Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), over 40 million adults experience an anxiety disorder each year.
“Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions—just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes,” explains the ADAA.
“It’s a normal part of life to experience occasional anxiety. But you may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If it’s an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can be disabling.” When persistent anxiety interferes significantly with daily activities, it becomes a mental health concern.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias, and more. Oftentimes, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) co-occurs with anxiety, and careful psychiatric observation may be needed to clarify if patients suffer from one or both conditions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), people with anxiety typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Feeling tense or jumpy
- Restlessness or irritability
- Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
- Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
- Sweating, tremors, and twitches
- Headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), in the United States, over 19 million adults experience a major depressive episode each year.
“Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, and scared,” explains ADAA. “These feelings are normal reactions to life’s stressors. Most people feel low and sad at times. However, in the case of individuals who are diagnosed with depression as a psychiatric disorder, the manifestations of the low mood are much more severe, and they tend to persist.”
Symptoms of depression can include any of the following:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.
Many people associate Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) with adolescents and young adults, but this treatable, neurodevelopmental disorder affects people of all ages. Its three main symptoms are inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. There are three subtypes of ADHD: Predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and a combination of the first two types.
ADHD symptoms typically start before the age of twelve, and girls and boys may be differently affected by it. ADHD may go undiagnosed and unaddressed until adulthood. Adult ADHD symptoms typically started in early childhood and continued into adulthood but may not have been recognized as ADHD. Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can lead to unstable relationships, poor work performance, and low self-esteem. Adult ADHD symptoms include trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior.
Substance Use Disorder
“Substance misuse is one of the critical public health problems of our time,” wrote Kana Enomoto, then principal deputy administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in her foreword for the Facing Addiction in America report compiled by the Surgeon General in 2016. “The most recent data on substance use, misuse, and substance use disorders reveal that the problem is deepening and the consequences are becoming more deadly than ever.” Half a decade later, America’s addiction crisis is far from over.
Substance use disorders and mental health conditions often co-occur. There may be biological, social, and psychological reasons that people develop substance use and mental health disorders, and the reasons each person develops one of these disorders can be complex. It is very common for people with untreated mental health conditions (and trauma or chronic pain) to self-medicate with substances to alleviate their symptoms. This process can quickly lead to developing a substance use disorder. Regardless of the factors that may lead to substance misuse, treatment can be highly effective. Futures Recovery Healthcare is a leading substance use treatment provider. Patients of the Futures Mental Health program who present with substance use disorders may be able to access Futures Recovery Healthcare substance use treatment services for a comprehensive approach to care.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the diagnostic manual American clinicians use to classify mental disorders—modernized its addiction criteria and merged the previous disorders “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” into one substance use disorder (SUD) with 11 criteria. The fifth edition, known as DSM-5, lists SUDs according to the substance involved. Accordingly, there is an alcohol use disorder (AUD), opioid use disorder (OUD), cocaine use disorder, and so forth.
The severity of the SUD is defined as:
- Mild: presence of 2 to 3 symptoms
- Moderate: presence of 4 to 5 symptoms
- Severe: presence of 6 or more symptoms
Anyone meeting any two of the following 11 criteria during the same 12-month period could receive a substance use disorder diagnosis. In his addiction report, the Surgeon General equated addiction with a severe substance use disorder (6 or more symptoms).
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the substance use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use it, or recover from its effects
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance
- Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
- Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
- Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect—a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance—the substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
Mood disorder is a generic term for certain mental health conditions. A person with any emotional or psychological difficulty—generalized anxiety, major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, various phobias, etc.—may be described as having a mood disorder.
Often, however, the term refers to depression or bipolar disorder in particular. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists the following conditions as the most common types of mood disorders:
Major depression: Having less interest in usual activities, feeling sad or hopeless, and other symptoms for at least 2 weeks may indicate depression.
Dysthymia: This is a chronic, low-grade, depressed, or irritable mood that lasts for at least 2 years.
Bipolar disorder: This is a condition in which a person has periods of depression alternating with periods of mania or elevated mood.
Mood disorder related to another health condition: Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic illnesses) can trigger symptoms of depression.
Substance-induced mood disorder: Symptoms of depression that are due to the effects of medicine, drug misuse, alcohol use disorder, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment.
Depending on the age and the type of mood disorder, a person may have different symptoms. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists these the most common symptoms of a mood disorder:
- Ongoing sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Having low self-esteem
- Feeling inadequate or worthless
- Excessive guilt
- Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: People with this symptom should get treatment right away!)
- Loss of interest in usual activities or activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Relationship problems
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Decreased energy
- Trouble concentrating
- A decrease in the ability to make decisions
- Frequent physical complaints (for example, headache, stomachache, or tiredness) that don’t get better with treatment
- Running away or threats of running away from home
- Very sensitive to failure or rejection
- Irritability, hostility, or aggression
The symptoms listed above may look like other conditions or mental health problems. Only a healthcare professional can determine whether a person has a specific mood disorder.
A thought disorder generally refers to mental health problems that make it difficult for people to communicate clearly. People experiencing thought disorders may seem incoherent, lack the ability to carry on conversations, use peculiar turns of phrase or word choices, and other challenges that make it difficult to speak or write cogently. Thought disorders can be symptoms of schizophrenia but are also associated with depression and anxiety disorders.
In their article entitled “Rethinking Thought Disorder,” authors Mara Hart and Richard R. J. Lewine suggest that these disorders have to do with how we think and perceive the world. “Thought disorder (TD) is a multidimensional construct, reflecting peculiarities in thinking, language, and communication. Broadly, TD is defined as any disturbance that affects the form of thinking, including the organization, control, processing, or expression of thoughts.”
While there may be multiple and complex causes for the onset of thought disorders, these conditions are diagnosable and treatable. If an assessment indicates that patients are experiencing thought disorders, treatment providers seek to identify and treat the underlying mental health problems causing or exacerbating the thought disorders. As with other mental health conditions, medications and psychotherapy are primary therapeutic modalities used to treat these conditions.