Common Diagnosis/Terms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is one of the most common mental disorders among children. Those who suffer from ADHD/ADD often experience the inability to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what’s going on around them. To their family, classmates and coworkers, they may seem to exist in a whirlwind of disorganized activity. Without appropriate prevention, intervention and support, these individuals are at risk for future adjustments including education and employment problems.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic-depressive illness, is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings. These mood swings range from periods of mania to periods of depression. A manic phase can be described as a frantic “high.” The person experiencing this is overly energetic, very confident and excited about life, even euphoric. This mania often leads to reckless and dangerous behavior. The opposite pole, depression, is described as a devastating “low” where the person loses interest in life and other people, is unusually tired and has feelings of worthlessness. Depression may lead to thoughts of or attempts at suicide. Bipolar disorder can cause mental suffering, problems with family, friends and co-workers, loss of job productivity, financial problems or death from reckless behavior or suicide.

Depression

A depressive disorder is an illness involving the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way they feel about themselves, and the way he or she thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are conditions characterized by severe problems in eating behaviors. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition recognizes two eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is a condition where a person refuses to maintain a healthy body weight (determined by a person's age and height). Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, is characterized by a cycle of uncontrolled bingeing behaviors followed by purging (vomiting or the use of laxatives), restricting behaviors (such as fasting), or excessive exercise.

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

When persistent and unrealistic worry becomes a normal way of approaching situations, an individual may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Many individuals with this disorder constantly anticipate disaster and often worry excessively about health, money, family or work. Experts believe GAD is caused by a combination of biological factors and life events.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Anxious thoughts or rituals a person feels they can’t control characterize obsessive-compulsive disorder. If a person has OCD, they may be plagued by persistent images or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals. The disturbing thoughts or images are called obsessions, and the rituals that are performed to try to prevent or dispel them are called compulsions. The disorder is diagnosed only when such activities consume at least an hour a day, are very distressing and interfere with daily life.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder strikes between three and six million Americans. Individuals with panic disorder have sudden and repeated feelings of terror known as panic attacks. These attacks can occur at any time and usually last a few minutes. Not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder – for example, many people have one attack but never have another. It is important for those who do have panic disorder to seek treatment.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that follows a terrifying event. People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to. This disorder can result from any number of traumatic incidents (kidnapping, serious accidents, natural disasters, rape).

People with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy, have trouble feeling affectionate or may feel irritable or more aggressive than before. PTSD can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. The limbic system of the brain, known as the gate through which all incoming stimuli must pass, cannot filter through the messages the brain is sending or pick out what the individual needs to concentrate on. It is similar to putting on a headphone and having the sound magnified tenfold. Understandably, individuals with schizophrenia can become overly sensitive, feel overloaded, and withdraw. Schizophrenia causes disturbances in thinking, feeling ,and relating to others. The disturbance affects a person’s entire personality. Victims’ mental and emotional pain and isolation are immeasurable.