What are the Different Types of Mental Health Problems?

Felicia Dye

Mental health problems are often referred to as mental health disorders and psychological disorders. There are numerous conditions that can be placed into these categories, such as depression, bulimia nervosa, and narcissistic personality disorder. Each condition is generally characterized by certain behaviors or symptoms. It is common, however, for people to suffer from overlapping conditions.

Pyromania is an impulse control disorder.
Pyromania is an impulse control disorder.

Depression is one of the mental health problems common yet widely misunderstood. Many people believe that depression is an emotion that sufferers have control over. Depression is actually a disorder that can have devastating effects on a person’s life. It is often accompanied by numerous symptoms such as loss of pleasure, low self-esteem, and the desire to commit suicide. This condition is commonly treated with a group of medications known as anti-depressives.

If an individual experiences angry and violent outbursts due to minor incidents, he or she may be suffering with intermittent explosive disorder.
If an individual experiences angry and violent outbursts due to minor incidents, he or she may be suffering with intermittent explosive disorder.

Bulimia nervosa is often characterized by binge eating followed by excessive vomiting and use of enemas and laxatives. This condition is another of the mental health problems that is widely misunderstood. Since this condition is characterized as an eating disorder, many people fail to realize that it is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Some mental health professionals believe this condition is properly characterized as an addictive disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a condition in which a person has a distorted perception of himself. People suffering from NPD tend to experience unreasonable degrees of self-importance and entitlement. These people need a great deal of admiration, but tend to lack empathy and consideration for others. The exact causes of NPD are not known. However, mental health professionals believe factors such as severe emotional abuse during childhood, unpredictable care giving, and drastic extremes of praise and criticism may play a major role.

Paraphilia refers to a group of mental health problems that involve abnormal sexual desires. These include exhibitionism, which is an urge to expose one’s genitals or have sex in the view of others, and frotteurism, which involves recurrent urges to touch or rub others without consent. Also included in this category is pedophilia, which is usually characterized by adults who prefer young children as sexual partners.

Pyromania is a mental health problem that drives a person to deliberately start fires. The sufferer of this condition is not a mere arsonist. He generally is unable to control his impulses. This rare condition is commonly placed into a category known as impulse control disorders. Some mental health professionals, however, believe that is should be classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder.

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Discussion Comments


@jholcomb - You make a good point about the word "psychotic." The way we casually toss around words like that just shows the huge stigma that people with mental health issues face.

My cousin suffers from bipolar disorder, which can have psychotic features especially during mania. He needs very careful monitoring and treatment to keep him productive, but my aunt and uncle's health insurance has very limited mental health coverage. Why won't insurance companies understand that mental illnesses are diseases just like cancer or diabetes and deserve to be covered at the same level?

My uncle had to get a second job to make sure that my cousin gets the care he needs; without it, he's one bad episode away from living under a bridge. (Many people think of the homeless as drug addicts, but in fact many are suffering from untreated mental illnesses.)


The mental illnesses mentioned in the article are obviously very serious (in fact anorexia, which is an eating disorder like bulimia, is the mental illness most likely to be fatal). I want to add a category, though--psychosis. Unlike the mental illnesses mentioned in the article, people who have a psychosis have basically lost contact with reality. A person with depression might see reality as darker than someone else would, but would know, for instance, that her husband wasn't poisoning her coffee. A psychotic person might have paranoid delusions like that.

People use the term "psychotic" casually to mean anyone who "seems crazy," but it's specific and very serious. It includes schizophrenia and postpartum psychosis (different from the "baby blues" and much more dangerous).

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