, if you feel yourself acting more like this than not, you could have some level of ADHD. But don’t worry: ADHD is the most common type of behavioral issue among kids and teens, and there are lots of things you can do to manage the condition.

Symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Can’t seem to pay attention
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Failure to listen
  • Forgetful
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Can’t finish homework or home chores
  • Easily distracted
  • Fidgety
  • Extremely talkative
  • Can’t wait to chime in on an activity or conversation
  • Disruptive in social situations

Even though you might feel you do these things from time to time, it doesn’t mean you for certain have ADHD.

Would you like to learn more about ADHD? Click here.

Bipolar Disorder

One day you’re singing and dancing in your bedroom to one of your favorite songs. The next day you’ve stopped dead in your tracks because life could not be worse than it is right now.

Bipolar disorder is far more serious than if you just suffer from the occasional mood swings. Mood swings are normal, especially if you are in junior high or high school. It’s really just part of the growing up process. However, if these shifts in your personality begin to take control of your entire life and affect how you function at home, school and with your friends, you may want to talk with someone you trust – especially if other people seem to be worrying about your behavior.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • Severe temper
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Reckless behavior
  • Aggression
  • Intense periods of giddiness, followed by bouts of crying

Bipolar disorder is very complex and there are many different ways the condition can show up in a person. If left untreated, many people with bipolar disorder become chronically depressed – sometimes even suicidal.

Would you like to learn more about bipolar disorder? Click here.


You can’t get out of bed. You stopped doing your hair and worrying about what to wear the next day. You barely have the energy to brush your teeth, let alone get your homework done or go out with friends. You’ve lost your appetite, too, or maybe you’re eating too much. You may have even thought about ending it all.

Depression is one of the most common issues affecting people of all ages. But just because you feel sad and lonely on occasion doesn’t mean you have depression.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sad feelings
  • Bouts of crying
  • Anger, frustration, irritability over insignificant situations
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feeling worthless
  • Guilt
  • Feeling as though you’ve failed
  • Self-blame
  • Trouble making decisions or thinking and remembering
  • Feeling that life is not worth the hassle
  • Thinking about death and suicide
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Restlessness
  • Slow reaction time
  • Failing grades
  • Skipping school
  • Behaving in a risky way
  • Self-harm (cutting, piercing, burning)

If you have a few or lots of these symptoms, talk with a friend or trusted family member or teacher about it. You don’t have to feel this way, and there are lots of resources and options to help you feel better right now and well down the road.

Would you like to learn more about depression? Click here.

Eating disorders

You have to eat to survive. But you’re constantly comparing yourself to skinnier, more muscular people, and it’s making you feel inadequate and unlikeable. So you stop eating as much as you probably should, or you start eating more as a way to quell your feelings of inadequacy.

Eating disorders are complicated because everybody has to eat. However, society constantly bombards us with unrealistic images of beauty and perfection. Or sometimes it’s an athletic issue: You want to get stronger, leaner, faster, and to get there, you have to make unrealistic or dangerous decisions about how you fuel your body.

There are many types of eating disorders, all of which have different symptoms and behaviors. They include:

Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge Eating Disorder

Keep in mind that if you’re just naturally skinny or muscular, or you sometimes overeat on special occasions, it doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder. But if you notice that you or one of your friends is rapidly losing or gaining weight, you may want to talk with another friend or close family member or teacher, because eating disorders can be life threatening.

Would you like to learn more about eating disorders? Click here.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

You have to count to a certain number before getting out of bed. You can’t stop thinking about the same thing over and over and over again. You know it’s weird and not normal, but you just can’t stop yourself.

OCD affects many people of all ages and can exist alongside or in addition to other behavioral issues. If you find yourself having constant uncontrollable thoughts or the need to do certain activities in a very specific and orderly way, there’s a possibility you could have some degree of OCD.

Symptoms of OCD include:

  • Fear of getting dirty or being contaminated
  • Extreme orderliness
  • Impulsive
  • Unwanted sexual thoughts or images
  • Constant reassurance that you’ve completed a task, such as turning off the stove
  • Extreme fear of disorder
  • Impulse to shout swear words
  • Hair picking or pulling

In many cases, if your mom or dad has OCD, you may have symptoms as well. However, OCD can occur as a result of other behavioral issues such as anxiety or panic disorder.

Would you like to learn more about OCD? Click here.

Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.

In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.

Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.

Examples  of Personality Disorders:

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

You might hear of soldiers returning home from war and having extremely vivid, disturbing dreams or flashbacks from their experience overseas. Or you were in a bad car accident as a younger person, and you can’t seem to “get over it” like you think you should. Or you lost a parent or grandparent, and thoughts of their passing are disrupting your life in many ways.

War, terrorism, sexual assault, a dangerous weather event and other trauma can trigger PTSD in people of all ages. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurring nightmares or flashbacks
  • Intense distress related to the event
  • Avoidance of situations that may trigger a bad memory
  • Selective memory – inability to recall specific events of the trauma
  • Estrangement – physically and emotionally disconnecting from others
  • Can’t plan for the future
  • Sleeplessness
  • Always on the lookout for danger
  • Easily startled

PTSD can come on immediately following a trauma and last for a short period of time or longer. Sometimes PTSD doesn’t surface until much later after the triggering event. Regardless, if you suffer from PTSD, there are many resources and ways you can learn to cope and overcome the behaviors associated with a traumatic event.

Would you like to learn more about PTSD? Click here.

Self Harm (cutting)

Self harm is frequently referred to as “cutting” but self harm can show itself in many other ways, eraser burns, hair pulling, picking, punching walls – it’s anything that is intended harm.
Self harm is hard to understand and it’s scary to think about but it important not to ignore this behavior. It is becoming increasingly common, especially in youth.
Warning Signs:

  • Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
  • Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
  • Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings.
  • Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
  • Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
  • Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
    Isolation and irritability.

For more information on self harm, click here.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It’s the middle of January. Daylight hours are short, it’s cold, and it seems like forever ago that you saw something green or felt the warmth of the sun. When you live in a northern climate, you know how punishing the short, cold days can be, and many, many people tend to feel depressed during these winter months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or more appropriately referred to as SAD, is a more episodic form of severe depression that relates to the seasons. You may have heard about people using special lamps or light bulbs that simulate the sunlight, or others taking vitamin D supplements to stave off the winter doldrums.

Symptoms of SAD mimic those associated with depression.

Would you like to learn more about SAD? Click here.