Mental Health Disorders

Mental health is something we all have, just like physical health. Just as it is important to watch our physical health (eat right, sleep, drink water, etc..) it is just as important to take care of our mental health. If you sense signs and symptoms of the mental health disorders listed below in this page, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or a professional about a possible diagnosis. Mental health disorders are often a sensitive subject for children, teens and adults. It can be difficult to start a conversation with someone you trust, but it is one of the most important steps you can take. Over 61 million Americans live with a mental health disorder, including nearly 20 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 18. The stigma of mental health disorders often leads people to feel alone and hopeless. Nearly 80% of those who need mental health care do not get it because of stigma, lack of resources, misinformation or lack of knowledge about mental health. There is an abundance of resources available to help you get the care you need. The first steps you can take are to understand the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, finding out how to get help and learning how to live a healthy life with your disorder. Below are descriptions and symptoms of common mental health disorders. If you are looking for resources for your condition, click our resources tab on the top right of the menu bar under quick tips to see what is available for you! Please note that if you think you may have a mental health disorder, seek a professional diagnosis, as self-diagnosing can often be inaccurate and lead to a lack of appropriate care.


It is common for everyone to feel anxious at times, especially for teens as it is a crucial period of both physical and mental development. Many people experience anxiety before a test, on a date, preparing for college, being alone, and in many other situations. Without the ability to feel anxious our bodies would not have the critical fight or flight response and adrenaline would not be produced. While sometimes anxiety is short-lived, other times it can persist and impact your daily life. If you experience excessive fear and anxiety that causes you to be scared and on edge in a way that is out of proportion to the perceived threatening situation, you may have an anxiety disorder. Below are a few types of anxiety disorders.

Panic disorder/ panic attacks derive from an immediate sense of intense anxiety that can be triggered at any time your body feels unsafe or unable to control a situation. You may also sometimes experience a panic attack for no known reason. Panic attacks are a repeated experience that can be expected or unexpected.
Symptoms: Fast heart rate, dizziness, sweating and nausea.

Generalized anxiety is also a common anxiety disorder in which you feel overwhelmingly anxious for at least 6 months regarding everyday life stresses such as school, health, family and more. It is recommended to seek help if your anxiety interferes with daily life or worsens after 6 months; if it impacts your daily life there are treatment options to help.
Symptoms: Unrealistic and obsessive worry, irritable, needing reassurance and easily tired.

Separation anxiety disorder is an excessive and developmentally inappropriate fear or worry about being separated from an attachment figure, such as a parent or caregiver. A person may have nightmares, be afraid of being left alone, and refuse to go to school or leave the home.
Symptoms: Unrealistic fear that something bad will happen to parents/caretakers, clingy and refusal to be separated from parents/caretakers.

Social anxiety is another form of anxiety that occurs when you feel incredibly uncomfortable/anxious in a crowd or while participating in social activities. This may prevent people from going to school or leaving their homes.
Symptoms: Fearful of being watched, criticized or judged by others; refusal to go to social events or gatherings; feeling unsafe in public spaces or in crowds.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is known as Attention Deficit/ Hyper Activity Disorder and can be broken down into three categories, inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, and combined type. ADHD is a disorder that disrupts your ability to maintain focus and attention. ADHD can also attribute to a lack of social clues/awareness that may cause an inability to act appropriately in public.

Inattentive type is often more internal and can include spacing out or be daydreaming. People with this type of ADHD are more likely to withdraw from social activities, become more easily bored and have problems focusing on instructions and tasks. It can be hard to detect who has it and commonly affects more girls than boys.
Symptoms: Short attention capacity, easily distracted, difficult to complete work, forgetful and disorganized.

Hyperactive-impulsive type is described as a more physical form of ADHD. Impulsive behaviors and being unable to stay still are some common signs. It is normal for people with this disorder to get easily excited, and feel open to touching and exploring a lot of their surroundings. This type of ADHD is more prevalent in boys and is also easier to detect.
Symptoms: Fidgety, talkative, blurts out and interrupts, easily excited, always on the go, difficulty remaining seated.

Combined type is a combination of symptoms one may have from either type of ADHD disorder.


Autism can range on a spectrum of severity. It also includes Aspergers and Pervasive Development Disorder. Someone living on the spectrum experiences significant social, communication and behavioral development difficulties. You may be unaware of common social cues and may feel uneasy about meeting new people. Avoiding eye contact, interpreting everything literally, and being unaware of non-verbal cues are common among people with ASD. It is also common for people with ASD to have very specific interests and become very informed about a specific topic. The learning capacity and ability to learn may range from gifted to extremely challenged. The symptoms fall into two main areas: impairment in social communication and interactions and repetitive and restrictive behaviors. Autism Spectrum Disorder appears in all ethnic, racial and social groups, however, it occurs almost five times more in boys than girls. It is important for those living with ASD to communicate with their teachers about what they need to be successful in the classroom.

