4 Common Mental Health Disorders Explained

Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, substance use disorders and eating disorders. These are the most common mental health issues currently facing Australians. You may know someone who suffers from one of these illnesses, or perhaps you are struggling with one yourself. Today, we want to explain what these illnesses are and how they’re treated by taking a deeper look at each one.


Everyone gets nervous and worries about things from time to time. But when these feelings begin to take over your life, it becomes a much bigger issue.

People who suffer from anxiety disorders experience extreme and persistent worrying. Sometimes it becomes so intense that it affects their day to day lives. It’s not uncommon for this type of distress to rear its ugly head for no obvious reason at all. However, it can also be caused by specific situations.

In Australia, anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illness. They affect an estimated 14% of the population.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder:

People who are suffering from anxiety related issues might show…

  • Extreme, persistent or unrealistic worrying.
  • Compulsive tendencies which they can’t control.
  • Extreme worrying about/when in social situations.
  • Irrational fears of everyday situations or specific objects.

Anxiety can also cause a range of physical symptoms as well. Some of these are increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, sweating, dizziness, shakiness or difficulty breathing.

Therapy is a very effective way to treat this mental health disorder. A good psychologist will help you learn techniques to manage or reduce your overwhelming feelings of worry. In fact, many people find that over time they can start enjoying their lives again without these thoughts getting in the way.


Like anxiety, there are several different types of mental health issues that can cause someone to experience depression. Across the board however, these depressive disorders cause low moods that often stop someone from functioning normally in their everyday life. Like most mental illnesses, depression looks different from person to person. Feelings of sadness, anger, irritability or even numbness all common amongst those who are struggling with this disorder.

Symptoms of depression:

While depression does affect everyone differently, there are of course common characteristics of someone who is depressed. These include…

  • Feeling extremely sad or emotionally flat.
  • Lowered or loss of libido.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.
  • Inability to maintain normal sleep patterns.
  • Feelings of guilt or anxiety.
  • Loss of motivation or interest in day to day activities.
  • Impaired ability to concentrate.
  • Changes to weight or appetite.

Unfortunately, depressive disorders affect approximately 6% of Australian’s each year. This makes them the second most common mental illness behind anxiety.

The good news? There are a number of effective treatment options available for those who are experiencing depression. The two most common forms of treatment are therapy and medication. These two methods are frequently combined to manage both the symptoms and the causes of the illness. Like anxiety, a range of useful techniques can be taught during therapy. This ensures that the sufferer is able to manage their emotions, behaviours and other symptoms as they arise.

Substance use

The abuse of, or dependence on harmful substances is a complex mental health disorder. Not only can it create mental health issues, but it can also be used by people to escape them. There are a number of substance use disorders that vary depending on the type of drug being used. This type of mental illness can be broadly defined as a condition where the ongoing use of drugs leads to psychological impairment or distress.

1 in 20 Australians have a problem with substance use, with alcohol being the most widely abused drug throughout the country. On top of this, those who suffer from this disorder experience mental illness at a far higher rate than the rest of the community. Anxiety and depression are commonly experienced as a result of this disorder.

 Symptoms of substance use disorder:

  • Impaired control when it comes to using the substance. For example, using the drug for longer than intended or being unable to reduce the amount they use it despite wanting to do so.
  • Social impairment, such as when the substance use interferes with day to day activities like school, work or family obligations.
  • Risky use, which can be shown by an inability to refrain from using the substance even though it using it does or could cause harm. A good example of this can be driving while under the influence of a drug.
  • Increased tolerance and withdrawal issues. These two indicators are important as it can show that the user’s body is adapting to increasing amounts of a substance. Problems withdrawing from a drug can also suggest that the body has become dependent on it in order to function at its regular capacity.

Although substance use disorders are complex, it is absolutely possible to recover with the right treatment and support. To help someone overcome their substance use, psychological and medical approaches are often combined. This is because it not only effect one’s mental health but their physical health too. Medication may be prescribed depending on the type of addiction the user is experiencing. Therapy can also help someone overcome the psychological factors that may have lead to substance abuse.

It’s important to remember that you won’t get into any legal trouble for simply talking about your substance use. So if you believe you might have a problem, please don’t hesitate to seek help either with us or with your GP.

Eating disorders

It goes without saying that food is an essential part of living a happy, healthy life. However, for people suffering from an eating disorder, eating can cause a world of distress.

There are three different types of eating disorders, each one defined by the way in which an obsession over food and weight presents itself. These can be loosely defined as…

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Limiting the amount of food you eat.
  • Bulimia: Eating a lot of food in a small amount of time and then throwing it up.
  • Compulsive overeating: Regularly overeating, often to the point of feeling sick.

Symptoms of eating disorders:

The complex, difficult nature of eating disorders means that it often affects many areas of someone’s life. If someone has an eating disorder, you might notice…

  • Obsession over their body and/or weight.
  • Changed eating patterns. For example, dieting, going to the bathroom straight after eating, making excuses not to eat.
  • Changed mood, such as feeling depressed, irritable or anxious.
  • Changed appearance, like gaining or losing weight or wearing baggy clothing.

Although eating disorders can affect anyone at any age, there is a greater number of females suffering from them throughout Australia. More specifically, research shows that approximately 8.8% of adolescent females have an eating disorder. Without appropriate professional treatment, many of them carry it with them into their late teens or even adulthood.

Recovery is possible, though! Because this illness is both physical and psychological in nature, treatment usually requires a team of professionals. This often includes doctors, dieticians, psychologists and other health professionals. Once diagnosed and put on a treatment plan, many people recover from their eating disorder and successfully live balanced, healthy lives.