There are several types of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The study of psychopathology includes the etiology (meaning, its causes), symptoms, and treatment of psychological disorders. It can also refer to a psychological disorders manifested as psychopathology. Mental health professionals must agree that certain mental states, sensations, and behaviors genuinely indicate psychopathology, despite the difficulty of reaching a consensus.
Behavior patterns and inner experiences which clearly signify psychological disturbance are easily labeled as abnormal. It would be abnormal for someone to wash his hands forty times per day, or hear voices of demons, to exhibit behaviors and inner experiences that suggest the presence of psychological disorders.
However, young men may feel nervous when speaking to attractive women, and college freshmen may experience feelings of loneliness and longing when they first arrive at school – these feelings are not a regular occurrence, but they are still normal.
Are there particular thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns that constitute a true psychological disorder? The goal of psychological research is to distinguish psychological disorders from simply situational, idiosyncratic, or unconventional inner experiences and behaviors.
These are not all the disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but there are some major categories. One of the most widely used systems for classifying mental disorders and providing standardized diagnostic criteria is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5.
1. Neurodevelopmental disorders
It is common to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders during childhood, adolescence, or infancy. Examples of these conditions include:
Formerly called mental retardation, this condition is sometimes known as Intellectual Developmental Disorder. An individual with this type of disorder has both intellectual and adaptive behavior limitations and appears before they are 18 years old.
When it comes to detecting intellectual limitations, IQ tests are often used. An IQ score below 70 frequently indicates the presence of a limitation. A helpful behavior is one that must be able to cope with practical, everyday challenges, such as self-care, social interaction and living requirements.
Global developmental delay
Children under the age of five with developmental disabilities are diagnosed with this disorder. The delays affect cognitive function, social ability, speech and language, and motor skills.
Children who are still too young to take standardized IQ tests are generally considered to have the condition as a temporary diagnosis. Children with an intellectual disability may be diagnosed once they are of an age to take standardized intelligence tests.
The disorders affect certain aspects of language and speech, including the ability to use, understand, and detect them. Communication disorders are classified into four types in the DSM-5: language disorder, speech sound disorder, childhood-onset fluency disorder (stuttering), and social (pragmatic) communication disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder
Usually, people with this disorder have persistent problems interacting with others and communicating, as well as having repetitive and restricted behavior patterns. It is stated in the DSM that someone with autism spectrum disorder needs to exhibit symptoms in their early years and that these symptoms should cause significant impairment in important areas such as social and occupational functioning.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
In order for ADHD to be diagnosed as an ADHD disorder, several of the symptoms must have existed prior to the age of 12 and must have negatively affected social, occupational, or academic functioning.4 The DSM-5 specifies that these symptoms must have been present prior to the age of 12 and must have contributed to the problem.
2. Bipolar and related disorders
Changes in mood, as well as changes in energy level and activity level, are hallmarks of bipolar disorder. People with this disorder may experience periods of elevated moods and periods of depression. A mood of this magnitude could be categorized as either mania or hypomania.
This mood is characterized by elevated feelings, expansive moods, or irritable moods coupled with an elevated level of activity and energy. When mania sets in, people may feel distracted, irritable and overconfident. The risk of gambling and shopping sprees for people with mania is also higher.
People who are experiencing manic or depressive episodes as well as their friends, family, and other loved ones can be “frightened” by these symptoms as well. People with bipolar disorder can successfully manage their symptoms with appropriate and effective treatment, which often includes medication and psychotherapy.
As compared to DSM-5, DSM-5 gives greater weight to the changes in energy levels and activities as well as mood in the DSM-5 criteria for manic and hypomanic episodes.
3. Anxiety disorders
Fear involves an emotional response to an external threat, whether or not that threat is real or perceived as real. Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive and persistent anxiety, worry, and other aspects of anxiety. Anxiety occurs when we anticipate a threat in the future. Anxiety disorder types are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
People living with this disorder worry excessively about everyday events. GAD entails excessive worry that interferes with a person’s ability to function and cope. Some stress and worry are normal, even common, parts of life.
There is an intense fear of public places associated with this condition. Panic attacks can be frightening for those who experience this disorder, especially if they fear they might not be able to escape.
Individuals with agoraphobia avoid situations that might cause them to experience anxiety attacks as a result of this fear. Some people may even become unable to leave their homes as a result of this avoidance behavior.
Social anxiety disorder
There are many psychological disorders that involve irrational feelings of fear and anxiety associated with being watched or judged by others. It is possible for anxiety disorders to profoundly impact an individual’s life and hinder their ability to function at school, work, and in other social settings.
