Common Mental Health Disorders

Common Mental Health Disorders


The Centre for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group (2012) states that at least one third of all families includes someone with a mental illness; 17% are adults and 10% children. The most common mental disorders, which can be found in up to 15% of the population at any one time, include (NICE, 2011a):


  • Depression, which is characterised by low mood and can be further categorised according to severity (i.e. atypical, seasonal, major, dysrhythmia), is experienced by 10% of people in Britain (Mind, 2012).


  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which comprises “excessive worry about a number of different events associated with heightened tension” (NICE, 2011b), affects about 1 in 20 adults in Britain (NHS, 2012).


  • Panic Disorder, defined as “recurring, unforeseen panic attacks followed by at least 1 month of persistent worry about having another attack and concern about its consequences” (NICE, 2012), is experienced by 1 in 100 people (NHS, 2012).


  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is “the presence of either obsessions or compulsions, but commonly both,” with an obsession being “an unwanted intrusive thought, image or urge” and compulsions being “repetitive behaviours or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform” (NICE, 2005). Approximately 1.3% of individuals in England have OCD at any one time (NHS Information Centre, 2009).


  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is an anxiety disorder that follows “a stressful event or situation of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature,” affects up to 30% of people after a traumatic event (NICE, 2005).


  • Social Anxiety Disorder is a “marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others,” and is experienced by up to 1 in 10 adults (Patient, 2012).


These disorders can vary in their severity but what they have in common is that they can all cause long-term disability and reduced quality of life. The fact that all of these disorders can be caused and exacerbated by stressful life events indicates that their incidence is a growing problem within today’s society because of the frantic lives we are all living. Compared to some other countries, the UK is fast-paced and full of a variety of work-related and social pressures that are exacerbated further by advances in technology that make it difficult to have a work-life balance.


There are a number of ways in which counselling can help with these common problems while also having a positive impact on mental health. Not only can counselling help clients come to terms with stressful life events and equip clients with coping skills for future stresses, but the very act of seeking help can be extremely empowering. In person-centred counselling, the three core conditions of empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruence are in themselves positive experiences that can facilitate positive psychological growth and self-acceptance.  Having that close, trusting relationship with a non-judgemental counsellor provides a basis for mental healing and change. In some ways, at least for me, counselling is also an education – an opportunity to learn about the self and others. This knew knowledge, when used wisely, can be a source of power and growth that enhances mental wellbeing.






Centre for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group (2012). How mental illness loses out in the NHS. The London School of Economics and Political Science.

NHS Choices (2012). Generalised anxiety disorder. [Last accessed 04/12/12].

NICE (2005). Obsessive-compulsive disorder. NICE clinical guideline CG31.

NICE (2011a). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). NICE clinical guideline 26.

NICE (2011b). Anxiety. NICE clinical guideline CG113.

NICE (2012). Panic disorder overview. [Last accessed 04/12/12].

NHS Information Centre (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, Results of a household survey.

Patient UK (2012).  Social phobia. [Last accessed 04/12/12].

Categories: Counselling, Psychology

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