Mental Health Information


Mental Health Disorders

Acute Stress Disorder 

Acute stress disorder can occur after a person has experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the person or others.

Disturbing memories of the traumatic event cause an emotional reaction and a sense of reliving the event.

Symptoms start to appear within one month of the traumatic event. Symptoms that occur after a longer period may mean the person has developed posttraumatic stress disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Everyone experiences symptoms of anxiety, but they are generally occasional and short-lived, and do not cause problems. But when the cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms of anxiety are persistent and severe, and anxiety causes distress in a person’s life to the point that it negatively affects his or her ability to work or study, socialize and manage daily tasks, it may be beyond the normal range.

The six main categories of anxiety disorders are:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Everyone has ups and downs in mood. Feeling happy, sad and angry is normal. Bipolar disorder (or manic-depressive illness, as it used to be called) is a medical condition in which people have extreme mood swings. These swings affect how people think, behave and function.

Bipolar disorder typically consists of three states:

  • a high state, called mania
  • a low state, called depression
  • a well state, during which many people feel normal and function well.

One to two per cent of adults have bipolar disorder. In adolescents and young adults, the symptoms may be less typical and may be mistaken for teenage distress or rebellion. Men and women are affected equally. In some women, bipolar disorder may appear during pregnancy or shortly after it. In this case, symptoms of depression are more common than symptoms of mania.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious, long-lasting and complex mental health problem. People with BPD have difficulty regulating or handling their emotions or controlling their impulses. They are highly sensitive to what is going on around them and can react with intense emotions to small changes in their environment. People with BPD have been described as living with constant emotional pain and the symptoms of BPD are a result of their efforts to cope with this pain.


Depression is much more than simple unhappiness. Clinical depression, sometimes called major depression, is a complex mood disorder caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, personality, stress and brain chemistry. While it can suddenly go into remission, depression is not something that people can “get over” by their own effort.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a range of conditions involving an obsession with food, weight and appearance. This obsession negatively affects people's health, relationships and day-to-day living.  To be diagnosed with an eating disorder, a person must have both disordered eating and psychological disturbance.

About 90 per cent of people diagnosed with eating disorders are girls and women; however, boys and men are increasingly being diagnosed. Eating disorders typically begin during adolescence.

Are there different types of eating disorders?

The DSM IV recognizes two types of eating disorders:

  •  Anorexia Nervosa: People with anorexia have an intense and irrational fear of gaining weight and having body fat. They are obsessed with being thin. They may believe they are fat, even when they are well below the normal weight for their height and age.
  • Bulimia: People with bulimia go through cycles of bingeing and purging. Bingeing involves eating large amounts of food quickly. This makes people feel physically ill and anxious about gaining weight. Then they will purge, which can involve vomiting, depriving themselves of food, over exercising or using laxatives and diuretics.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one type of Anxiety Disorder. GAD involves “excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for a period of at least six months, about a number of events or activities.” It is characterized by “difficulty in controlling worry.”

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Everyone has bothersome worries now and again. Worries that consume a person are called obsessions. Obsessions are uninvited or intrusive thoughts, urges or images that surface in the mind over and over again. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) usually know that their obsessions are creations of their own minds, but they can't control, ignore or get rid of them.

Often people with OCD will try to reduce or suppress their obsessions by acting out certain rituals. Many people have rituals, or specific ways of doing things. For people with OCD, however, rituals may become "stuck" and last for hours. When taken to this extreme, rituals are called "compulsions."

When obsessions and compulsions get out of control, it is called obsessive-compulsive disorder.

OCD is an anxiety disorder that affects about one adult in 40. OCD exists throughout the world and affects men and women at an equal rate. OCD usually begins gradually. Approximately two thirds of people with OCD develop the disorder in adolescence or early adulthood.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) involves “repeated, unexpected panic attacks (e.g., heart palpitations, sweating, trembling) followed by at least one month of persistent concern about having another panic attack.”

Panic attacks may be accompanied by agoraphobia, which involves avoiding or enduring with marked distress specific situations, such as being outside the home alone, being in a crowd or standing in a line in public.


Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health problem. People with schizophrenia can have a range of symptoms including periods when they cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Schizophrenia seriously disturbs the way people think, feel and relate to others.

About one person in 100 develops schizophrenia. Men and women are affected equally; however, men tend to have their first episode of schizophrenia in their late teens or early 20s. For women, the onset is usually a few years later. In most cases, the symptoms develop gradually. In some cases the onset is rapid.


All of the above information was retrieved from the Health Info A-Z section of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website and can be found at:

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