Symptoms: Isolate themselves from other people, repetitive pattern of behavior, limited interests, conversation revolves around self more than others, few facial expressions, obsession with complex topics or music, lack of common sense, odd behaviors or mannerisms, under or over-sensitive to stimuli such as noise, light or unexpected touch.

Symptoms may not manifest until an older age or when social demands exceed the capability for the person to handle. Often people with ASD do not understand or know if they may be insulting or rude, an example could be a lack of eye contact when talking or frequently interrupting and expressing their views without a strong desire to listen to others opinions.


Bipolar disorder can develop at any age and is considered a long-term illness. Those that live with bipolar disorder experience unusual changes in mood, energy and their ability to function. There are two extremes someone with bipolar could face, one being extreme happiness or agitation and the other being an extreme feeling of sadness and depression. Adult and child bipolar symptoms may be expressed differently. For example, children in the mania low period are more irritable and prone to tantrums.  Bipolar may be hard to diagnose in children as it can be easily mistaken for other disorders. Those living with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk for suicide and are also more prone to substance abuse. The risk of suicide is 15 percent greater for those with bipolar compared to those without the disorder. If you or someone you know is suicidal, it should be taken very seriously and reported to a trusted adult or professional who could help them through recovery. It is helpful to create a daily plan and meet with a professional to talk about how you can manage your symptoms and mood changes.

Symptoms: Irritable mood, feeling worthless or guilty, prolonged sadness, separation anxiety, risk-taking behaviors, suicidal thoughts, racing thoughts, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, hyperactivity, overly happy or joyful at random times.


Almost everybody experiences minor depression in their lifetime from either relationships, school, family, finances, etc. However, some experience intense depression for extended lengths of time and the depression itself may not derive from a specific event. Talk to someone or seek help when you notice poor performance in school, a drop in grades, skipping class and a lack of effort or desire to do things you once loved. Most mental health professionals believe that depression has a biological origin, however, it can develop over time from difficult life events and trauma. Depression can occur at any age, however, is more difficult to diagnose in children. Depression affects your daily life activities and how you may view yourself. Depression can also come from a diagnosis of other mental health disorders. Even though you or someone you know may not look sad, that doesn’t mean that they are not depressed. Depression causes severe thoughts of loneliness, hopelessness, low energy, poor concentration and suicide. Even though depression is common, it is still very real and very difficult to live with. Withdraw from your friends and family can occur with depression, along with a lack of interest in social activities. Recovery is possible through self-care, and professional support.

Symptoms: Isolated or quiet, lack of motivation, not enjoying activities that previously were enjoyable, mood swings, diminished interest, weight loss or gain, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, forgetfulness, overreaction to criticism, often feeling tired and sleepy, loss of interest in school or work, defiant or disruptive.


It is normal for someone to worry about how they look at times or their weight, however, it can become serious when it is obsessed over. People living with eating disorders find it difficult to think about anything else besides their body image. They can become embarrassed when eating in front of other people and may eat in private. The disorder itself is not about the food, but rather how the person thinks they look and the control they have over their eating habits. People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, low self-esteem and perfectionism are at a higher risk for eating disorders. There are 3 types of eating disorders, Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa is the failure to be able to maintain a normal body weight. Those living with this disorder have a distorted view of their body image and are fearful of even the slightest weight gain. Excessive exercise and limited intake of food is common with anorexia. Long term anorexia can cause bone damage, hair loss, and physical decay in organs and teeth.

Symptoms: Fainting and dizziness, weakness, cold body temperature, over exercising, irritability, primarily focused on food and body image, impaired concentration, headaches, withdrawn and increased anxiety about weight.

*After the body has used up all of the “fat” it will start to use muscles as a source of energy and later begin to consume vital organs. The brain is also protected by layers of fat called myelin that will also slowly reduce in size from starvation causing a slow down of the communication system in the brain leading to poor concentration, impaired focus, and other brain dysfunction. If treatment or self-care is never reached, the risk of death increases. Eventually, the body will consume the muscle tissue of the heart and brain leading to death for those that go long periods of time without eating.

Bulimia Nervosa is the compulsive act of binging on foods in large quantities and later purging. Purging can be in the forms of self induced vomiting, over-exercising, laxatives, diuretics and enemas. The binge happens in a short period of time and the person binging has an overwhelming feeling that they can’t stop. To them, the action of eating is uncontrollable. Some will eat so much so fast that it becomes painful for their body. If this happens they could develop a severe headache, sweat, and have involuntary vomit.

Symptoms: Hiding food, feeling overweight, a constant preoccupation with the thought of food, eating until it is physically painful, throwing up and over exercising.

