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Types of mental health problems

Mental health is just as important as physical health and mental health problems can happen to anybody. If it’s something you’re experiencing, one of the first things to do is talk to someone you can trust about how you’re feeling.

Image of cogs inside a silhouette of a head to show mental healthWhat is ‘mental health’?

‘Mental health’ is about the way we feel about ourselves, how happy we are and whether we believe we have the strength to overcome challenges.

Sometimes you might feel really positive and confident about things. And other times, you might feel stressed, anxious or sad. This is completely normal.

These thoughts can be a problem if they become really extreme or if they get so big that they affect your daily life. If negative thoughts start to affect the way you feel or how you behave over quite a long period of time, a doctor might diagnose this as mental illness.

Types of mental health problems

Anorexia and bulimia
People with anorexia try to stop eating and lose a lot of weight. They often feel or think they look fat, even when they are very thin. People with bulimia binge (eat lots of food at once) and then make themselves sick to get rid of the food. Anorexia and bulimia are types of eating disorders and can affect both girls and boys. 
Read more about eating problems.

Anxiety and panic attacks
Anxiety can make you feel tired, upset, worried, shaky and light-headed. It can also cause panic attacks. If you have a panic attack, you get a sudden rush of fear that makes you feel like your heart is beating really fast.
A panic attack is scary but they are not dangerous. It's normal to feel anxious or stressed from time to time. If anxiety stops you from being happy and living your normal life, it could be diagnosed as anxiety disorder. 
Read more about anxiety.

Someone with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has a lot of energy and might find it hard to concentrate on something for a long time. They will also find it difficult to control their behaviour. ADHD affects around one in 100 young people and is more common in boys than girls.
Visit the young minds website for more information on ADHD.

Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is an illness where somebody changes from being really hyper or manic to feeling very low and depressed.

Bipolar disorder:

• is also known as manic depression
• can mean you experience an extreme emotion for days and sometimes even weeks
• affects one in 100 people but is rare in young people.
Visit the young minds website for more information on bipolar disorder.

It is normal to feel sad or down sometimes. If you feel sad thoughts and feelings are stopping you from being happy, enjoying your life, or that life isn’t worth living, it may be diagnosed as depression.


• affects 80,000 children and young people in the UK
• can start because of lots of things including stress and the death of someone you love.

Speaking to somebody about how you feel is the first step in getting help with depression. You could ask an adult you trust for help or see your doctor.  
Read more about depression and the help available.

Someone with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) may worry that something bad will happen. For example, they might think they will catch a disease. This causes them a lot of anxiety and they feel they have to carry out a ritual to make things better. For example, they might want to shower every time they use the toilet.


• leads to people getting anxious about small things, even if they know this is silly
• affects one in 50 people
• can affect someone's everyday life and relationships.
Visit Young minds and OCD Youth for more information and support.

Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can start when someone experiences a really distressing event. For example, they may have been in an accident, experienced abuse or witnessed something that made them feel really frightened.


• can cause flashbacks, problems sleeping and nightmares
• affects one in three people who have experienced a stressful event.
Visit the young minds website for more information on PTSD.

Somebody with schizophrenia may find it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. That doesn't mean someone with schizophrenia is violent. It's also wrong to think that schizophrenia means you have 'two personalities'.

• can make someone hear or see things that don’t exist (called hallucinations)
• can make someone have muddled or strange thoughts (delusions)
• can make someone feel paranoid.
• affects 1% of people.
Visit the young minds website for more information on schizophrenia.

  • I'm worried I might have a mental illness. What can I do?

    One in four people experience mental health problems at some point in their lives. It's nothing to be ashamed of. If you are worried about your mental health, making an appointment with your doctor can help. Only a qualified doctor can diagnose a mental illness. Read more about what it's like to see your doctor.

  • Who can help me?

    As well as speaking to your doctor, you can also chat with one of our counsellors on 0800 1111, through 1-2-1 chat online or by sending an email. Calls are free and won’t show up on a phone bill. Lots of young people speak to us about mental health issues and our counsellors can help you with any worries you might have. You might also find it helpful to chat to other young people on the mental health message board.

  • Where can I find information about autism or Asperger's syndrome?

    Autism is not seen as a mental illness but a condition that affects how someone learns, communicates and builds relationships with others. Over 500,000 people in the UK are living with autism. If someone has autism, they will always have it. Autism affects how someone lives and relates to what goes on around them.
    Find out what it’s like living with autism and get help and support.  

    Asperger’s syndrome is a type of autism. People with Asperger’s often have a higher level of intelligence than other people. They may have fewer problems with speech than other people with autism. But they may find it difficult to understand language.
    Visit the young minds website for more information on Asperger’s syndrome.

  • Somebody in my family has a mental health problem and I'm finding it really hard. What can I do?

    Living with a parent, brother or sister who has a mental illness can be really hard. It's really tough to see people you care about suffering. If it’s your mum or dad, you might feel upset, ashamed or even angry with them because they might not be able to look after you properly.

    Problems can include:
    - being separated from your mum or dad if they need to go into hospital for treatment
    - looking after an ill parent, or are taking care of brothers and sisters (get support if you are a young carer)
    - not being looked after properly (this is called neglect)
    - family problems or arguments
    - being teased or bullied by other people (get help with making bullying stop)
    - people saying nasty things about your parent.

  • I have to look after someone in my family and I can't cope. What can I do?

    As well as caring for the person in your family, it’s important that you look after yourself too. If you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed, talk to someone you trust about it. This could be a friend or a teacher at school. You can also talk to a ChildLine counsellor on 0800 1111 or through 1-2-1 chat online. Taking time out for yourself can also help you cope and feel better about things.
    Visit the young carers page on information and support with looking after a parent.

  • Will my mum or dad get better?

    If somebody you know has been diagnosed with a mental illness you might feel confused or even frightened about what might happen. It is okay to feel like this. Mental illness can be hard to accept sometimes.

    Although the causes of mental illness are not fully understood, there are lots of effective treatments out there. If your parent, sibling or friend has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it is a positive step. This way, the doctors can make a start in helping them get better.

Other sites that can help

Get information about mental health.
Young Minds

This site is created by young people for young people and has lots of useful info.
OCD Youth

This website has been created by young people with experience of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
My CAMHS choices

Advice and booklets on mental health for young people.

Support from the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Information about different mental health medicines.

Online chat

Want to chat to a counsellor online? Get help and advice for self-harm in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking

Online chat

Worried about mental health?

Maybe you live with somebody who has a mental illness? Remember you're not alone. Why not get advice and support from other young people in the same situation?

Visit the mental health message board

Anything missing?

Is there any other information or advice you'd like to see on mental health?

Types of mental health problems 


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