3-minute read

From Anxiety to Schizophrenia: Mental Health Conditions Explained

Get to know the various mental health conditions and how they affect people.

Depression. Bipolar. Anxiety. You’ve probably heard these terms before, but how much do you know about these mental health conditions, and about how they affect people?

Understanding these conditions can help reduce fear and misunderstanding of mental illness, and empower everyone with the knowledge on how to care for their mental health, and that of their loved ones. Read on to find out more about some of the more common conditions. 

We have compiled this resource using online materials shared by professional and expert groups (full list below). The resources on these pages are meant to be educational, and should not be taken as medical advice. If you suspect you have a mental health concern, seek help from professionals before taking any action. 

Mental health conditions explained


What: Addiction is when a person compulsively persists in certain behaviours regardless of the consequences. A person can be addicted to substances (drugs or alcohol) or activities (gambling, sex, the Internet). Over time, the frequency and intensity of the activity increases, and when the person stops, he or she experiences unpleasant feelings or emotions. 

Symptoms: Impaired control, social problems such as being unable to concentrate in school or work because of the addiction, making excuses or lying in order to continue with activity, engaging in risky behaviour in order to continue with activity (such as borrowing large sums of money to gamble). 

Treatment and help: Individual or group talk therapy, sometimes in combination with medication to control drug cravings, can help. Individuals dealing with substance abuse may also require detoxification and rehabilitation services. 

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What: Anxiety is a common emotion when dealing with daily stresses and problems. But when these emotions are persistent, excessive and irrational, and affect a person’s ability to function, anxiety becomes a disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic and stress disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Symptoms: Apprehension, confusion, on edge, a sense of helplessness, repeated negative thoughts, muscle tension, palpitations and difficulty breathing

Treatment and help: Simple strategies, such as relaxation techniques and regular exercise, are effective in reducing anxiety and contributing to emotional well-being. Psychotherapy can help and is sometimes used together with medication to reduce and eliminate signs and symptoms. 


What: Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic depressive illness, is a mood disorder with two extremes: depressed (“low”) and manic (“high”). It varies in severity, and mild cases may appear ordinary for many years. Symptoms vary; a person may be predominantly depressed, or predominantly manic. In between episodes, a person is likely to be quite well and able to function.

Symptoms: When depressed, a person feels persistently sad, hopeless and lethargic, and may feel suicidal, among other symptoms. When manic, a person becomes overly elated, more irritable, requires less sleep, makes grand plans and may impulsively engage in potentially dangerous behaviour. 

Treatment and help: Psychotherapy can help people who are more stable to help them with symptom recognition and management. Medication can be used to treat acute episodes and to help prevent a relapse. Psychosocial support is an important component of treatment. 


What: Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, affecting everyday life. It is often triggered by a mix of genetic, psychological and environmental factors; studies show that the risk of becoming depressed can be increased by life events such as poverty, death of a loved one, physical illness or abuse. For some, the risk is also hereditary.

Symptoms: Persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite, feelings of worthlessness, becoming easily agitated, among others

Treatment and help: Talk therapy with a trained counsellor or psychotherapist, exercise and support groups are among the options available. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed, but they should not be used for treating children, and should not be the first line of treatment for adolescents. All treatment should involve identifying stress factors and sources of support, and individuals should maintain social networks and activities. 

Schizophrenia and other psychoses 

What: Psychosis, including schizophrenia, is characterised by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. During a psychotic episode, a person may experience hallucinations and delusions.

Symptoms: Perception-wise, a person may think other people are talking about him or her, or hear voices. The person may also feel sad and irritable, or that he or she is constantly being watched. Behaviour-wise, the person may have difficulty sleeping, talk to him or herself, and behave aggressively. 

Treatment and help: Medication is the main form of treatment, as it can help with abnormal biochemical balances in the brain and relieve symptoms like hallucinations. Psychotherapy can help a person make sense of his or her illness and deal with the impact of the illness on their lives. Rehabilitation and counselling helps the person build social relationships and independent living skills.

Want to know more? Here are the articles we referenced to compile this resource: 

IMH Clinical Services - Common conditions 

WHO Mental Disorders



Lynn Chan

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