*Forced vomiting can damage the esophagus, stomach lining, and teeth.

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder that is classified as the reoccurring, uncontrollable, excessive consumption of food.  For most people it is normal to overeat on special occasions or holidays, however, people who have binge eating disorder feel like they are completely out of control when it comes to being able to “finish” eating. Although bulimia and binge eating disorder are similar, those with binge eating disorder do not tend to purge or do not purge as frequently. Binge eaters are extremely cautious about their size and swear to stop binging after their previous episode, however,  it becomes almost impossible to stop. Often times a person with binge eating disorder may eat until they are in physical pain due to the difficulty of being able to stop eating.

Symptoms: Eating in secret, feeling guilty or embarrassed after eating, hiding food, eating until feeling sick, trying new diets and never succeeding, lying about how much they eat.

*Eating disorders are mental health disorders. Although they involve a physical action, the behavior is one that is uncontrollable and derives from a sense of anxiety about weight, food, control, appearance and more. It is common to have co-occurring mental health illnesses along with an eating disorder such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Those living with obsessive compulsive disorder experience unwanted thoughts and uncontrollable urges or obsessions to repeat certain behaviors habitually. They may perform specific acts in effort to neutralize the anxiety caused by their obsessive thoughts. For example, the fear of germs may cause repeated hand washing or the fear of a loved one dying if a compulsion is not performed.

Symptoms: Continually repeating a behavior due to excessive fear and a need to control, or protect yourself or a loved one. Rechecking things, repeated counting, ritualized touching and rearranging objects.

Common obsessions: Hoarding, sex, perfection, germs, order and symmetry, loss, doubt

Common Compulsions: Cleanliness, touching, counting, arranging items, repeating behaviors, constant need for reassurance

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic stress disorder affects those who are either involved in or have witnessed a traumatic event that involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.  It can derive from a serious accident, abuse, violence,  natural disasters, re-occurring trauma, war, domestic violence, or witnessing/being involved in a crime, among other possible traumatic events. People with PTSD often have persistent, intrusive, frightening thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks of the incident.  PTSD is diagnosed if the symptoms last more than one month. Agitation, depression and anxiety are also common in people with PTSD. Support groups and professional help are critical to recovery along with lifestyle changes. Lack of care for those with PTSD may lead to developing other serious mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. PTSD is often co-diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Symptoms: Lack of trust in others, depression, irritability, nightmares or flashbacks, emotional distress from the event, fear of certain places, self-destructive behavior, hostility, depersonalization, derealization of one’s self, fear of certain places or things, anger, hostility, and avoidance.


Schizophrenia is a severely disabling disorder that can cause one to think and act abnormally due to seeing or hearing things others do not. It is uncommon to appear in children under 10 years of age and is most commonly recognized between the ages of 16 and 25. Those with this disorder will slowly start to disassociate with people around them and start to experience delusions and hallucinations that seem very real. The hallucinations can be of people or objects they think are around them that others do not see. Delusions are unrealistic perceptions (fixed false beliefs) that one could have such as being poisoned or persecuted, believing they are Jesus or a celebrity or thinking someone is trying to control their mind (extreme paranoia). Those with this disorder are not aware that these delusions or hallucinations are not real. Seek professional help if you or someone you know starts developing hallucinations or delusions.

Symptoms: Disorganized speech, seeing and hearing things that others can not see or hear, extreme moodiness, agitation, lack of memory, poor motivation, bizarre thoughts and ideas, confusion, paranoia

*Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia can be associated with excessive drug use including heavy narcotics and long term use of marijuana, and in rare cases alcohol. Please consult a professional if you are experiencing psychotic symptoms due to long-term substance abuse.


Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder in which multiple involuntary motor and vocal tics occur. This can appear as an uncontrollable urge to carry out the tics and vocal bursts, which may be suppressed temporarily leading to stronger outbursts later. It can even compel someone to repeat another person’s actions and mimic other tics. The intensity, timing, and frequency can change and develop over time.  Stress worsens symptoms.

Symptoms: Barking, coughing, snorting, vocally bursting short sparks of sound, mimicking others, blinking, facial twitches, lip licking, all of which are excessive, feeling compelled and uncontrolled to do specific small actions.

Anxiety resources and tips

Self-care can be a vital step in recovery. There are several tips you can use to help calm and reduce your anxiety.

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage

Helplines are also a good way to communicate your feelings to someone without judgment and can be done anonymously. There are state helplines along with national ones.

