Many different types of mental health problems can affect a person’s thinking, mood, emotions and behaviour. Mental illness is a generic term for a group of illnesses that have a negative impact on a person’s thoughts, perceptions, feelings and behaviours.

Not all mental health problems are mental illnesses, but all mental health problems prevent people from having happy, fulfilled lives.


Mood disorders may involve feeling sad all the time, even during happy events; losing interest in life; and fluctuating between extremes of happiness and sadness.

Depression, bipolar disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are all types of mood disorders.

Depression Bipolar Disorder SAD Self-harm

Anxiety disorders cause people to respond to certain objects, persons, groups or situations with a sense of fear or dread. Anxiety can cause people to have a physical reaction such as an increased heart rate or sweating. If a person responds inappropriately to a situation; is unable to control the response; or alters their way of life to actively avoid feelings of anxiety, an anxiety disorder may be diagnosed.

Phobias and panic disorders are two types of anxiety disorders.

Phobias Panic Disorders

A pattern of children’s behaviour that persists for six months or more, is disruptive, and causes problems at home, in school or in social situations may be a sign of a behavioural disorder.

Remember that anyone may show some of these behaviours at some time in their lives, and children – and adults – who are victims of abuse may also show some of these behaviours. It is important to seek professional help regardless so the correct cause may be identified and the right support and treatment provided.

Behavioural disorders may involve hyperactivity, inattention, impulsive behaviour, defiance of authority, drug or alcohol abuse, and criminal activity.

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating involve a person feeling extreme emotions, holding extreme opinions or showing extreme, self-critical behaviour towards their food intake and body weight.

Reaching out for help is critical for people suffering from eating disorders as they have an immediate and drastic impact on physical health and can be the triggers for a wide range of life-threatening illnesses or even death.


Substance use or substance dependence occurs when a person’s consumption of alcohol or another substance (for example, drugs) leads to health issues or problems at home, work or school. Substance use disorders affect the brain, rendering the person unable to control the use of the substance they are addicted to.

Mental health issues can sometimes go hand in hand with substance use disorders. This is because the consumption of certain substances can cause people with an addiction to experience symptoms of a mental health problem; people with mental health problems may consume addictive and dangerous substances repeatedly in an effort to self-medicate; and both share several underlying causes, including genetic vulnerability; stress; trauma; and changes in brain composition.

Substance use disorders are significantly more common in people suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Depression Phobias Schizophrenia Personality Disorders

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have repeated, upsetting thoughts called obsessions. They repeat the same actions over and over again in an effort to feel better or reassure themselves. These repetitive actions are called compulsions.

For example, an obsession with becoming infected by germs may lead a person to wash their hands repeatedly or clean their surroundings again and again with disinfectants, whether required or not.

If left untreated, OCD can come to dominate a person’s life to the exclusion of all else.

OCD has a tendency to run in families, with symptoms often beginning in childhood or adolescence. A combination of medication and therapy is often effective in getting control over OCD.


Personality disorders cause people to experience feelings, thoughts and behaviour patterns that interfere with their daily lives; create problems at home, work or school; and cause problems in their personal, social and professional relationships and interactions with others.

Most people go through periods in their lives when they experience such thoughts, feelings and behaviour. A personality disorder may be diagnosed when these experiences are consistent for an extended period of time.

Antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are two types of personality disorders.

Personality Disorders

People with schizophrenia may be unable to tell reality from imagination. They experience a wide range of extreme and potentially dangerous symptoms including hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not real) and delusions (fervently believing things that are not true).

These symptoms may also be signs of other health problems, such as bipolar disorder, brain tumours, dementia or substance abuse, among others. Physicians and mental health specialists can differentiate and diagnose schizophrenia.

It is critical not to delay in seeking help if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, not just to determine the right course of treatment but also to prevent harm from coming to oneself or others.


The death of a loved one by their own hand causes immeasurable loss, pain and suffering to individuals, families and communities. On average, 135,000 people commit suicide in India each year . While suicide rates vary significantly by region, sex, age and religion, suicidal ideation in older people is often due to social isolation, functional disability, depression or from a desire not to be a burden on the family.

Suicide is preventable.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts – or has made a suicide attempt – seek help immediately. Learn more about the warning signs and never ignore them as they are appeals for help from someone in pain.

Suicidal Behaviour

If you think someone is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone. Stay with them, and call the emergency services, the nearest hospital or a suicide helpline.

Seek treatment immediately if you feel worthless or are thinking of ending your life.

Stress disorders are serious. People may experience stress disorders after living through or experiencing a major traumatic event like a war, murder, rape, physical abuse, road accident or a natural disaster like an earthquake, tsunami or cyclone.

Stress disorders trigger feelings of stress, fear and anxiety even after the immediate danger is past. People with stress disorders may have trouble sleeping or nightmares; flashbacks, as though the traumatic event is happening again; loneliness; anger, guilt, sadness or worry.

Signs of stress disorders may begin soon after the event or months (or even years) afterward. Overcoming stress disorders is possible with a combination of medicine and psychotherapy.