Definitions of Common Disorders


Symptoms of ADD include frequent careless mistakes in work, school, or other activities, difficulty sustaining attention, often not seeming to listen, not finishing tasks or following directions, difficulty organizing, avoiding tasks that require sustained attention, losing necessary things for school or work, forgetfulness, and easy distractibility. Hyperactivity symptoms include fidgeting, difficulty sitting still, restlessness, running and climbing excessively in inappropriate situations, talking excessively, impulsivity, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting one's turn. In both disorders, symptoms are noted before age 7 and significantly impair function in two or more settings.


Anxiety and Panic Disorder symptoms include frequent worrying, trouble paying attention, muscle tension, irritability, restlessness, fear of being in social situations, and tiredness. This is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder if it lasts more than six months. Panic Disorder may include the above anxiety symptoms as well as repeated, intense feelings of terror, shortness of breath, heart pounding, hyperventilation, a feeling that one may pass out, sweats, feeling "unreal" or detached fears of "going crazy," tingling, or choking that peak within ten minutes and then resolve.


Bipolar Disorder and Schizoaffective Disorder may include periods of mania. Mania is a distinct period lasting one week or more of abnormally and persistent elevated, expansive or invincible mood. During this period, three or more of the following must be present: inflated self esteem, or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking, ideas jumping from subject to subject, racing thoughts, increased distractibility, an increase in goal directed activity or agitation and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that are highly risky. Other symptoms may include hyperactivity, poor judgment, aggressiveness and hostility. Sometimes individuals have a “mixed episode” that includes both of the manic and depressive symptoms noted above. There are some people who may have psychotic symptoms as part of their illness. If psychotic symptoms occur only during an acute manic or depressive episode, the diagnosis is still likely to be Bipolar Disorder. If the psychotic symptoms persist even after the mood has been stabilized, the diagnosis is likely to be Schizoaffective Disorder. Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations, disorganization, paranoia, delusions (believing things that are not true), disordered or illogical thinking, trouble paying attention, or racing thoughts.


Mood disorders such as Major Depression or Dysthymic Disorder have symptoms such as disturbed sleep, decreased energy, trouble concentrating or paying attention, changes in appetite, feelings of sadness, and difficulty completing tasks. More severe depressive symptoms are frequent crying spells, weight loss, hopeless and guilty thoughts, and thinking of committing suicide.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves repetitive, intrusive worries that something may be contaminated, unlocked, left open, not arranged in perfect order, or unsafe, that do not go away even after the situation has been checked. Other symptoms include compulsions to clean, check, arrange, hoard, or mental tasks such as counting, praying, or repeating words excessively. Most people do not like these thoughts or compulsions, but are simply unable to stop them or ignore them.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may occur after a traumatic experience such as an auto accident, sexual assault, physical assault, fire, or other similar stressful event. Symptoms may include feeling emotionally numb, nightmares, or intrusive recollections of the event, avoidance of places or things that are reminders of the event, a persistent sense of having to be on guard, feeling detached or withdrawn, having a sense of a shortened future, irritability, trouble concentrating, insomnia and being easily startled.


Schizophrenia is an illness that includes psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, disorganization, paranoia, delusions (believing things that are not true), disordered or illogical thinking, trouble paying attention, racing thoughts, or thoughts that seem to be blocked or disordered. A person may jump from subject to subject, or make connections between unrelated events or things that make no sense. Individuals suffering from this illness may have false beliefs, such as someone from next-door controlling the individual’s thoughts or feelings, which are called delusions. Hallucinations (hearing, seeing, feeling things that are not there) often include voices that give commands or comment on behavior. Individuals with schizophrenia may have a lack of awareness of their own or others’ feelings. They may not show emotions on their faces or may display emotions that do not seem related to the situation (such as giggling while talking about a sad event). A lack of interest, concentration, or attention to personal hygiene occurs in some individuals with schizophrenia.