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Mental health guide

Here we have outlined and given some more information on different types of mental illness A-Z. We also have a selection of free PDF guides that you may wish to download.

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We have produced a wide range of free guides covering many types of mental illnesses and also how mental health affects different communities.

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Addiction is a dependency on a chemical substance, commonly drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. Addiction involves a strong physical or psychological dependency and need for this substance. Addiction also involves withdrawal and tolerance. Tolerance is when more of the substance is needed to get the same effect as previously and withdrawal is a negative outcome due to not taking the substance; these outcomes can be physical and psychological. The causes of addiction are not clear. Many people like to assign blame to social problems, however research is showing that the problem of addiction may relate to a genetic predisposition; especially as it has been shown that it is a biological component to addiction problems. Addiction is a vast global problem with some estimates claiming that over one billion people worldwide smoke cigarettes, approximately 240 million people are alcohol dependent and approximately 15 million people use injection drugs. All these forms of addiction do have unfortunate impacts on all aspects of a sufferer’s life, including physical and mental health impacts, social impacts and economic impacts. However addictions can be managed and are curable.

Treatment for addiction can be medication or therapy based, often being a combination of the two approaches. Cognitive Behavioural therapy is the psychotherapy of choice for addiction and this can be tailored to the individual and the substance or substances they are addicted to. Treatment looks at changing the lifestyle of the individual and greatly emphasises relapse prevention. Medicinal treatments may come in the form of safer drugs to replace those that a user is dependent on, such as nicotine replacement therapy.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a serious mental illness that some studies estimate affects approximately 6% of the adult population, with 75% of those suffering with anorexia thought to be female. The causes of anorexia are not fully understood. As anorexia often runs in families a genetic component is thought to play a role. However, as not all members of the same family will suffer from anorexia, other aspects, such as culture and environment, may also be involved. Anorexia revolves around the sufferer trying to keep their body weight as low as possible. This is achieved through a number of techniques such as the use of laxatives, extreme dieting, vomiting and restricting food intact. This eating disorder often causes the sufferer to have a distorted body image that makes them feel that they are overweight and that losing weight should be seen as an accomplishment. Anorexia can have severe impacts on a person’s physical and mental health as it results in a person starving their body. Anorexia can cause a vast number of problems including reduced muscle and bone strength, developmental problems and problems with cognitions. Due to the nature of the disorder there is also a risk of death due to starvation and other complications caused by a low BMI. It is therefore very important that you seek professional help if you feel you or somebody you know is suffering from anorexia as it is a treatable condition.

Treatment for anorexia will usually be conducted in an outpatient setting, however you may need to spend a short stay in hospital if you are deemed to be at serious risk. Whilst the treatment for anorexia is psychological therapies such as Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy; it is likely that treatment will also contain physical monitoring to ensure your weight does not drop to a dangerous level. There are also some medications that can be used in conjunction with psychological treatment, but these themselves should not be used as a sole treatment.


Anxiety can be both a stand-alone condition and a symptom of other mental health problems, with many people who experience anxiety also being able to be classified into another anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal response to a lot of situations but for some people, anxiety can remain at a high level for extended periods of time. For these people anxiety can impair concentration and can cause fatigue. Anxiety can have both psychological symptoms, such as feeling uneasy a lot of the time, and physical symptoms, such as feeling sick. It is not clear what causes some people to experience these more intense anxiety responses. A number of biological and environmental factors are thought to be involved. If you are able to highlight an environmental factor that is exacerbating your anxiety then this can be used as a first step to manage the condition.

Anxiety is a manageable and treatable condition. The recommended psychotherapy for anxiety is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This treatment looks at a person’s negative thoughts, which result in an anxiety response, and works with the person to change the way these thoughts are interpreted. Drugs in the Benzodiazepine family of medications may be prescribed for short term anxiety relief. These drugs have a high rate of addiction and as such, long term medical treatment of anxiety would be done with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors which are a type of antidepressant.

Watch our video on 'How to tackle anxiety in under 3 minutes' on our YouTube channel.


