Psychological Disorders



A psychological disorder is a sustained mental problem involving thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that lead to distress, impair work or social functioning, or create significant problems for others. Some of the major types of disorders include anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, dissociative disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders. Many psychological disorders do not emerge until adolescence or adulthood. Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, begin in childhood. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is often used to classify and diagnose psychological disorders.

At A Glance

  • A psychological disorder is a prolonged mental problem characterized by maladaptive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that cause distress or disability.
  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) presents a commonly used system for classifying psychological disorders. It lists symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and the prevalence of disorders.
  • Anxiety disorders involve intense worry or fear that is out of proportion to the actual level of threat.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is the inability to control persistent irrational thoughts and the need to create rituals to reduce the anxiety created by those thoughts.
  • Mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, involve prolonged, uncomfortable emotional states and increase risk for suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by delusions (false beliefs) and hallucinations (false sensory perceptions).
  • Dissociative disorders disrupt or scramble consciousness and are often a response to a traumatic event.
  • When personality traits get in the way of social and occupational growth and create psychological distress, they constitute a personality disorder.
  • Feeding and eating disorders have biological and environmental causes. Anorexia nervosa involves excessive weight loss and an inaccurate perception of being overweight. Bulimia nervosa involves a cycle of binging and purging.
  • Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood. Symptoms include difficulty with language, social communication issues, and repetitive behavior.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder begins in childhood, with key symptoms including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.