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How to Treat the 5 Most Common Mental Health Disorders

What are the most common mental health disorders?

The five most common mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and attention deficit disorder ADD/ADHD.

Common Mental Health Disorders

Millions of people suffer from these disorders in the United States and around the world.

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from one or more of these disorders often feels alone and as if they are the only one struggling. Accessing treatment can help eliminate this stigma. It is in treatment a person can be connected with numerous resources as well as others who are going through similar experiences.

The Most Common Mental Health Disorders

Despite the stigma surrounding mental health illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in any given year.

That’s 43.8 million people.

Mental illness comes in many forms, including those that have a severe impact on daily activity. In fact, 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (10 million) experience a serious mental illness that has a substantially limiting impact.

With that said, all of these are very treatable disorders.

Because they have been in existence and have been studied in great detail, all can be treated using proven formulas and a combination of medicines, therapies and education. The first step in treating any illness is to first get evaluated by a qualified medical professional. Most often, Psychiatrists are the best professionals to provide a diagnosis and medication. A Psychologist or Counselor will provide the therapies and education necessary for coping with the disorders.


Depression has been described as “the blues” or “feeling sad” or “down in the dumps”. Most people today can give a general definition of depression. And many people have experienced some form of depression, which can range from mild to severe.

Some types of depression can be situational and short term, like grieving the loss of a loved one, and other types can be long-term and disabling.

The American Psychiatric Association defines depression, or major depressive disorder, as a medical illness that can cause a person to feel sad and can hinder a person’s motivation to participate in a variety of activities.

There are several different types of depression: persistent depressive disorder; post-partum depression; psychotic depression; and seasonal affective disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, symptoms of depression can include changes in appetite, inability to concentrate, lack of energy, feeling hopeless, and even physical aches and pains.

Conventional treatments for depression will be different for each individual and will depend on the symptoms that person is experiencing. A broad approach to the treatment of depression includes a team of providers such as a Psychiatrist, Counselor, and supporters. Getting an early diagnosis, rather than waiting for symptoms to become severe, can increase the odds for success.

Psychotherapy is a top choice for many. Doctors often recommend some type of therapy before beginning medications. However, even when medications are found to be necessary, psychotherapy is recommended to be used in conjunction with the medicines. Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy in which a trained mental health professional assists a person with depression through communications and activities that support healing.

If medication is needed, a Psychiatrist will evaluate and determine the prescription. Common medicines used to treat depression are Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro. Having a support system is of great importance to anyone’s recovery from depression. A support system can include family, friends or others who are also experiencing depression.


The National Institute of Mental Health describes anxiety as worry or fears that do not go away and begin to interfere with daily activities such as work. There are several types of anxiety disorders but generalized anxiety disorder seems to be the most common. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include having a hard time concentrating, feeling tired, irritability, rapid heartbeat and feeling shaky.

Similar to how depression is treated, anxiety can also be treated with medications and counseling. The Anxiety and Depression Association also adds that anxiety can be treated with transcranial magnetic stimulation that sends electric currents to specific parts of the brain. There are some medicines, such as benzodiazepines, are prescribed by doctors and have proven to be highly addictive and dangerous. These include Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin which are to be used on an as needed basis. More effective anxiety medicines are those that are non-addictive and are taken daily, including Effexor and Cymbalta.

There are several types of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

While all of them can create problems for a person in both their work and home lives, they can be managed well through the use of medications and counseling. Panic disorder is not a constant problem but one that comes on suddenly and can disrupt an entire day or more until the panic attack has ceased.

They are incredibly frightening and can make a person feel as if they are short of breath, dizzy and may even present chest pains. Phobias are more specific and connect a fear with something else. For instance, some people fear spiders, flying on airplanes, or germs. Phobias can stop a person from completing tasks and sometimes from even leaving their own house in more severe cases. Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves repetitive acts until the person feels safe enough to move on. The person associates the repetitive act with a specific fear.

Such cases are when some people need to flip on and off a light switch 15 times because they think that will not cause any car accidents that day. People who do not suffer from this disorder may not understand.  However, it is very real to many people.

Fortunately, they can all be treated effectively with professional help.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can start in childhood or in adulthood.

They can be caused by many different events, from being teased if they are overweight or underweight, verbal or physical abuse, or even by having a distorted perception of themselves.

Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, behaviors and attitudes surrounding food, weight and body image issues. Examples of eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Anorexia symptoms include extreme limited eating or calorie restriction as well as emaciation. Other symptoms can include a fear of gaining weight, and malnourishment concerns such as loss of hair and brittle nails.

Treatment for anorexia includes individual therapy, supervised weight gain, and family therapy.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder among people who have issues with their weight and their bodies.