Bereavement is the grief response that is the result of the death of a close friend or loved one. Bereavement is often greater when the death is unexpected. There are generally agreed to be four stages of bereavement that a person moves through; acceptance of a loss, pain of grief, life adjustment and moving on. Most people will move through these stages, although this may not be a smooth process. Talking through your feelings with a loved one is encouraged and some people may need professional help to move through the bereavement. The treatment option to help deal with bereavement is counselling which allows you to discuss your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment with a professional. Bereavement can last a long time and this is perfectly natural. However if your thoughts and feelings are preventing you from completing tasks such as getting out of bed and eating then it is advised you seek professional advice.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

BED is an eating disorder that revolves around people regularly eating an increased amount of food in a short period of time with a lack of personal control over this. People with BED will often eat a great deal of food during a binge, even when they are not hungry and sometimes to the point where eating will be uncomfortable. During a BED eating episode, a person will eat more quickly than during a usual meal and will often eat in secret due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. Due to the quantity of food being consumed, people suffering from BED are often obese and as such are at risk of multiple physical health conditions associated with obesity.

BED has not been recognised as an identifying condition for very long and as such there is limited research in this area. However, BED is thought to affect between 1-3% of populations that have been tested and is thought to equally affect males and females. Due to the limited research in the area, the causes of BED are not yet fully understood. It is thought that a combination of factors, including some biological and some environmental, are involved. Despite the limited research in the area, BED is treatable. The first course of treatment that is used to treat BED is self-help books and courses. When these are unsuccessful psychotherapy is recommended. This may be in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy. Antidepressants are the medication of choice when treating BED.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as manic depression) is a mood disorder which can cause a sufferer to experience intense periods of depression and intense periods of mania. Periods of depression are characterised by depressive symptoms such as low mood, whilst periods of mania are characterised by intense over activeness and hyperactivity. Each mood episode can last for a few weeks or months and a sufferer may move from a period of mania straight into a period of depression and vice versa or a sufferer may experience symptoms from both emotions at the same time. It is also likely that episodes of one emotion are likely to occur more frequently than the other.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder usually develop in a person’s late teen years to early adulthood with half of all worldwide cases thought to develop prior to the age of 25 years old. In males, Bipolar Disorder tends to develop earlier than in females with more males receiving a diagnosis around the age of 18 years. Worldwide estimates suggest that 1.1% of the world’s adult population are currently suffering with Bipolar Disorder. Despite the number of sufferers worldwide, the exact causes of Bipolar Disorder are not fully understood. It is thought that genetics play a large role in this disorder. Others suggest that life events and traumatic childhood events are also factors that may impact Bipolar Disorder.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder aims to manage the episodes of depression and mania to help limit the impact they have on a person’s everyday life. Usually treatment can be completed outside of a hospital environment, however in some instances a hospital admission may be required to protect the safety of the sufferer. The treatment of Bipolar Disorder can be split into two categories; treatments aimed at prevention and treatments aimed at dealing with symptoms. Prevention treatments include mood stabilising drugs, which aim to prevent mood episodes from occurring, and psychoeducation to identify triggers for episodes. Treatments for dealing with symptoms when they occur include medication and psychotherapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) sometimes referred to as Body Dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that shares a number of similarities with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). BDD is a body image problem that relates to a preoccupation with perceived deficits in one’s appearance. Whilst this perceived deficit may not be noticeable to others, the sufferer experiences extreme distress and anxiety due to the perceived deficit. BDD can occur in relation to any body part and commonly is associated with facial features and genitals. People with BDD will often check their appearance regularly by touch and in reflective surfaces. They will also avoid social situations in fear of being judged on their appearance and may resort to covering their perceived deficit when in public. BDD can often result in sufferers pursuing cosmetic surgery but due to the nature of the illness this does not relieve symptoms.

BDD is thought to affect 1-2% of the world’s adult population, and is thought to equally affect males and females. The cause of BDD is not known but it is thought that a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders and BDD may play a part; psychological stressors such as bullying, especially in adolescence, are also thought to play a part. BDD is a manageable and treatable condition. The most effective psychological treatment for BDD is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which aims to change the way a sufferer thinks about and acts toward their appearance. A medication based approach can also be used in conjunction with therapy. The drugs used to treat BDD fall into the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) category and include drugs such as Sertraline and Fluoxetine.

