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Mental Health
Disorders Information

Anxiety | Bi-polar | Borderline Personality Disorder 
Depression | Schizophrenia | Additional Information


Everybody has some familiarity with anxiety. Anxiety is the feeling of worry, apprehension, fear and/or panic in response to situations which seem overwhelming, threatening, unsafe or uncomfortable. You may experience anxiety as an intense worry before a final exam, the nervousness felt before making a presentation, or the heightened alertness when you believe you are in danger.

Anxiety is your body's way of alerting you that some kind of action is needed in the face of a situation that is perceived to be threatening or dangerous. Therefore, anxiety can be useful or adaptive whenever it prompts you to take appropriate action in response to an anxiety-provoking situation. For example, anxiety can motivate you to study for an exam or organize a presentation or leave a situation that feels unsafe.

However, anxiety can also be detrimental, especially if it becomes overwhelming and prevents you from taking appropriate actions or prompts you to take actions that are counterproductive. Anxiety may be detrimental if you avoid studying for a major exam that worries you, or if you cope with worry about your relationship by getting unnecessarily suspicious and then yelling at your partner. This brochure will help you distinguish between normal or expected anxiety that everyone experiences and anxiety problems which may require intervention.

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Bipolar Disorder

There is a tendency to romanticize bipolar disorder. Many artists, musicians, and writers have suffered from its mood swings. But in truth, many lives are ruined by this disease; and without effective treatment, the illness is associated with an increased risk of suicide.

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a serious brain disease that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. It affects approximately 2.3 million adult Americans—about 1.2 percent of the population. Men and women are equally likely to develop this disabling illness. The disorder typically emerges in adolescence or early adulthood, but in some cases appears in childhood. Cycles, or episodes, of depression, mania, or "mixed" manic and depressive symptoms typically recur and may become more frequent, often disrupting work, school, family, and social life.

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Borderline Personality Disorder

The symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder can be summarized as instability in mood, thinking, behavior, personal relations, and self-image. Individuals with the disorder may:

  • Demand constant attention and make unreasonable demands
  • Avoid being alone by acting out a crisis or dramatizing a problem
  • Display provocative behavior
  • Go on eating or spending binges
  • Threaten or attempt suicide
  • Cut, burn or scratch themselves
  • Have mood swings, brief periods of severe depression or anxiety, or intense anger over something minor
  • Engage in self-destructive behavior like reckless driving, or abuse of alcohol and other drugs
  • Say they are bored, life is empty, and they do not know who they are
  • Have delusions and slip temporarily into a psychosis

Many symptoms of Borderline Personality disorder are similar to those found in other disorders, such as anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and other personality disorders like:

  • Histrionic personality - self-dramatizing, self-indulgent, demanding, excitable, vain;
  • Narcissistic personality - intolerant of criticism, self-important, lacking in empathy, envious, constantly demanding special favors; and
  • Antisocial personality- callous, reckless, impulsive, irritable, deceitful, and emotionally shallow.

Borderline Personality Disorder can affect anyone, but it is often diagnosed in adolescents and young adults. Women seem to develop it more often than men do.

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There are several types of clinical depression which involve disturbances in mood, concentration, self-confidence, sleep, appetite, activity and behavior as well as disruptions in friendships, family, work and/or school. A clinical depression is different from the experiences of sadness, disappointment and grief familiar to everyone, however, which can make it difficult to determine when professional help is necessary. This brochure is intended to provide you with an understanding of the symptoms, causes, and treatment of clinical depression and allow you to assess the severity of symptoms you are experiencing to determine whether you should consider treatment at this time.

A period of depressed mood which lasts for several days or a few weeks is a normal part of life and is not necessarily a cause for concern. Although these feelings are often referred to as "depression," they typically do not constitute a clinical depression because the symptoms are relatively mild and of short duration. Moreover, milder periods of depression are often related to stressful life events and improvement frequently coincides with positive life changes.

A person experiencing a clinical depression, however, will likely be experiencing substantial changes in their mood, thinking, behaviors, activities and self-perceptions. A depressed person often has difficulty making decisions, for example, and the day-to-day tasks of paying bills, attending classes, reading assignments, and returning phone calls may seem overwhelming.

A depressed person may also dwell on negative thoughts, focus on unpleasant experiences, describe himself or herself as a failure, report that things are hopeless, and feel as though they are a burden to others. The changes in mood brought on by depression frequently result in feelings of sadness, irritability, anger, emptiness, and/or anxiety. There are also some types of depression, including Bipolar Disorder, in which depressive episodes alternate with manic or hypomanic episodes which may include feelings of agitation and euphoria. A severe or long-term depressive episode can substantially erode self-esteem and may result in thoughts of death and suicide. The following symptoms checklist includes many of the symptoms typical of a clinical depression. It is important to note, however, that only some of these symptoms are necessary for a diagnosis of depression.

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Schizophrenia is a serious disorder which affects how a person thinks, feels and acts. Someone with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary; may be unresponsive or withdrawn; and may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations.

Contrary to public perception, schizophrenia is not split personality or multiple personality.  The vast majority of people with schizophrenia are not violent and do not pose a danger to others.  Schizophrenia is not caused by childhood experiences, poor parenting or lack of willpower, nor are the symptoms identical for each person.

  • Paranoid schizophrenia: a person feels extremely suspicious, persecuted, or grandiose, or experiences a combination of these emotions.
  • Disorganized schizophrenia: a person is often incoherent in speech and thought, but may not have delusions.
  • Catatonic schizophrenia: a person is withdrawn, mute, negative and often assumes very unusual body positions.
  • Residual schizophrenia: a person is no longer experiencing delusions or hallucinations, but has no motivation or interest in life.
  • Schizoaffective disorder: a person has symptoms of both schizophrenia and a major mood disorder such as depression.

No cure for schizophrenia has been discovered, but with proper treatment, many people with this illness can lead productive and fulfilling lives.

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AAdditional information on disorders

For more information on the disorders listed above or for other disorders, please go to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) website. Information listed above is courtesy of NIMH.

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This page last updated: 07/26/16