The Most Common Diagnoses Defined

Not everyone meets the criteria for having a mental illness. Although everyone must meet the challenges of life and can develop symptoms of a mental illness as a result, there are certain criteria outlined by the American Psychological Association for each mental disorder. In order to make a diagnosis, a clinician reviews the symptoms of his or her patient and compares those with the criteria listed for all possible diagnoses.

To find the criteria for each diagnosis, clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V). This manual also categorizes disorders into certain major groups. However, the grouping of these mental illnesses has changed with the new edition of the DSM. Now mental illnesses are grouped as Anxiety Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, and more.

Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness experienced by someone who has experienced a traumatic event, and who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety as a result. These symptoms may include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.


Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by repeating thoughts and images that might cause an individual to perform the same rituals over and over again, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, or counting money. The individual typically cannot control the unwanted thoughts but get relief from the anxiety they experience as a result of repeating thoughts.


Bipolar Disorders

Bipolar I – Bipolar is classified in two ways. An individual with Bipolar Disorder will be diagnosed as having either Type 1 or Type 2. This first type of Bipolar, also known as Bipolar I, includes one or more distinct periods of mania, and could also include a mixed period. For instance, if there is a period of mania, there might also be features of depression and if there is a period of depression, there might also be features of mania.

Bipolar II is characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of depression. This diagnosis can be made only if the individual has not ever experienced a period of mania. Hypomania is an episode of that is less severe than a full episode of mania. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder might include medication and psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, life skills training, psycho-education, and hospitalization, if necessary.

Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder is considered to be a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.

Substance-Related Disorders

Alcohol, Drug, or Other Addiction – The DSM explains that the activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to addiction. Although drugs and alcohol can have a physical and psychological addiction, it is possible to develop an addiction to other behaviors and any activity that become the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities. According to the American Psychological Association, there is evidence that points to behaviors, such as gambling, having the same high, or rush in the brain that is similar to the use of drugs. In that way, any addiction, such as those to gambling, sex, or the Internet can resemble the physiological symptoms that the use of drugs and alcohol might create.


The above list is not comprehensive. Each of the groups listed above have other diagnoses in addition to those presented here. However, these are common diagnoses given to those who are participating in some form of therapy or who are seeing a psychiatrist for medication.

For more information on these and other diagnoses, see the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V).

If you are reading this anywhere else other than on Much Ado About Mental Health or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
Come and visit my blog at

Posted in Mental Health

Follow Us on Twitter!

Like Us on Facebook!