Borderline personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a commonly occurring personality disorder that affects a person’s mood and the way they interact with others. It is agreed that there is no single cause of BPD but instead it is a combination of genetics, neurotransmitters, neurobiology and environmental factors. Estimates for how common BPD is in the worldwide population vary but it is thought that approximately 1.4% of the world’s adult population is affected. Previous studies also suggest that BPD is more prevalent in women, with figures suggesting 75% of sufferers are female. However, previous biases in diagnosis may have caused males to be diagnosed with a similar condition when they indeed have BPD. BPD can incorporate a vast number of symptoms which can be categorised into four areas; emotional instability, disturbed perception and thinking, impulsive behaviour and unstable relationships with others. Severe mood swings and strained relationships are not uncommon in BPD. Unfortunately BPD is associated with an increase in self-harm, largely due to the impulsive behaviours, and an increase in suicide. Therefore if you feel you may be suffering with BPD then it is important to discuss this with a professional as soon as possible.

The suggested treatment approach for BPD is psychological therapy. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) has been designed for the treatment of BPD and is the main psychotherapy in this area. BPD aims to break the cycle of intense emotions causing feelings of guilt through introducing validation and dialectics.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that involves periods of bingeing and purging. Bingeing is where a person eats an excessive amount of food in a short period of time and purging which refers to behaviours such as vomiting and using laxatives in order to undo the effects of the binge. A person with Bulimia feels they have lost control over their eating habits and will evaluate themselves based on their body. Bulimia is often a concealed disorder but will take over a person’s life and will affect their everyday behaviours. It can also impact a person’s physical and mental health, causing them to be more anxious and irritable and often causing stomach pains. The causes of Bulimia are not fully understood and as it is such a complex disorder there are likely to be a number of aspects impacting the onset of Bulimia. Some risk factors include low self-esteem and problems with emotional management.

Anorexia and Bulimia are closely associated, with many instances of Bulimia occurring after someone has suffered from Anorexia; however this is not always the case. It is thought that up to 7.3% of woman in westernised countries may suffer from Bulimia, whilst estimates suggest that 2.1% of men in the same countries may be affected. Bulimia is a treatable condition with the first treatment suggestion being self-help materials. When these are not sufficient then Cognitive Behavioural Therapy would be the recommended psychotherapy treatment. Interpersonal Therapy has also been shown to be effective. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which are a type of antidepressant, are the medicinal approach to Bulimia.

Co-morbid Depression

Co-morbid depression means depression that occurs at the same time as another mental health condition. Unsurprisingly, the majority of people suffering from mental health problems are also unfortunately prone to suffer from symptoms of depression as well. For instance, it is thought that 60% of people with anxiety will also have co-morbid depression and in a 12-month period, 5-9% of the world’s population will suffer from an anxiety-depression combination. This is often due to the great impact that a mental illness can have on a person’s life. Usually, when symptoms of the mental health problem are relieved, so too are the co-morbid depression symptoms. Therefore the course of treatment is often to manage the depression whilst treating the underlying condition. However, in some cases this depression may become severe or will be impacting other treatments and so will need to be treated as an independent condition before other treatments can proceed.


Depression is a commonly occurring mental health problem that involves having a depressed mood or feeling sad for week or months at a time. Depression can have a range of symptoms and affects people in different ways. Some commonly occurring symptoms of depression are feelings of hopelessness, feeling tearful, feeling constantly fatigued, and losing interest in activities that previously bought you enjoyment. Mild forms of depression may result in a persistent low mood, people with milder forms of depression are still able to function in everyday life but the symptoms of depression will impact many areas of day to day activity. People with severe depression may be unable to function at all and may even contemplate suicide.

There is thought to be no single cause of depression with many people who suffer from depression having experienced a number of negative life events, such as bereavement and redundancy. It often is the case that a number of these negative events have occurred in succession. There is also likely to be a biological and genetic component to depression, as a family history of depression is a risk factor. It is thought that in a 12-month period, 5.8% of adult males and 9.5% of adult females worldwide will experience a depressive episode. Once somebody has experienced a depressive episode they are unfortunately more prone to future episodes; with estimates suggesting a relapse rate of 90% after a third episode of depression. This highlights the need to seek professional help as soon as possible

A lot of research has gone into the treatment of depression and the consensus for treatment is a combination of medication, self-help and psychotherapy; depending on the severity of the condition. With mild forms of depression, self-help techniques and lifestyle changes are the first course of treatment. Some of these changes would include reducing alcohol intake and increasing exercise. If depression is unresponsive to these changes then psychotherapy will be recommended; this will take the form of counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This is also likely to include Behavioural Activation which has shown to be greatly successful in treating depression. If the depression is still unresponsive or is classed as severe then treatment will include a combination of psychotherapy and medication in the form of antidepressants.

