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Mental Health Conditions

What Mental Health Conditions Are There?

What Mental Health Conditions Are There?

Here we look at the most common 'diagnosable' mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression, as well as some of the more uncommon conditions.

We also look at treatments for conditions to help you gain a better understanding.

Remember that unless you're a doctor or a medical professional it's not your job to diagnose or suggest treatments. This information is intended, as a brief introductory guide only.

There are links to other organisations sites for more detailed information on each condition. Shaw Trust cannot be held responsible for the content on external websites.



Anxiety is often the result of unrealistic and constant worry about aspects of everyday life. Symptoms include problems sleeping, restlessness, fast heart beat, tense muscles, stomach problems and feeling shaky.

Anxiety can develop into panic attacks (these are unexpected and sudden bouts of terror, symptoms can include breathlessness, stomach upset, and a fast heart beat, choking sensation, pains in the chest and trembling). They can occur at any time and when there is no real danger or tension.

Phobias can occur where fear of an object or situation causes major disruptions to daily activities as it restricts the way a person lives. Obsessive compulsive disorders happen when thoughts/obsessions create an uncontrollable anxiety - one which is only resolved by performing a particular action or ritual to neutralise it.

For more information on anxiety visit:
Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk (opens in new window) 
Anxiety Alliance www.anxietyalliance.org.uk/home (opens in a new window)
No Panic www.nopanic.org.uk (opens in new window)

Bi-polar disorder (manic depression)

This is a mood disorder. During episodes of mania people can be hyperactive, full of grand schemes, have scattered ideas, become reckless and uninhibited. They may also go through long periods of depression. Not everyone experiences both extremes however.

For more information visit Bipolar UK, www.bipolaruk.org.uk (link opens in new window)


Depression lowers mood and can make a person feel exhausted, worthless, unmotivated and hopeless. It can affect self-esteem, appetite, sleep and the ability to do everyday activities.

Clinical depression can be mild, moderate or severe. Motivation can be affected and people may think that life isn't worth living, which in extreme cases can lead to suicidal behaviour.

Depression is often linked with anxiety disorders. It is the most common form of mental ill health.

It is believed that 1 in 4 people experience common mental health problems such as harmful levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

Most people recover from episodes of common mental health problems.

For more information visit:
Depression Alliance www.depressionalliance.org (link opens in new window)

Drug and alcohol misuse

Harmful use of drugs and/or alcohol may be caused by, or lead to mental health problems. People may become addicted to drink or drugs which become the main focus of their lives.

Withdrawing from them can be traumatic or even dangerous without professional help.

For more information visit:
Addiction Recovery Foundation www.addictiontoday.co.uk (link opens in new window)
Council for Involuntary Tranquiliser Addiction - CITA. Helpine (Monday - Friday 10 AM - 1 PM - 0151 949 0102
Drinkline helpline 0800 917 8282
Talk to Frank. Free confidential 24 hour drugs information and advice www.talktofrank.com (link opens in new window)

Eating disorders

These are extreme ways of controlling food intake and weight gain, usually as a way of coping with emotional difficulties. People with anorexia nervosa severely restrict their calorie intake, while those with bulimia nervosa may binge eat.

Both conditions may lead to people using other techniques to lose weight including vomiting, use of laxatives and excessive exercising.

For more information visit Beating Eating Disorders www.b-eat.co.uk (link opens in new window)

Post traumatic stress disorder

This is a delayed or extended response to a stressful situation of an exceptionally threatening or long-lasting nature which would cause total distress in nearly everyone.

Symptoms may include vivid flashbacks, disturbed sleep, irritability and aggressive behaviour, avoiding situations which remind the person of the trauma, feeling detached, and having nightmares.

For more information visit Combat Stress (the ex-services mental welfare society) www.combatstress.org.uk (link opens in new window)

Psychosis / Schizophrenia

This is one of the most difficult of all mental health conditions and can severely affect the ability to carry out day to day activities.

Psychosis is a term used when a person appears to lose touch with reality. Schizophrenia is the most common form and is often confused with 'split personality'. It is not. People may hear, see or believe things that aren't real to others (e.g. hearing voices, thinking that others are 'out to get them'). If the illness becomes chronic (long term) the person may withdraw from the outside world and neglect themselves.

The condition is rare - less than 1% of the population has schizophrenia.

For more information visit Rethink - Severe Mental Illness www.rethink.org (link opens in new window)


Stress is an essential motivating force but may become a problem when a person feels they don't have the resources to cope with the demands placed on them.

Symptoms may be emotional (e.g. irritability, tearfulness) and physical (aches and pains, high blood pressure etc). The person may find it difficult to make decisions or perform tasks and may be unable to attend work.

Indicators that stress has become a problem include the following: high levels of sickness absence, low productivity and high employee turnover.


Many people with mental health conditions will be prescribed medication to help relieve their symptoms.

Medication can be very effective especially if used alongside 'talking treatments', support from others and lifestyle changes.

However, medication can also cause side effects or withdrawal symptoms and requires careful monitoring.


Psychological/ 'talking treatments'

There are many different types of talking treatments which range from short to long term.

People can attend individually, with partners or families or in a group.

Therapy can involve talking over difficulties and feelings, changing the way we communicate or behave, or make decisions that affect our lives.

Therapies can be offered through the NHS usually via GP referral or can be paid for privately.

Some common talking treatments are counselling, psychotherapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

CBT has been found particularly helpful when used in relation to the workplace.

CBT is a short-term psychological treatment particularly suitable for specific problems ranging from phobias and panic attacks to eating disorders and depression.

CBT is a combination of cognitive therapy which examines unwanted attitudes and beliefs (called cognitive processes) and behavioural therapy, which focuses on behaviour in response to those thoughts.

CBT is a short-term one to one treatment between 8-20 weeks which relies on commitment from the client to achieve maximum effectiveness. There are "homework" exercises which aid recovery and gradually teach the client to manage real life situations that contain stress factors.

Those experiencing depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders and phobias can benefit from CBT. It is available from the NHS via GPs or local mental health services as well as private therapists.

Specialist services

If a person's symptoms are severe enough they may be referred by their GP to specialist or 'secondary care' mental health services, for example:

Community Mental Health Team: These usually include community psychiatric nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and community support workers. They may also receive input from psychiatrists and psychologists.

Crisis Resolution Team: These provide rapid, home based assessment and short term treatment for people in mental health crisis as an alternative to hospital admission.

Assertive Outreach Team: These offer intensive support to people who may find it difficult to engage with other services.

Early Intervention Team: A specialist service for people who may be experiencing early signs of psychotic illness.

Drug and Alcohol Team: Offering specialist help and support to people with substance misuse problems.

Hospital: Some people may require a stay in hospital for specialist treatment. Most people go in voluntarily but if a person is felt to be a risk to themselves or others and refuses admission, they may be detained ('sectioned') under the Mental Health Act (1983, England and Wales). Some general hospitals may have Liaison Psychiatry Teams for people admitted to them who are thought to have a mental health condition.

Day services: Many people benefit from day services as part of their recovery. People can access therapies and group work, activities and rehabilitation. There may also be specialist vocational services offering help to access training and employment or help in retaining existing work.

Exact provision and titles of service may vary according to location


There are also organisations who can offer training for your staff on various mental health conditions to increase knowledge and understanding which will help create a supportive working environment.