Phobias are fear-based disorders in which a person is extremely afraid of a particular object or situation in their environment. There are many types of specific phobias, including the fear of spiders, snakes and heights.
Natural phobias include thunder, lightning, tornadoes, medical phobias include dental procedures, dental equipment, animal phobias include dogs and snakes, and situational phobias include small spaces, leaving home, driving. People experiencing the phobia’s symptoms may feel nauseated, trembling, their heart rate may become rapid, or they may even feel they will die.
Panic attacks are characteristic of these psychological disorders, which often happen without warning and for no apparent reason. Panic disorder can be characterized by anxiety and preoccupation with the prospect of having another panic attack.
Those who have experienced attacks in the past or who might experience them in the future may avoid situations and settings where they occurred. It makes it difficult to carry out normal routines as well as create significant impairments in a variety of spheres of everyday life.
Separation anxiety disorder
It is a type of anxiety disorder that consists of an excessive amount of anxiety or fear when one is separated from attachment figures. Many people think of separation anxiety in the context of young children who worry about being separated from their parents, but it is also common among older children and adults.
An individual may develop separation anxiety disorder if their symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. When they are separated from attachment figures or caregivers, they may suffer from extreme fear. A person experiencing these symptoms may not move far from home, not attend school, or not get married to avoid being too far away from their attachment figure.
There is evidence that up to 18 percent of American adults suffer from at least one anxiety disorder, as reported in an article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
4. Stress-related disorders
Stressor-related disorders are caused by exposure to traumatic or stressful events. Prior to now, these were considered a subcategory of anxiety disorders. This category includes the following disorders:
Acute stress disorder
An individual suffering from acute stress disorder will experience severe anxiety for up to a month following a traumatic experience. A traumatic event can include a natural disaster, a war, an accident, or witnessing the death of someone close to you.
An individual may experience dissociative symptoms due to the event, including altered reality, memory loss, flashbacks, and an inability to recall significant elements of the event. There may also be difficulty experiencing positive emotions and reduced emotional responsiveness.
Stress or loss can lead to adjustment disorders, such as a divorce, a job loss, the ending of a close relationship, a move, or some other loss or disappointment. Both children and adults can be affected by this type of psychological disorder, which exhibits symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, worry, anger, hopelessness, and feelings of isolation.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Trauma-related post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after an individual has been exposed to actual deaths, serious injuries, or sexual violence. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have episodes of reliving or re-experiencing the event, avoid things that remind them of the event, and experience negative thoughts.
Some possible PTSD symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, anger outbursts, difficulty concentrating, an exaggerated startle response, and a difficult time recalling events.
Reactive attachment disorder
It is possible for children to suffer from reactive attachment disorder if they do not form normal healthy attachments with their adult caregivers when they are young. The disorder results from insufficient care, neglect, and withdrawal from adult caregivers.
5. Dissociative disorders
The term dissociative disorders refers to psychological disorders characterized by a disruption in consciousness, including memories and identity. Dissociative disorders include:
This type of amnesia is different from just forgetting. This disorder may cause a person to remember some details of an event but may cause him or her to forget other details of that event.
Dissociative identity disorder
When multiple identities appear at the same time, dissociative identity disorder occurs. Different identities perceive and interact with the world differently. An altered level of consciousness can be accompanied by changes in behavior, memory and perception.
When a person experiences a sense of not being in his or her body (depersonalization) and not being able to connect with reality (derealization), he or she is suffering from depersonalization/derealization disorder. It is common for those with this disorder to feel disconnected from their own memories, feelings, and consciousness.
6. Somatic symptom disorders
Previously known as somatoform disorders, this group is now called somatic symptom disorders. Symptoms of somatic symptom disorders are physiological symptoms without a clear diagnosis.
The current diagnosis emphasizes the abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that accompany these symptoms, which are different from previous models based on the absence of a medical explanation for the symptoms. There are numerous disorders included in this classification, including:
Somatic symptom disorder
Those dealing with somatic symptom disorder are preoccupied with physical symptoms that hinder their ability to function normally. Stress and difficulties coping with everyday life result from this preoccupation with symptoms.
Symptoms such as pain, fatigue, or other somatic symptoms do not necessarily mean an individual is lying about symptoms. This type of condition is not so much about the symptoms themselves as it is about the reactions and behaviors that result from them.