Hearing Voices

It is surprisingly common for people in the general population to hear voices that are not caused by an external input and this can be due to a number of reasons. It is thought that 3-10% of the general population regularly hear voices or experience sensory inputs due to no external stimuli. Hunger, sleep deprivation and physical illness are just a few of the reasons that may cause people to hear voices. The content of what the voice says can vary greatly, as can their frequency of occurrence. For some people, they may feel they heard their name when nobody was present and this may only occur the once in their lifetime. It is thought that 75% of the general population will have at least a single experience of this in their life. However, hearing voices can be far more frequent in some people and unfortunately the messages from the voices can also be threatening and generally unpleasant. Unsurprisingly this is likely to impact a person’s life and their ability to function. There are a number of reasons why people may hear voices including physical illness, substance use and trauma. Hearing voices can also be a symptom of a number of mental health illnesses that are prone to include hallucinations, such as Schizophrenia.

Support and discussion of the voices is thought to be a key element in the treatment of hearing voices as discussing the voices is thought to give the sufferer a better insight into the problem; ultimately helping them to prepare for future episodes. Mindfulness based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be used to help a sufferer deal with the problems and anxiety in relation to hearing voices. Antipsychotic medications can also be prescribed to provide short term help when the voices are particularly distressing.


Hoarding can be a symptom of a number of other mental health disorders but can also be a condition independent of other mental health illnesses. Hoarding is the acquisition and storage of an excessive number of items that impacts a person’s ability to live their lives. The compulsion to hoard usually begins in childhood or adolescence but does not usually become a problem until adulthood. The causes of hoarding as an independent condition are not fully understood but it is thought to often be related to somebody struggling to cope with a stressful life event. Hoarding can also be used by some people to fulfil emotional needs. Hoarding differs from collecting in a number of ways. In hoarding, items often have no monetary value and are stored in such a chaotic way that things cannot be easily located and are interfering with everyday functioning; for instance restricting access to parts of a property. Hoarding can cause a number of health and safety problems as items can be trip and fire hazards, as well as often being left to deteriorate leading to bacterial problems. Family members may think the best way to help a hoarder is to dispose of their hoard. This is not advised as someone with hoarding problems is likely to become extremely distressed in the knowledge that their hoard has been destroyed. This can often cause great strains on family relationships, leading to isolation.

Hoarding can often be concealed from people for many years and so estimates on the number of people affected differ, the general consensus is that between 2-5% of the worldwide adult population are affected by hoarding. Hoarding is a manageable and treatable condition. The recommended treatment for hoarding is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with Exposure tasks conducted in the property. This treatment will look at the reasons for hoarding and will attempt to alter negative beliefs. In partnership with CBT, a plan for clearing should be followed. Antidepressant medication such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors may also be used in the treatment of hoarding.


Loneliness is not in itself a mental health illness but it is the unfortunate result of mental health problems for a vast number of people. Many people with a mental health problem become isolated and so do not have the social support that many studies have found to be greatly valuable in combating mental illness. Loneliness can also cause a decreased mood and may perpetuate mental illnesses such as depression. Fortunately many support groups exist for people with mental health conditions to meet and discuss their thoughts and feelings. These support groups and various other activity groups can be vital in combatting loneliness.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety related disorder that involves the presence of obsessions or compulsions. Obsessions are frequent thoughts or images that cause a great deal of distress to the sufferer. Some common obsessions include fear of contamination and fear of having caused harm. Compulsions are repetitive acts that a sufferer completes in response to the obsessions, in order to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring. Some common compulsions include checking and ritualising. Unfortunately these compulsions perpetuate the symptoms of OCD by causing the sufferer to believe that if they did not complete the compulsions then the obsessive thoughts will become reality and thus they will have caused harm to themselves or others.

