Adjustment disorders are psychological reactions that come on in response to a stressful situation, and settle within 6 months of the situation being resolved. Events that can trigger an adjustment disorder include loss of an important relationship, financial difficulties, or being a victim of a crime. Symptoms can include problems with anxiety (nervousness, worry, excessive fear), depression (low mood, negative thoughts, tearfulness), or problems with behavior (aggression, recklessness, irresponsibility). Sometimes, if the problem causing stress lasts for longer than 6 months (for example, ongoing severe financial problems), then the adjustment disorder can also continue. For more information, see the US National Library of Medicine.
Our personality is what makes us unique in the way we view the world, relate to other people and manage our emotions and behaviours. A personality disorder is when a person’s usual personality is extreme or unusual or difficult in some way and causes distress or problems for them or people around them. There are several different types of personality disorder; some mean the person seems odd or eccentric, some involve being very dramatic and emotional, and some are characterised by being anxious and fearful. More information on personality disorders is available from the Department of Health and Ageing.
There are two main patterns of disturbed eating, known as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These mainly affect females but can also affect males. People with anorexia nervosa refuse to maintain a health body weight, see themselves as being bigger/fatter than they are, and have an intense fear of gaining weight. In the more severe cases, a range of medical complications develop. For example, females stop getting their period, there can be damage to the kidneys or colon, and a fine hair can grow all over the body as a result of malnutrition. Bulimia nervosa occurs when a person binges on food and then tries to avoid gaining weight by making themselves vomit, using laxatives or diuretics. Medical complications can also occur, including damage to tooth enamel, dehydration, and intestinal and stomach problems. More information on eating disorders is available from the Department of Health and Ageing.
Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
The word psychosis is used to describe a group of symptoms that include: delusions (false beliefs that are not shared by other people with a similar background, e.g., believing that an alien power is trying to cause harm); hallucinations (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there); and disorganised thoughts, speech, or behaviour. Sometimes a person suffering from psychosis can be unaware that these symptoms are occurring. Schizophrenia is the psychotic disorder that most people have heard of. It usually starts in younger people and there may be some vague early symptoms like personality change, social withdrawal, or having odd ideas. Picking up on these early signs can help get the person into treatment early, but it’s usually not until psychosis develops that schizophrenia is diagnosed. Over time, psychosis can become less of an issue and instead the person has problems with motivation, becomes very isolated, has few thoughts, doesn’t talk much, and has trouble feeling and expressing emotions. They might also have problems thinking clearly and remembering new information. More information on schizophrenia is available from the Department of Health and Ageing. Other types of psychotic disorders include delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, and drug induced psychosis. More information is available from Orygen Youth Health Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (PDF) .
Bipolar disorder: Is a mood disorder, like depression, but involves episodes of mood elevation or mania, as well as periods of depression. When manic, a person usually feels happy, euphoric, or “high”, although irritability and anger can sometimes occur. Other symptoms of a manic episode include racing and flighty thoughts; exaggerated self-esteem; fast, pressured talking; less need for sleep; impulsive, risky, creative, or unfocused behaviour; high sex drive; excessive spending; and grand plans. These symptoms can be so severe the person becomes delusional (for example, thinking “I am a god with special powers”). Manic episodes cause severe disruption to relationships, work and study, and sometimes end up with the person being hospitalised. Milder mood elevations are referred to as hypomania and usually cause less disruption and harm. The episodes of depression that occur in bipolar disorders appear to be very similar to regular episodes of depression (that is, those that aren’t associated with manic episodes). More information about bipolar disorder is available from beyondblue.