Illness anxiety disorder
An undiagnosed medical condition leads to excessive concern about illness anxiety disorder. This psychological disorder involves excessive worrying about body functions and sensations, which makes an individual believe they are suffering from a serious disease, and does not allow them to be reassured when medical tests are negative.
There is significant anxiety and distress associated with this preoccupation. Also, this can lead to avoiding situations that might be harmful to health and seeking medical testing and treatments.
Conversion disorder occurs when neurological or medical explanations fail to explain motor or sensory symptoms. It is very common for psychological disorders to follow physical injuries or stressful experiences.
The DSM-5 now has a category for factitious disorder in the somatic symptom category. People who intentionally create, fake, or exaggerate symptoms of sickness are considered to have factitious disorders. Factitious disorders, such as Munchausen syndrome, occur when people feign illnesses to seek attention.
7. Eating disorders
Eating disorders impact both physical and mental health due to obsessive weight concerns and disruptions in eating patterns. DSM-5 classified eating and feeding disorders formerly diagnosed during childhood and adolescence in this category. Eating disorders include:
Often associated with significant weight loss and very low body weight, anorexia nervosa is characterized by very restricted food consumption. Additionally, people with this condition feel preoccupied and fearful of gaining weight, while their perceptions of their appearance and behaviors are also distorted.
Bulimia nervosa involves bingeing and then compensating for these binges with extreme measures. You might compensate for these symptoms by self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, and exercising excessively.
The symptom of rumination disorder is a regurgitation of previously swallowed or chewed food for the purpose of either spitting it out or re-swallowing it. These disorders usually affect children or adults who also suffer from developmental delays or intellectual disabilities.
This type of behavior can also lead to dental decay, esophageal ulcers, and malnutrition.
Specifically, pica is a desire to consume substances other than food, such as dirt, paint, or soap. People with developmental disabilities and children are more likely to be affected.
Described first in the DSM-5, binge eating disorder is characterized by episodes of eating extraordinarily large amounts within a couple of hours. Overeating is not the only problem people face; they also feel that their eating is out of their control. Several emotions can trigger binge eating episodes, including boredom, anxiety, happiness or stress.
8. Sleep disorder
The disorder involves disrupted sleep patterns that affect daytime functioning and cause distress. There are several types of sleep disorders, including:
Narcissistic personalities experience an uncontrollable desire to sleep, a condition known as narcolepsy. Narcolepsy patients experience sluggish muscles when they wake up.
When you cannot get enough sleep, you feel tired and unrested. Even though everyone suffers from sleep difficulties and interruptions from time to time, insomnia is considered a disorder when severe distress or impairment persists.
Sleepiness is characterized by hypersomnolence despite adequate sleep for most of the night. It is possible for people with this condition to fall asleep at inappropriate times during the day, like during work or school.
Breathing-related sleep disorders
Sleep disorders affecting breathing during sleep include sleep apnea and other breathing disorders related to breathing. Sleep disturbances caused by these breathing problems can lead to daytime sleepiness as well as insomnia.
Restless legs syndrome
An individual with restless legs syndrome experiences unpleasant sensations in their legs and the urge to move them to relieve those sensations.
A person with this disorder may experience continuous leg movement due to pulling, creeping, burning, and crawling sensations. These sensations can disrupt sleep since excessive movement interferes with sleep.
The DSM-5 does not include sleep disorders caused by other mental disorders or medical conditions. In this most recent edition of the DSM, sleep-wake disorders are evidently treated with a greater emphasis on coexisting conditions.
According to the APA, this change recognizes the bidirectional and interactive effects that sleep disorders have on coexisting medical and mental disorders, in addition to the sleep disorder.
9. Disruptive disorders
People with impulse-control disorders have difficulty controlling their emotions and behaviors, causing them to harm themselves or others. Behavior that violates rights and/or conflicts with societal norms, authority figures, and laws are symptoms of emotional and behavioral problems. There are several types of impulse control disorders.
People with Kleptomania cannot control a stealing impulse. When someone has kleptomania, they often steal things that have no real monetary value or that they do not really need. People with this mentality feel relief and gratification after committing a theft and experience escalating tension before committing the crime.
Pyromania involves the desire to start fires in ways that endanger others as well as oneself. Some people suffering from pyromania have intentionally set fire to multiple objects. The act of setting a fire is also associated with tension and arousal.
Intermittent explosive disorder
Brief violence or anger outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation are symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder. A person with this disorder may respond to everyday annoyances or disappointments with angry outbursts or violent actions.
