Other mental health disorders

Adjustment disorders

Adjustment disorders are psychological reactions that can develop in response to a stressful situation, and that cease within six 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 (e.g. nervousness, worry, excessive fear), depression (e.g. low mood, negative thoughts, tearfulness), or behaviour (e.g. aggression, recklessness, irresponsibility). Sometimes, if the problem causing the stress lasts for longer than six months (for example, ongoing severe financial problems), then the adjustment disorder can also continue. For more information, see the US National Library of Medicine.

Personality disorders

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, 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 involve the person being odd or eccentric, some involve the person being overly dramatic and emotional, and some involve the person being anxious and fearful. More information on personality disorders is available from the Department of Health.

Eating disorders

There are two main patterns of disturbed eating, known as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These mainly affect women but can also affect men. Anorexia nervosa is characterised by problems with maintaining a healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and striving for thinness. In the more severe cases, a range of medical complications develop. For example, women may 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 is characterised by eating binges followed by purging to avoid weight gain by self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives or diuretics. Medical complications including damage to tooth enamel, dehydration, and intestinal and stomach problems can occur. More information on eating disorders is available from the Department of Health.

Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders

The word psychosis is used to describe a range of symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • delusions - false beliefs that are not shared by other people, e.g. believing that an alien power is trying to cause the person harm;
  • hallucinations - perceptions of things that aren’t actually there, such as hearing voices when alone;
  • confused thinking, such as having difficulties putting sentences together;
  • changed behavior, such as loss of energy and withdrawal from family and friends.

Schizophrenia refers to a psychotic disorder in which the symptoms have been present for at least six months. Other types of psychotic disorders include delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder, brief psychotic disorder, and drug induced psychosis. Psychosis usually starts in younger people and identification of early symptoms, such as odd ideas or social withdrawal, can assist people to receive early treatment. Many people with psychotic disorders lead happy and fulfilling lives. 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

Bipolar disorder (previously called manic depression) is a mood disorder that involves periods of mania or elation as well as periods of depression. When experiencing mania, a person feels euphoric or "high" although irritability and anger can also occur. Other symptoms include racing ideas, inflated self-esteem or self-importance, fast and pressured speech, less need for sleep, high energy, impulsive or risky behavior, excessive spending, and grand plans. Sometimes people experience delusions, for example thinking "I am a god with special powers". Manic episodes cause significant disruption to relationships, work and study, and can result in the person being hospitalised. A less severe form of mania is referred to as hypomania. The depressive episodes that occur in bipolar disorder are quite similar to regular episodes of depression (that is, those not associated with manic episodes). More information about bipolar disorder is available from beyondblue