OCD is a commonly occurring disorder, with estimates suggesting that between 2-3% of the worldwide population are currently suffering from OCD. Despite the number of sufferers worldwide, the causes of OCD are not fully understood. It is thought that OCD is a result of a combination of biological and environmental factors. Unfortunately it is thought that people often suffer for up to a decade before seeking treatment, despite OCD now being a treatable condition. There is a great deal of evidence and consensus in the field of OCD that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) with Exposure-Response Prevention (ERP) is the ideal form of therapy for dealing with OCD. This treatment involves exposure to situations that increase OCD anxiety without the use of compulsions or ‘safety behaviours’. Exposure is conducted gradually over time and this is shown to show a depletion in OCD systems due to gradually decreasing levels of anxiety with each exposure. The Cognitive aspect of CBT looks at identifying alternative ways to deal with the anxiety instead of using compulsions. There are also suitable medications to use independently, or in conjunction with therapy, and these fall into the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) category of medication. Some commonly used drug treatments are Sertraline, Fluoxetine and Citalopram.


In everyday life people often experience irrational suspicious thoughts but for some people these thoughts become exaggerated to the point of impacting their daily life. At this stage we would class these thoughts as being paranoid and a symptom of paranoia. These paranoid thoughts are generally centred round a threat of harm aimed towards oneself and in time this can lead to isolation and problems establishing meaningful relationships. Paranoia is thought to be caused by a number of factors such as past life events and environment. Paranoia can also be a result of a number of physical health conditions. The historical and cultural context of a person is important to determine whether a thought may be rational or whether it is paranoid. For example, for most people the thought that you are being followed by the government would be classed as paranoid, but if a person has a history of political conflict then this thought may not be so irrational and would not be paranoia.

Paranoia does not tend to be treated with medication and instead medication is offered for comorbidly occurring conditions and for when paranoia is a symptom of another condition such as Schizophrenia. The recommended treatment approach for paranoia is psychotherapy, more specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT looks at a person’s current thinking patterns and will try to explore alternative ways to interpret evidence a person has for their paranoid beliefs.

Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks can be present in a number of anxiety disorders including Panic Disorder and Social Phobia. Panic Attacks include a severe sudden debilitating onset of terror and fear that usually peaks ten minutes after onset. Panic Attacks can last up to an hour but most are shorter, usually being 20 to 30 minutes in length. Panic Attacks can have psychological symptoms such as the fear response and can also have physical symptoms such as sweating and chest pains.

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder can be treated through medication and through psychological treatment. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is the main psychological approach used to combat panic attacks and this is ideally the first form of treatment. This therapy looks at ways of reinterpreting negative thoughts that may lead to Panic Attacks and may also teach ways to try to relax during a Panic Attack, such as breathing techniques. The main medicinal approach to treating Panic Attacks in the context of Panic Disorder is to use Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which are a form of antidepressant.


A phobia, sometimes known as a specific phobia, is an anxiety disorder relating to an overwhelming fear that often is impacting the way a person lives their lives. A person may change their day to day lifestyle in order to avoid the item they have a phobia of. Phobias can relate to a number of different areas including objects, situations and animals. Common specific phobias include phobias of spiders and phobias of clowns. Phobias regarding circumstances or situations are often the most debilitating; these are known as complex phobias. The causes of phobias are not fully understood but they are thought to be influenced by a combination of life experiences, learned responses and genetics. Traumatic life experiences are often associated with phobias, for instance being bitten by a dog when you are younger may lead to a specific phobia of dogs in your adult life. In general phobias are more common in females than in males and it is thought that 1.3-2.2% of the worldwide adult population is affected by some type of phobia. One of the most common and debilitating complex phobias is Social Anxiety Disorder which is thought to affect 5% of the worldwide adult population at least once in a lifetime.

