Mental Health

Mental Disorders
Get the facts on common mental disorders, such as those related to anxiety, attention deficit, conduct, depression, schizophrenia, and trauma.

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear or anxiety that is difficult to control and negatively and substantially impacts daily functioning. Fear refers to the emotional response to a real or perceived threat while anxiety is the anticipation of a future threat. These disorders can range from specific fears (called phobias), such as the fear of flying or public speaking, to more generalized feelings of worry and tension. Anxiety disorders typically develop in childhood and persist to adulthood. Specific anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder (social phobia).

National prevalence data indicate that nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. According to SAMHSA’s report, Behavioral Health, United States – 2012, lifetime phobias and generalized anxiety disorders are the most prevalent among adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 and have the earliest median age of first onset, around age 6. Phobias and generalized anxiety usually first appear around age 11, and they are the most prevalent anxiety disorders in adults.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is defined by a persistent pattern of inattention (for example, difficulty keeping focus) and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity (for example, difficulty controlling behavior, excessive and inappropriate motor activity). Children with ADHD have difficulty performing well in school, interacting with other children, and following through on tasks. Adults with ADHD are often extremely distractible and have significant difficulties with organization. There are three sub-types of the disorder:

Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
Predominantly inattentive
Combined hyperactive/inattentive

ADHD is one of the more common mental disorders diagnosed among children. Data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that parents of 8.4% of children aged 3 to 17 years had been informed that their child had ADHD. For youth ages 13 to 18, the prevalence rate is 9%. The disorder occurs four times as often among boys than girls. It is estimated that the prevalence of ADHD among adults is 2.5%.

Bipolar and Related Disorders
People with bipolar and related disorders experience atypical, dramatic swings in mood, and activity levels that go from periods of feeling intensely happy, irritable, and impulsive to periods of intense sadness and feelings of hopelessness. Individuals with this disorder experience discrete mood episodes, characterized as either as:

Manic episode—abnormally elevated, expansive, or irritable mood accompanied by increased energy or activity that substantially impairs functioning.
Hypomanic episode—similar to a manic episode, however not severe enough to cause serious social or occupational problems.
Major depressive episode—persistent depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure.
Mixed state—includes symptoms of both a manic episode and a major depressive episode.

People exhibiting these symptoms are most frequently identified as having one of two types of bipolar disorders: bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder. The bipolar I diagnosis is used when there has been at least one manic episode in a person’s life. The bipolar II diagnosis is used when there has been a more regular occurrence of depressive episodes along with a hypomanic episode, but not a full-blown manic episode. Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is a diagnosis used for a mild form of bipolar disorder.

The combined prevalence of bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder and cyclothymia is estimated at 2.6% of the U.S. adult population and 11.2% for 13 to 18 year olds.

Depressive Disorders (Including Major Depressive Disorder)
Depressive disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the United States. They are characterized by a sad, hopeless, empty, or irritable mood, and somatic and cognitive changes that significantly interfere with daily life. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is defined as having a depressed mood for most of the day and a marked loss of interest or pleasure, among other symptoms present nearly every day for at least a two-week period. In children and adolescents, MDD may manifest as an irritable rather than a sad disposition. Suicidal thoughts or plans can occur during an episode of major depression, which can require immediate attention.

Based on the 2014 NSDUH data, 6.6% of adults aged 18 or older had a major depressive episode (MDE) in 2014, which was defined by the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The NSDUH data also show that the prevalence of MDE among adolescents aged 12 to 17 was 11.4% in 2014, while female youths were about three times as likely as male youths to experience a MDE.

Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders
This class of disorders is characterized by problems with self-control of emotions or behaviors that violate the rights of others and/or bring a person into conflict with societal norms or authority figures. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder are the most prominent of this class of disorders in children.

Children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) display a frequent and persistent pattern of angry or irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness. Symptoms are typically first seen in the preschool years, and often precede the development of conduct disorder.

The average prevalence of ODD is estimated at 3.3%, and occurs more often in boys than girls.

Conduct Disorder
Occurring in children and teens, conduct disorder is a persistent pattern of disruptive and violent behaviors that violate the basic rights of others or age-appropriate social norms or rules, and causes significant impairment in the child or family’s daily life.

An estimated 8.5% of children and youth meet criteria for conduct disorder at some point in their life. Prevalence increases from childhood to adolescence and is more common among males than females.

Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined by the presence of persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and unwanted (obsessions), or repetitive and ritualistic behaviors that a person feels are necessary in order to control obsessions (compulsions). OCD tends to begin in childhood or adolescence, with most individuals being diagnosed by the age of 19.

In the United States, the 12-month prevalence rate of OCD is estimated at 1.2% or nearly 2.2 million American adults.

Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders
The defining characteristic of trauma- and stressor-related disorders is previous exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. The most common disorder in this category is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is characterized as the development of debilitating symptoms following exposure to a traumatic or dangerous event. These can include re-experiencing symptoms from an event, such as flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance symptoms, changing a personal routine to escape having to be reminded of an event, or being hyper-aroused (easily startled or tense) that makes daily tasks nearly impossible to complete. PTSD was first identified as a result of symptoms experienced by soldiers and those in war; however, other traumatic events, such as rape, child abuse, car accidents, and natural disasters have also been shown to give rise to PTSD.

It is estimated that more than 7.7 million people in the United States could be diagnosed as having a PTSD with women being more likely to have the disorder when compared to men.