Child and adolescent conduct disorders are diagnosed when they violate social norms and third-party rights regularly. People with this disorder may behave aggressively toward others and animals, damage property, steal, lie, or violate other laws and rules. When children exhibit these behaviors, they are likely to experience problems at school, at work, or in their social lives.
Oppositional defiant disorder
The symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder usually present themselves prior to the age of 18 and involve defiance, irritability, anger, aggression and vindictiveness. All kids can be defiant sometimes but children with oppositional defiant disorder deliberately annoy their parents by refusing to comply with adults’ requests.
10. Depressive disorders
Depressive disorders include a range of conditions related to mood. These disorders are all characterized by sadness, irritability, or emptiness as well as physical or cognitive symptoms. The differences are in the duration, timing, or presumed cause.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder: Children with that condition experience excessive anger and irritability. They often outburst their anger at frequent intervals.
- Major depressive disorder: This disorder causes individuals to lose interest in activities and show depressive moods, which lead to impairments in their ability to function.
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): Frequently, less severe, but longer lasting, ongoing, chronic depressions may be characterized by these other symptoms. It is necessary to experience depressive mood on most days for at least two years to diagnose depression.
- Other or unspecified depressive disorder: An individual may have this diagnosis if his or her symptoms do not fit the criteria for a different depressive disorder, but the symptoms still affect his or her daily life and function.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Symptoms include depression, irritability, anxiety, and irritability a week or two before you start menstruating. Women usually get over their period symptoms within a few days.
- Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder: It happens when you’re going through withdrawal from a substance or using alcohol or another substance while you have symptoms of depression.
- Depressive disorder due to another medical condition: An individual is diagnosed with this disorder when their medical history suggests they may have a medical condition causing their depressive symptoms. Depression can be caused or contributed to by a number of medical conditions, including diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune disorders, cancer, infections as well as HIV/AIDS.
Depression is characterized by persistent and severe feelings of sadness and low mood, such that they interfere with a person’s everyday life. They can cause feelings of disinterest and impotence, lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, sleep disturbances, and impaired concentration, among other symptoms.
Each condition has its own diagnostic criteria. It is necessary to experience five or more symptoms of major depressive disorder within two weeks for a diagnosis to be made.
You need to be depressed or lose interest in something you used to enjoy. Here are some symptoms:
- Feeling down a lot
- Loss of interest in things you used to like
- Losing a lot of weight or gaining a lot of weight
- Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Feeling restless or slowed down
- Feeling tired all of the time
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Being unable to think clearly
- Suicidal thoughts or preoccupations
To reach a trained counselor for support and assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. In case of an emergency, dial 911.
For more mental health resources, see our Mental Health Help blog.
Treatment for depression often involves both psychotherapy and medication.
11. Substance-related disorders
Disorders associated with substances include cocaine use, methamphetamine abuse, opiates abuse, and alcohol abuse. Several disorders may be associated with substance abuse, including intoxications, withdrawals, psychosis, anxiety, and delirium. These disorders include:
- Alcohol-related disorders: Most of these activities involve alcohol, which is the most widely used drug in America (and is frequently overused).
- Cannabis-related disorders: People with dependence usually use drugs more than they intended, are unable to stop using drugs, and continue to use drugs despite adverse effects.
- Inhalant-use disorders: Exposure to fumes such as those from paints or solvents. The symptoms of this disorder are cravings and the inability to control or stop the behavior, as with all substance-related disorders.
- Stimulant use disorder: The use of stimulants such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and amphetamines is compulsory.
- Tobacco use disorder: People with tobacco addiction find it hard to cut back or quit, have cravings, and suffer social consequences.
Gambling disorder is also included in this classification. APA states that this change stems from the growing body of evidence showing that behaviors like gambling activate the brain reward system with effects similar to those of drugs as well as the fact that gambling disorder symptoms are similar to substance use disorders in some ways.
12. Neurocognitive disorders
The term neurocognitive disorder refers to an acquired deficit of cognitive function. Those with cognitive impairment while still in utero or in the first year of life do not qualify. There are several types of cognitive disorders, including:
Acute confusional state is also called delirium. It is characterized by attention and awareness disturbances that occur over a short period of time — usually several hours to a few days.
A major or a mild neurocognitive disorder are ones that result in cognitive impairments in at least one area, including memory, attention, language, learning and perception. There are many medical conditions that may cause cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, HIV infection, Parkinson’s disease, substance/medication use, and vascular disease.
The psychological disorder Schizophrenia affects the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Approximately one percent of the population in the United States suffers from this complex, long-term condition.