Medication is not used as a treatment of specific phobias but it can be used at times to help control the effects of anxiety. In these cases antidepressants are often used. Instead, the primary treatments for phobias are psychotherapy based. For simple phobias, gradual exposure and desensitisation has shown good results. This involves a person gradually exposing themselves to their feared stimulus or stimuli until the fear response decreases. This can be done in a self-help environment but some people may prefer to complete these tasks with the aid of a professional. For more complex phobias, professional treatment is recommended with the primary course of treatment being Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with gradual exposure. This treatment challenges a person’s belief system and helps them build evidence to combat their phobia.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder within the anxiety disorder family and is the result of a traumatic event, such as military combat or serious accidents, being experienced. This traumatic event is then relived by the sufferer through flashbacks and nightmares. It is not fully understood why some people will develop PTSD after an event whilst others don’t; only 1 in 3 people who experience a traumatic event will experience PTSD.. Support networks and genetic factors are often thought to play key roles in the onset of PTSD. It appears that the risk of PTSD after a traumatic event may be greater for females, with some estimates suggesting that the risk for PTSD after a traumatic event is 20.4% for women, compared to 8.1% for males. PTSD may develop immediately or a number of years after the event. This delayed onset is seen in approximately 15% of PTSD cases. PTSD greatly impacts a sufferer’s life, often interfering with sleep patterns and often leads to isolation. After a traumatic event it is normal to have upsetting thoughts and feelings for a period of time afterward. If these thoughts persist and cause problems four weeks after the event then it may be advisable to seek professional help.

Whilst PTSD is a treatable condition, many people do not seek treatment for a number of months or even years. There are both pharmaceutical and psychotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of PTSD. The recommended medication for PTSD are antidepressants such as Sertraline. However, the recommended first line of treatment is psychotherapy, primarily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR uses eye movements to help malfunctioning parts of the brain process the trauma. Whilst it is not known why this works, there have been promising results with PTSD patients. CBT helps change the way a sufferer thinks and acts to help them come to terms with their traumatic experience.


Psychosis is itself not a mental health disorder but a symptom of a number of conditions that impacts a person’s perception of their environment. It is thought that 3% of the worldwide population will experience an episode of Psychosis in their lifetime. The main symptoms of Psychosis are hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are when a person has a sensory input in relation to a stimulus that is not present; for example hearing voices. Delusions are when a person believes something to be fact when rationally it is untrue; for example believing oneself to be a messiah. It is possible for people to experience hallucination and delusions as the result of alcohol and other substances; in these instances this would not constitute a diagnosis of Psychosis.

The treatment for psychosis is a combination of drug treatment and psychological therapy. Antipsychotic drugs will be prescribed and will often be required for a period of over a year. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Family Therapy have also had some success in helping people with psychosis. CBT is mainly used for Psychosis in the context of Schizophrenia and Family Therapy has been shown to reduce the requirement of hospitalisation in those with Psychosis. Severe Psychosis or psychotic episodes may require a stay in hospital.


Schizophrenia is a serious, but treatable, condition that is estimated to affect 21 million people worldwide. The symptoms of Schizophrenia can be split into two categories, positive symptoms and negative symptoms. The term positive symptoms relates to symptoms that add behaviours that were not previously present, such as delusions and hallucinations, whereas negative symptoms represent a reduction or removal of previously normal behaviours, such as a reduction in emotions and a flattened mood. Disorganised behaviour is another symptom of Schizophrenia which does fit into these two categories. Schizophrenia can be seen as episodic, as many sufferers will experience episodes of Schizophrenia where symptoms are severe and episodes were very few or no symptoms are present.

The exact cause of Schizophrenia is unfortunately not completely known. Researchers theorize that Schizophrenia is the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors. A role for neurotransmitters, such as Dopamine, has also been suggested and it is thought that Schizophrenia can be triggered by extremely stressful life events. The recommended treatment approach for Schizophrenia is a combination of antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy tailored to the individual in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that involves recurrent depressive episodes that tend to only be present in the winter months. It is theorised that Seasonal Affective Disorder is the result of reduced amounts of daylight in the winter months resulting in hormonal changes such as a reduced level of Serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include a persistent low mood, feelings of despair and irritability.

There is a selection of treatments that have been found to improve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Counselling are the recommended psychotherapy options for treating the disorder and antidepressant medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors are the psychopharmaceutic suggestion. Another treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is Light Therapy. If a person is unable to increase their natural light exposure then Light Therapy simulates this exposure using a special lamp called a light box.


Self-harm is when somebody intentionally damages their body as a way of dealing with emotional distress or to punish themselves. It is thought that 10% of young people will self-harm at some point. Self-harming is often used as a way to regulate emotions and is often associated with social problems, such as bullying, and trauma. Self-harm can occur in many forms and is often seen as cutting or burning oneself. People who self-harm are likely to distance themselves from others, to have frequent unexplained injuries and to show signs of low self-esteem. Whilst self-harm does not always lead to suicide, with the vast majority of people committing self-harm having no desire to end their lives, many people who attempt suicide do have a history of self-harm. It is therefore especially important to seek professional help if you are struggling with self-harm or if you suspect a friend or relative is struggling. It is also important to seek medical help to treat the physical implications of self-harm to ensure wounds do not become infected.

