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UK-NOTPR-1010 | April 2022




Understanding Psychiatric Disorders

Psychiatric disorders are mental, emotional and behavioral disorders, comprising a broad range of problems with different symptoms. They are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behavior and relationships with others.

Mood disorders primarily affect an individual’s emotional state. They can range from periods of continued sadness (depression)1, or episodes of mood swings ranging from depression to manic highs (bipolar disorder).2


People with depression may feel sad, empty, or hopeless, and lose interest and pleasure in activities they used to enjoy.1 They are also likely to have cognitive symptoms, such as difficulty making decisions.1


People with bipolar disorder have times when they seem abnormally cheerful and full of energy, which can lead to impulsive and risky behaviours or doing things that might have disastrous consequences.3


Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as fear or worry that can be mild or severe.4 People with generalised anxiety disorder, for example, have uncontrollable worries about various everyday things, such as their responsibilities, finances, and health.5


Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop following a traumatic event, such as exposure to violence or a vehicle accident, and may result in recurring nightmares and flashbacks.6


Mood and anxiety disorders are relatively common in the UK.7


Gain a deeper understanding of depression here, bipolar disorder here, generalised anxiety disorder here and post-traumatic stress disorder here.

A personality disorder causes a person to think, feel, relate and behave in a way that is very different to what is expected from the average person.8


There are several different types of personality disorder and depending on the type, a person’s symptoms will vary.8 For example, people with borderline personality disorder are afraid of being abandoned and experience severe changes in mood.8


Personality disorders have a considerable impact on a person’s relationships with friends and family and affect a person’s ability to cope with everyday life.8 Many people with a personality disorder recover over time and sometimes support for the person is all that’s needed.8


Gain a deeper understanding of borderline personality disorder here.

Psychosis is when a person loses touch with reality.9 People may experience delusions – believing things that aren’t really true. People may also experience hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that other people can’t hear or see.9


Psychotic symptoms or ‘psychosis’ may be induced by certain medications or substance misuse or they could be a consequence of another medical condition.9 Mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression are commonly associated with psychosis.9


Gain a deeper understanding of schizophrenia here.

The ‘substance’ in ‘substance use disorder’ can refer to a number of drugs, including alcohol, cannabis and tobacco.10 Substance use disorder is a disease that can affect a person’s brain and their behaviour which leads to them being unable to control their use of a substance.10 Over time, the pleasure from taking the substance reduces, and a person may suffer from cravings and withdrawal symptoms when not taking the substance.10


A person with a substance use disorder will take the substance in larger amounts and for longer than intended.10 Although they may try to cut down on their substance use, they find it difficult or not possible to do so.10 Much of each day can revolve around taking or getting hold of the substance, which naturally may affect a person’s ability to fulfil obligations at work, school, and home.10


Alcohol use disorder is a type of substance use disorder which can have serious health consequences and a significant impact on the person’s life.11


Gain a deeper understanding of alcohol use disorder here.

  1. NHS Symptoms Guide: Depression. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/clinical-depression/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]
  2. NHS Overview Guide: Bipolar Disorder. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/bipolar-disorder/overview/ [Accessed March 2022]
  3. NHS Symptoms Guide: Bipolar Disorder. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms/ [Accessed March 2022]
  4. NHS Overview Guide: Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/overview/ [Accessed March 2022]
  5. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013
  6. NHS Overview Guide: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/overview/ [Accessed March 2022]
  7. Fundamental Facts about Mental Health 2016. Mental Health Foundation Report. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pdf [Accessed March 2022]
  8. NHS Guide: Personality disorders. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/personality-disorder [Accessed March 2022]
  9. NHS Overview Guide: Psychosis. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/psychosis/overview/ [Accessed March 2022]
  10. Drug addiction (substance use disorder) Guide: Mayo Clinic. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112 [Accessed March 2022]
  11. NHS Overview Guide: Alcohol misuse. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/ [Accessed March 2022]

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UK-NOTPR-1549 | July 2023