for better mental health

Types of mental health problems – for young people

Information for young people on understanding types of mental health problems and symptoms. 

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Types of mental health problems

There may be some mental health problems that you’ve heard people talk about a lot, such as depression or anxiety, and others you may have heard less about, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

There are also symptoms people can experience, either on their own or as part of a mental health problem, like hallucinations or self-harming.

No mental health problem is worse than another, and they’re not a sign of weakness.

This page gives a brief description of some different types of mental health problems and symptoms. It also covers:

We have more information on understanding mental health here.

"Having multiple mental illnesses does not make me any stronger or weaker than somebody with less mental illnesses."

Examples of mental health problems

Mental health problems do not have to be diagnosed by a doctor. But some people find getting a diagnosis of their mental health problem helpful, to access support.

Other people find that their feelings and behaviours – sometimes known as ‘symptoms’ – may not fit into any particular diagnosis, and that’s also okay.

"I’ve never felt attached to a diagnosis… I have always taken what is useful from them and forgotten about the rest."

Here are definitions of some mental health problems:

Depression – where you feel sad, low or tearful for a long time, and stop enjoying your everyday life.

Childline has more information on depression and where to get help here.

Anxiety – where you often feel really worried or afraid, sometimes experiencing panic and panic attacks, and it stops you from living your normal life.

If you are diagnosed with anxiety, you may be given a diagnosis of a specific anxiety disorder, like:

  • General anxiety disorder – feeling worried a lot, and finding it hard to stop worrying about things that happen every day.
  • Social anxiety disorder – where you feel very scared or worried in, or thinking about, social situations, like parties or working with someone else.
  • Phobias – really strong worries or fears caused by specific situations or things, such as heights, spiders, or being sick.
  • Body dysmorphic disorder – where you have a distorted view of your body, and constantly think parts of it are 'ugly', 'wrong' or ‘bigger’ than they actually are.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder – where your worries also involve having repetitive thoughts and behaviours, like checking if doors are locked or worrying that someone’s in danger.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – when something traumatic happens to you and you develop problems with anxiety afterwards. This might be nightmares or flashbacks of how you felt at the time.

See Childline’s page on anxiety for more information and advice on where to get help.

Eating problems – when you eat much more or much less food than you need, or have a difficult relationship with food.

The most common eating problems are:

  • Anorexia – where you stop yourself from eating enough food to keep yourself healthy.
  • Bulimia – where you eat a lot of food with no control, then feel bad and do something to 'undo' it or make up for it.
  • Binge-eating – when you eat a lot of food in a very short space of time, often in private.

See Beat’s page on eating problems for more information and where to get help.

Schizophrenia – can affect your thoughts and behaviours over a long period of time. It can include your thoughts or speech getting confused, or seeing and hearing things that others don’t.

YoungMinds has more information on schizophrenia and where to get help here.

Bipolar disorder – big changes in mood where you may have manic episodes (feeling high), and depressive episodes (feeling low), which can affect your everyday life.

YoungMinds has more information on bipolar disorder and where to get help here.

Personality disorders – when you find it difficult to change the bits of your personality that can cause you or other people problems. They can affect your relationships, attention, or behaviour.

They are hard to recognise, as they have many different symptoms, and you often need to have them for a couple of years before your doctor is able to diagnose you.

The Mix has more information about personality disorders and where to get help here.

"It’s important to know that you are not defined by your struggles… and that ultimately you are stronger than them."

What else might I experience?

We can all experience some feelings and behaviours which can be hard to deal with, like getting angry in an argument or panicking before a test.

But when you experience these feelings and behaviours for a long period of time or find them hard to control, they could be linked with mental health problems, and it may be time to ask for help. These symptoms include:

Anger – an emotion that’s healthy to feel sometimes, but can become a problem when it gets out of control, aggressive or destructive.

Panic attacks – a way your body can respond to situations you view as stressful. It’s part of a natural reaction called the flight, fight or freeze reaction. This becomes a problem when it stops you from doing things you normally enjoy. You may feel yourself begin to sweat, feel sick or dizzy, feel your heart beating faster, or feel like you're losing control.

Hallucinations – where you sense things that others can't, like hearing voices or seeing things. They are a common type of psychosis, which is when you perceive reality in a different way.

Delusions – where you believe something that isn't true and no-one else believes it, like that you're someone else, or that an event is going to take place. Delusions are another form of psychosis, and people with psychosis can see it as a good or bad experience.

Self-harm – when you hurt yourself to deal with difficult thoughts or experiences. You can visit YoungMinds for more advice and support for self-harm here.

Suicidal feelings – feeling like you want to die, or stop living. Although distressing, having suicidal feelings doesn't necessarily mean you are planning to take your own life. Visit YoungMinds or our pages on finding support for yourself and how to support a friend for more information.

"Everyone deals differently and this is an aspect of understanding mental health too."

What do I do if I'm feeling suicidal?

Everyone can experience suicidal thoughts at some point – if you want advice, support, or to talk things through with someone confidentially, Papyrus offers information and a helpline service.

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe then this is an emergency. You can:

  • tell an adult you trust and ask them to call for help
  • text YM to YoungMind’s Crisis Messenger on 85258, and a counsellor will call you back to talk things through with you
  • call HOPELINEUK to talk to an adviser
  • or call 999 if you’ve hurt yourself, or feel like you may attempt suicide.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You are not wasting anyone's time.

This information was published in June 2020. We will revise it in 2022.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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