Mental disorders are commonly diagnosed nowadays, and everyone knows to a lesser or greater extent what depression, anxiety disorder, bulimia , etc. means. However, some are more frequent than others, which means that those that are more widespread deserve an extra degree of attention.

Psychopathologies affect a large number of people. In fact, experts say that one in three people suffer or will suffer from some kind of mental disorder during their lifetime.

Mental disorders that affect more people

But what are the most common disorders? What are the disorders that affect the most people?

Below I present a brief explanation of the most common mental disorders.

1. Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a normal reaction of people to situations of stress and uncertainty. However, an anxiety disorder is diagnosed when several anxious symptoms cause distress or some degree of functional impairment in the life of the individual who suffers it.

A person with an anxiety disorder may find it difficult to function in different areas of his or her life: social and family relationships, work, school, etc. There are different types of anxiety disorders:

1.1. Panic attack

A panic attack is the intense and sudden appearance of fear or terror, often associated with feelings of impending death. Symptoms include shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, and discomfort.

1.2. Phobic disorders

Many people admit that they are afraid of snakes or spiders, but they can tolerate that fear. Individuals with a phobia, on the other hand, are not able to tolerate that fear. They experience an irrational fear when faced with a phobic stimulus, whether it is an object, an animal or a situation, and this often ends up in avoidance behavior.

There are different phobic stimuli that trigger this irrational fear : flying with an airplane, driving a car, elevators, clowns, dentists, blood, storms, etc. Some of the most common are:

1.2.1. Social phobia

Social phobia is a very common anxiety disorder, and should not be confused with shyness. It is a strong irrational fear of social interaction situations, as the person with this disorder feels extreme anxiety about being judged by others, about being the center of attention, about the idea of being criticized or humiliated by other individuals, and even about talking on the phone with other people.

Therefore, he is unable to make presentations in public, eat in restaurants or in front of someone, go to social events, meet new people…

1.2.2. Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is usually defined as an irrational fear of open spaces, such as large avenues, parks or natural environments. But this definition is not entirely true.

The phobic stimulus is not the parks or big avenues, but the situation of having an anxiety attack in these places, where it can be difficult or embarrassing to escape, or where it is not possible to get help.

1.3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests itself when the person has been exposed to a traumatic situation that has caused the individual a stressful psychological experience , which can be disabling. Symptoms include: nightmares, feelings of anger, irritability or emotional fatigue, detachment from others, etc., when the person relives the traumatic event.

Often, the person will try to avoid situations or activities that bring back memories of the event that caused the trauma.

1.4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition in which the individual experiences intrusive thoughts, ideas or images . It is an anxiety disorder, and therefore is characterized by being associated with feelings of fear, distress and continued stress in such a way that it is a problem for everyday life and has a negative impact on the person’s quality of life.

Thoughts that cause discomfort (obsessions), cause the person to perform certain rituals or actions (compulsions) to reduce anxiety and feel better.

Obsessions include: fear of contamination, feelings of doubt (for example, will I have turned off the gas? ), thoughts of harming someone, thoughts that go against the person’s religious beliefs, among others. Compulsions include: checking, counting, washing, repeatedly organizing things, etc.

1.5. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Worrying from time to time is a normal behaviour, but when worrying and feeling anxiety on an ongoing basis affects and interferes with the normality of an individual’s life it is possible for that person to suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Therefore, the disorder is characterized by worry and chronic anxiety. It is as if there is always something to worry about: problems with studies, work, or relationships, having an accident when leaving home, and so on. Some of the symptoms are: nausea, fatigue, muscle tension, concentration problems, sleep problems, and more.

Mood Disorders

There are different types of mood disorders or affective disorders and, as the name suggests, their main underlying characteristic would be an alteration of the individual’s mood . The most common are the following:

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder can affect how a person feels, thinks, and acts. It is characterized by exaggerated changes in mood, from mania to major depression .

Therefore, it goes beyond simple mood swings, that is, emotional instability: in fact, it affects many areas of life, and in addition to being one of the most common disorders, it often occurs alongside obesity. The cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks or months, and seriously harm the work and social relationships of the person who suffers it.

Bipolar disorder can rarely be treated without medication, as the patient’s mood needs to be stabilized. During episodes of mania, the person may even quit his job, increase his debt, and feel full of energy despite only two hours of sleep a day. During depressive episodes, the same person may not even get out of bed. There are different types of bipolar disorder, and there is also a mild version of this disorder called cyclothymia.