Self-harm may be a symptom of underlying mental health conditions and so any treatment will encompass the relevant treatment for these conditions. Independently, the treatment for Self-harm is psychological therapy, primarily Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT will look at a person’s thoughts and feelings and how these are impacting their behaviours and their self-harming.

Sleep Problems

Most people will experience some problems with their sleeping patterns in their lifetime. These problems usually persist for a short while and resolve themselves. However, when these sleep problems continue for an extended period of time then they can severely impact a person’s ability to function in everyday life, often negatively impacting mood and concentration. There are a variety of sleeping problems including oversleeping, insomnia and night terrors. Many mental health conditions, and the subsequent medications, can negatively impact sleep patterns but sleep patterns themselves can also lead to mental health problems and can greatly exacerbate current mental health issues.

Establishing a regular sleep routine can be of great use when combating sleep problems. There are a number of ways to improve your sleep pattern yourself, including reducing caffeine intake and reducing exposure to computer or mobile phone screens around the time you plan to sleep. You should also aim for a set time to go to bed and to wake up in the morning so your body adapts to a routine. If you are struggling to sleep it can be useful to get up and complete a leisurely task before attempting to sleep again. If these self-help tips do not work it may mean professional help is required. A selection of psychotherapies have been suggested for the treatment of sleep problems and many have shown signs of success including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Relaxation therapy. If talking therapies are unsuccessful then a psycho-pharmaceutical approach may be adopted through the use of sleeping pills.


When people are under a lot of emotional or mental pressure and feel too overwhelmed to cope this manifests into stress. Stress is a commonly occurring problem in the general population and often is the result of work, relationships or financial problems. People react to situations in their own unique way and so some people will find situations stress inducing, whilst others do not. Stress impacts many aspects of a person’s life and often causes difficulties with concentration and interrupts sleep patterns. These difficulties caused by stress often perpetuate the problem and result in further stressors.

Stress is itself not a mental illness but if stress levels remain high for extended periods of time then this can have detrimental impacts on both a person’s physical and mental health. Therefore it is important to identify stress triggers. By identifying these triggers a person can then look at ways to manage the impact these triggers have on them. Another way to combat stress is through mindfulness courses which focus on simple meditations to help a person reduce their stress levels.

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are thoughts about taking your own life. Not all suicidal thoughts will lead to an active suicide attempt, but if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one in relation to Suicide then it is important to seek help. Suicidal thoughts may occur as a result of an event in a person life, such as financial troubles or relationship problems, or they may be a result of another mental health condition. Often, people with suicidal thoughts are having feelings of loneliness and despair. Talking to somebody about these feelings can help to relieve suicidal thoughts and can help a sufferer to see alternatives to their problems other than suicide.

Treatment for suicidal thoughts focuses on talking about problems with somebody. If you do not feel able to do this with a friend or relative then this can be conducted in a professional setting through Counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Unfortunately suicide rates worldwide are currently 15.1 in 100,000, with females being more likely to attempt suicide and males more likely to lose their lives as a result of suicide, so it is important to seek help if you feel you are at risk.

Youth Mental Health

Many mental health problems have been found to originate in adolescence or earlier, with some studies estimating that half of people with mental health conditions had an established disorder at 14 years old. There are also an increasing number of children and adolescents being recognised to have mental health conditions, with estimates suggesting 20% of adolescents will experience mental health problems. Mental health conditions in youth are largely similar to those seen in adults, although the way symptoms are displayed may sometimes differ. Depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and self-harm are all common mental health problems that are seen in adolescents and children.

The treatments for these conditions largely mirror those seen in the adult population, with changes being made to adapt to the age group treatment is aimed at. For instance, when dealing with the younger age groups, story books and toys will have a more prominent role in therapy and parents will often be invited to play an active role. There are also more limitations on the medications provided to children and adolescents, with many youth mental health conditions being treated with psychotherapy whereever possible.

Any size donation, no matter how small, will make a difference to those children, adults and families going through the distress caused by mental health issues.

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