May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month serves as a call to action to learn more about mental health, reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns, and support those struggling. Understanding common mental health disorders and how they are diagnosed is essential. Let’s examine the five most common mental health disorders and their symptoms.

History of Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA) to help shed light on mental health conditions, share support for those who live with mental illness and break the stigma associated with mental health issues in our society today.

5 Most Common Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders can be challenging to diagnose because there are no physical tests or laboratory results that can confirm or refute them—they must be diagnosed based on symptoms reported by the patient or observed by their doctor or another healthcare professional. Patients need to be honest about their symptoms and any concerning behaviors they may have noticed so that their doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

1. Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders and can affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

Symptoms include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or energy levels;
  • Irritability;
  • Thoughts of death or suicide;
  • Physical aches and pains without any medical cause

2. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors that can lead to severe physical and psychological consequences if left untreated.

Common eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa (restricting food intake);
  • Bulimia nervosa (bingeing then purging);
  • Binge eating disorder (overeating without purging);
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (refusing certain foods);
  • Pica (eating non-food items such as dirt);
  • Rumination syndrome (repeatedly throwing up after meals)

3. Anxiety

Anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying, fear, panic attacks, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness/nausea/diarrhea/shortness of breath/chest pain/headaches/tingling sensations/chills/hot flashes/shaking episodes/and other physical symptoms caused by stress hormones released during anxious moments.

4. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse occurs when someone regularly uses drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences on their life. About 46.3 million people —about 16% of the population— met criteria from the DSM-5 (the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States) for having a substance use disorder in 2022, including 29.5 million people who were classified as having an alcohol use disorder and 24 million people who were classified as having a drug use disorder. The abuse was highest among adults 18 to 25.

Some of the outcomes and signs of substance abuse include:

  • A need for increasing amounts of the substance
  • Inability to function without the substance
  • Changes in personality
  • Problems like job loss, damaged relationships, financial issues, legal trouble
  • Poor decision-making, including risky sexual behavior

5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

ADHD is a neurological condition that typically appears during childhood and adolescence involving difficulty focusing on tasks in addition to impulsivity and hyperactivity, which may result in disruptive behavior within school settings if not correctly treated through medication and therapy.

Some signs of ADHD include:

  • Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • Constantly fidgeting
  • Being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Excessive talking
  • Being unable to wait their turn
  • Acting without thinking
  • Interrupting conversations

Understanding common mental health issues is essential for recognizing warning signs in ourselves or our loved ones so we can get help before things become more severe than they need to be—which is why it’s so important to dedicate time each year during Mental Health Awareness Month to learn more about mental health conditions! Together we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness while helping those struggling find relief through proper diagnosis and treatment options available.

Visit our Member Resource Center to download our Mental Health Awareness Month calendar with daily ideas about supporting good mental health.