A person diagnosed with schizophrenia must exhibit two or more symptoms for at least a month according to the DSM-5.
These symptoms must include:
- Delusions, Irrational beliefs.
- Hallucinations, Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there.
- Disorganized speech. Speech that does not follow linguistic rules or is difficult to understand.
Other symptoms include:
- Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior: Irrational thinking and bizarre movements.
- Negative symptoms: Being incapable of initiating plans, speaking, expressing emotions or feeling pleasure.
An additional requirement is that the impairments must persist for a minimum of six months. Men tend to show schizophrenia symptoms earlier than women, usually in their late teens or early 20s. There are early signs of this disease, including low motivation, difficult relationships, and low academic performance, which may occur before diagnosis.
Genetics, brain chemistry, environmental factors, and substance abuse may all contribute to schizophrenia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The symptoms of schizophrenia cannot be cured, but there are treatments that can help manage them. The treatment of schizophrenia is usually accompanied by medication, therapy, education and social support.
14. Obsessive-compulsive disorders
Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders comprise a group of mental illnesses that include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Body-dysmorphic disorder
- Hoarding disorder
- Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder)
- Excoriation disorder (skin picking)
- Substance/medication-induced obsessive-compulsive and related disorder
- Another disorder causing obsessive-compulsive behavior
There are different criteria for diagnosing disorders in this classification.
OCD is diagnosed by a person experiencing obsessions, compulsions, or both, according to the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5:
- Obsessions: It is characterized by recurrent, persistent thoughts, urges, and impulses that cause distress or anxiety
- Compulsions: A tendency to repeat or excessive behaviors. Taking these actions reduces anxiety or prevents some dreaded outcome.
In addition, the obsessions and compulsions must also be time-consuming, taking up at least one hour per day, or causing significant distress or impairment of quality of life. Additionally, the obsessions or compulsions should not be caused by another medical condition or substance abuse, and they should not be explained by a mental disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder.
Usually, OCD is treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Exposure and response prevention (ERP) is a common form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Symptoms can also be managed with the use of antidepressants such as clomipramine or fluoxetine.
15. Personality disorders
An individual with a personality disorder produces a pattern of maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that can negatively affect their relationships and other life aspects. There are several types of personality disorders:
Antisocial personality disorder
Individuals with antisocial personalities ignore rules, social norms, and other people’s rights for a long time. Those who suffer from this condition typically start showing symptoms during childhood, cannot feel empathy for others, and do not apologize for their destructive behavior.
Avoidant personality disorder
People with avoidant personality disorder show severe social inhibitions. An individual who feels insecure often experiences significant difficulties in living and functioning on a daily basis.
Borderline personality disorder
An individual with a borderline personality disorder will display symptoms such as emotional instability, instability and intense interpersonal relationships, and impulsive behavior.
Dependent personality disorder
The symptoms of dependent personality disorder include a chronic fear of separation and an insatiable need to be cared for. A person with this disorder often engages in behavior that aims to make others feel cared for.
Histrionic personality disorder
The symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include increased emotionality and attention-seeking behavior. Those with this condition are uncomfortable in situations where they are not the focus of attention, have fluctuating emotional states, and engage in socially inappropriate behavior to attract others’ attention.
Narcissistic personality disorder
An individual with narcissistic personality disorder is known to have an overly exaggerated sense of self, a low sense of empathy, and a pattern of self-centeredness. Those with this condition are usually more concerned with themselves than with others.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
People with OCD are preoccupied with orderliness, perfectionism, inflexibility, mental control and interpersonal relationships. OCPD is not the same thing as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Paranoid personality disorder
People with paranoid personality disorder tend to distrust others, even family members and friends. Individuals with this disorder mistake the intentions of others for malevolence, regardless of any evidence or explanation.
Schizoid personality disorder
Social withdrawal is a symptom of schizoid personality disorder. These individuals are often indifferent to relationships and focused on their inner lives. It is common for them to display a lack of emotion and to seem aloof and cold.
Schizotypal personality disorder
People who suffer from schizophrenia have eccentric behavior, appearance, and thought patterns. Schizotypal personality disorder is common for people with this condition to possess bizarre beliefs or engage in “magical thinking.” They may also have difficulty forming relationships.
The effects of psychological disorders can be felt across a wide range of settings, including work, relationships, learning, and school. In most cases, however, people can eliminate their symptoms and find effective ways to cope with their symptoms with the help of a diagnosis and treatment.