2.2. Depressive Disorder

Many people feel depressed at some point in their lives. Feelings of discouragement, frustration, and even despair are normal in the face of disappointment and may last several days before gradually disappearing. However, for some people, these feelings can last for months and years, causing serious problems in their daily lives .

depression is a serious and debilitating psychopathology, and it affects how an individual feels, thinks and acts. It can cause both physical and psychological symptoms. For example: intake problems, sleep problems, discomfort, fatigue, etc.

To learn more about the types of depression you can visit our article:

  • “Are there various types of depression?”

Eating Disorders

There are different types of eating disorders. The most common are the following:

3.1. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by an obsession with controlling the amount of food consumed . One of its most characteristic symptoms is the distortion of body image.

People with anorexia restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting, and even excessive physical exercise. They hardly eat anything, and the little they do eat causes them to feel very unwell.

3.2. Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by abnormal eating patterns, with episodes of massive food intake followed by maneuvers to eliminate those calories (inducing vomiting, taking laxatives, etc.). After these episodes, the subject usually feels sad, moody and has feelings of self-pity.

Bulimia nervosa, besides being one of the most common disorders, is associated with alterations in the brain . Among them is the degradation of the white matter (which is where the thick sets of neuronal axons pass) in the radiata crown, which is related among other things to the processing of flavors.

3.3. Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is a serious disorder in which the individual who suffers from it frequently consumes large amounts of food and feels that he has lost control during the binge. After the binge, severe distress or concern about weight often follows.

4. Psychotic disorders

Psychotic disorders are severe psychopathologies in which people lose contact with reality . Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as the idea that someone is following. Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that does not exist.

Unlike delusions, which are erroneous beliefs of reality about an existing fact or object, that is, a distortion of an external stimulus, hallucinations are totally invented by the mind and are not the product of the distortion of any present object , something is perceived without taking into account external stimuli. For example, hearing voices coming out of a socket. The most common psychotic disorders are:

4.1. Delusional disorder

delusional disorder or paranoia is a psychotic disorder characterized by one or more delusional ideas. This means that these people are totally convinced of things that are not true. For example, that someone is after them to hurt them.

4.2. Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is another psychotic disorder, but in this case the person suffers from hallucinations and disturbing thoughts that isolate him/her from social activity . Schizophrenia is a very serious pathology, and although there is no cure, there are effective treatments for patients with this disorder to enjoy their lives.

5. Personality disorders

A personality disorder is a rigid and permanent pattern in a person’s behaviour that causes him/her discomfort or difficulties in his/her relationships and in his/her environment . Personality disorders have their onset in adolescence or early adulthood. The most frequent are:

5.1. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder or borderline is characterised by the fact that people who suffer from it have a weak and changing personality, and doubt everything . Moments of calm can turn, instantly and without warning, into moments of anger, anxiety or despair. These individuals live their emotions to the fullest, and love relationships are intense, as they often idolize the other person to the extreme.

Some of its symptoms are: intense anger and inability to control it, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment, real or imagined, alternation between extremes of idealization and devaluation in interpersonal relationships, markedly unstable self-image, and chronic feelings of emptiness.

5.2. Antisocial disorder (TASP)

The individual who suffers from this disorder (wrongly known with labels like psychopathy or sociopathy) is characterized by his tendency not to relate in society, avoiding any interaction . The different symptoms and behaviors that characterize TASP include: stealing, aggressiveness, tendency to loneliness, violence, lying…

In addition, people affected by TASP tend to be shy, depressed, and have social anxiety. This last point is due to their fear of rejection. Despite this, psychological therapy is very effective in dealing with the drawbacks of antisocial disorder.

Bibliographic references:

  • Metter, L. (2013). White matter integrity is reduced in bulimia nervosa. The international journal of eating disorders, 46(3), pp. 264-273.
  • See you, D. (2014). Obsessive-compulsive disorder.British Medical Journal, 348, 348:g2183.
  • Weeks, J. (2013). Gaze avoidance in social anxiety disorder. Depression and anxiety, 30(8), pp. 749 -756.
  • Zhao, Z. (2016). The potential association between obesity and bipolar disorder: A meta-analysis. Journal of affective disorders, 202, pp. 120 -123.