  • American Psychiatric Association Answer Center- 1-866-35-PSYCH (77924)
  • National Suicide Prevention Line- 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

ADHD resources and tips

Self-care tips include:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Keep a daily planner and daily homework routine
  • Try to eliminate clutter by sorting and throwing away unnecessary items
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Find a quiet place to study & use headphones to block out distractions
  • Take exercise breaks and spend time outside
  • Break big projects into smaller tasks
  • Sit near the front of the class
  • Use a white noise such as an aquarium “bubbler”
  • Taking a break every half hour or as needed when doing stressful work
  • Remove yourself if possible from stimulating situations that can worsen your ADHD

Helpline for ADHD

  • CHADD-Children & Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Autism resources and tips

Self-care tips include:

  • Focus on your strengths
  • Exercise and eat healthy food
  • Be kind to yourself and be proud of your own talents
  • Make a point to stay social
  • Try new activities with new people
  • Love who you are
  • Set goals and reminders for self-care
  • Try something new every day (a positive influence)
  • Attempt random acts of kindness (compliment someone or do something nice for someone)
  • Identify what causes your triggers that change your mood
  • Find a trusted adult to talk to about your feelings
  • Join a social skills  or support group
  • Listen to guided meditation

Bipolar Disorder resources and tips

Self-care tips include:

  • Record and Journal your mood swings and everyday feelings
  • Sleep and relaxation (massage, acupuncture)
  • Healthy diet, try to reduce the intake of red meats and high-fat foods that cause bad cholesterol. Try to consume more Omega 3 fatty acids in fish and seeds. If you are prescribed Lithium and are taking it regularly, consume more salt as a low sodium diet can cause more lithium in the blood.
  • Avoid self-medication with drugs or alcohol
  • Try to know your triggers for mood changes
  • If you are experiencing a depressive period, talk to a trusted adult about your feelings
  • Have a list of your “go-to” adults that you can talk when you may need help. This can be a school counselor, family member, teacher, coach, etc..
  • Ask your dietitian about natural remedies and your doctor about medications.

Depression resources and tips

Self care includes:

  • Journal and set goals with a plan
  • Ask your doctor about natural supplements that may help your depression (ie. Turmeric)
  • Sleep and exercise
  • Exploring spirituality
  • Self-Injury Hotline SAFE 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Eating disorder resources and tips

Self-care includes:

  • Talk to an adult and create a treatment plan
  • Journal all of your feelings and emotions
  • Learn your triggers and find ways to either avoid them or cope with them
  • Create an emergency plan for your triggers, who can you call, how can you approach the situation, is it ok for you to leave and go to a safe place?
  • Stay connected with either a support group or a specific person you feel comfortable talking to
  • Start an eating and nutrition plan
  • Talk to your friends and family about your situation
  • Find an activity that you love to do to take your mind off eating and food


  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders (ANAD): 1-847-831-3438
  • National eating disorders association: 1-800-931-2237

Obsessive compulsive disorder resources and tips

Self-care includes:

  • Sleep  hygiene
  • Avoid sugar, refined foods and caffeine
  • Breathing and meditation
  • Omega 3 fatty acids, chamomile tea
  • Reduce expectations
  • Reduce anxiety through massage, music, acupuncture
  • Try to accept more things, open-mindedness
  • Change your routine
  • Try the rubber band method; Put 10 rubber bands on your wrist and take one off every time you do your compulsion, after all 10 are gone you may no longer do the impulsion. For example, if you are obsessed with walking around a specific tree, you may only do so 10 times or until your rubber bands are gone.
  • Find a friend to talk to about your OCD

PTSD resources and tips

Self-care includes:

  • Connect with other trauma survivors
  • Find a physical outlet like exercise
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Start volunteering in your community
  • Invest in personal relationships
  • If possible get a dog, pets have been proven to be very therapeutic in the recovery process
  • Find a trusted friend that you can talk to about your feelings
  • Ask a dietitian about natural remedies and a doctor about medications.


  • Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline 800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
  • National suicide prevention line 1 -800- 273-8255

Schizophrenia resources and tips

Self-care includes:

  • Journal your feelings and daily activities
  • Talk to a trusted friend or adult
  • Seek professional help
  • Try breathing, meditation and yoga
  • Alert your teachers of your disorder so that proper classroom accommodations can be made


  • NAMI 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264)
  • SARDDA (855) 640-8271
    Entry code: 88286491#

Tourettes syndrome resources and tips

Self-care includes:

  • Get support from family and friends
  • Stay active
  • Educate yourself on the disorder
  • Try to find ways to relax, reading, yoga, meditation etc..

*If you or someone you know is living with a mental health disorder that is severe and impacting your/their daily life, please seek professional treatment options. If it is an immediate emergency please call 9-1-1

*All information above was gathered from the Minnesota Association For Children’s Mental Health Publication “An Educators Guide To Children’s Mental Health”, Along with information from the new DSM-V Publication by the American Psychiatric Association*

Published by Sasha Fursman under the supervision of MACMH.