They feel out of control and can binge eat with food, unable to stop. Once done they take measures to eliminate the food they binged on by making themselves vomit. Bulimia can severely damage the body. It can cause a sore throat, tooth decay, facial swelling and dry skin to name a few. While bulimia and anorexia are very treatable with successful outcomes, it is a long process that involves therapy.

It can also involve nutrition therapy as well as medications in some cases. Eating disorders can accompany other problems such as depression and anxiety, so it is imperative to treat each disorder, allotting the right amount of time and effort to each one.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse or addiction is best described as people engaging in pleasurable activities such as gambling, drinking, using drugs to the point where the substance or activity has a negative impact on personal relationships and work activities.

Addiction involves compulsive and harmful behaviors that can seem uncontrollable.

A person can technically be addicted to anything. The more common addictions involve drugs such as marijuana, prescription pills or opiates, heroin, and cocaine.

Activities can be addictive too.

Examples are playing the slots at the casino, food, sex, and even spending time on the computer on sites like Facebook or pornography websites. These too are all treatable disorders. By remaining on a prescribed program, a person can learn to cope and eventually overcome their addictions.

There are many treatment options to help people overcome substance abuse problems.

They can include detox treatment which usually lasts about a week. Detox allows people to be assisted by doctors and nurses in their efforts to stop taking a drug or to stop drinking. Inpatient treatment follows detox and allows a person to stay anywhere from one week to several months. Here they attend counseling and classes to help them improve life skills, social skills and coping skills. There are also out-patient programs, residential treatment and individual counseling available.

Medicines used in treating the addict and helping them through the withdrawal process have proven to be successful.

For treating patients with alcohol abuse, doctors are prescribing Antabuse and Naltrexone. These are medicines that block the effects of alcohol and can even give a person very unpleasant side effects if they do try to drink while taking these medicines. For other drug addictions, medicines such as methadone, vivitrol and suboxone are used for treating opiate and heroin addictions. These medicines have had success but for some, they become addicted to the replacement medicines. This could be because the doctors prescribing the withdrawal medicines are keeping their patients on them too long and not helping them ween off of the drug. Suboxone is becoming a widely misused treatment medicine due to the user becoming addicted to it or trading it on the street for their drug of choice. It is obviously best to recover from substance abuse without replacing a drug with a drug.  However, it may sometimes be necessary to trade a deadly drug for one less harmful in order to save the life of an addict. Using medicines to aid in the withdrawal process makes it easier to persuade the addict to quit using illegal drugs such as heroin. Most addicts will tell you the reason they don’t just stop using drugs or alcohol is because withdrawal symptoms are so painful.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Pacing, rocking, staring out the window, or disrupting others trying to complete tasks. Ask any teacher and they will be able to relate these and other symptoms that are quite evident among their students diagnosed with attention deficit disorders of any kind. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are considered to be neurobehavioral disorders that can begin in childhood but that do not only affect children. There are many adults struggling with either ADD or ADHD.  ADD symptoms include not being able to focus or pay attention, feeling restless, and is easily distracted. ADHD symptoms are very similar to ADD but with an added inability for the person to control their urge to move around and impulsiveness.

To treat a person with ADD or ADHD a comprehensive evaluation is needed by a qualified medical professional.

The most common treatment for someone with these disorders is stimulants such as Ritalin. It is usually found that a depressant or sleeping pill is needed at night time to help them reverse the stimulant in order for them to get sleep. Sleep is a crucial element to anyone’s success. Psychotherapy and family therapy are important for the person with attention disorders. In addition, there is a great need for consistent structure and organization in daily routines to help the person with the disorder.

ADD and ADHD are not caused by anything a person did wrong. Causes of the attention deficit disorders can include genetics and heredity, a brain injury and even the types of foods a person eats can trigger symptoms of the disorder. It has been noted that a person with ADD or ADHD should avoid food and drinks with caffeine and a lot of sugar. A specific plan that includes the appropriate foods and medicines will be given based on your comprehensive evaluation.

The good news about all of these disorders is that they are treatable, with high rates of success, if the plans and prescriptions given are followed.

Whether suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit or substance abuse disorders, it is recommended you seek help. The path to recovery may be different for each disorder but they can all have a successful outcome. Trust the professionals and follow the guidelines offered and you will see notable improvements early in recovery.

Recovery can be tailored specifically for you based on your disorder, other mental health issues you may be dealing with, your environment, your financial situation, and even your family history. Once a professional has collected all of this information, they will make an accurate diagnosis and show you the right path to success. It is important you don’t give up. Overcoming and managing all of these disorders is very attainable.