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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Diagnoses or conditions

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Acute confusional State is an episode of confusion and disorientation that is caused by an underlying physical problem such as an infection. This condition is more common in older people.


ADHD(Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) describes the problems of children who are overactive and have difficulties concentrating. In everyday life, people often describe children who become excitable, boisterous or disobedient as hyperactive. The professional term refers to a more severe and long-lasting problem. See our Mental Health and Growing up factsheet on ADHD for further information.
Adjustment Disorder is a state of mixed of emotions such as depression and anxiety which occurs as a reaction to major life events or when having to face major life changes such as illness or relationship breakdown.
Affective Disorder is a term used for any disorder of mood such as depression, hypomania, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
Agitation is restlessness associated with anxiety.
Agoraphobia is a condition which leads to extreme anxiety and fear about leaving the safe environment of home, being in open spaces or being alone or in a public place.
Agranulocytosis is a fall in the number of Agranulocyte white cells in the blood. This can be a side-effect of antipsychotic treatment.
Akathisia is restlessness of arms and legs. This can be a side-effect of antipsychotic treatment.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition causing loss of memory, intellectual decline, changes in personality and behaviour and an increased reliability on others for activities of daily living. It is a form of dementia. See our leaflets on Memory and Dementia and Drug Treatment of Alzheimer's disease for further information.
Amnesia means loss of memory.
Amnesic syndrome is another term for loss of memory.
Anankastic personality is a person who has obsessional or perfectionist personality tendencies, such as a preoccupation with punctuality, order and tidiness. There is also a tendency to set high standards for oneself.
Anhedonia is an inability to experience pleasure.
Anorexia nervosa is an illness involving an intense fear of being fat, distorted body image, under-eating and excessive weight loss. See our leaflet on Eating Disorders for further information.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, apprehension or worry. It may be associated with physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, feeling faint and trembling. It can be a normal reaction to stress or worry or it can sometimes be part of a bigger problem. See our leaflets on Depression and Anxiety and Phobias for further information.
Aphasia is a term to describe problems speaking or understanding speech.
Asperger’s syndrome is a genetic disorder thought to be on the same spectrum as Autism. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties in three main areas: socialising, communication and behaviour.
Auditory hallucination this means hearing a voice or sound when there is nothing there.
Autism is disorder which usually appears within the first three years of life and may result in learning difficulties, speech problems and difficulty relating to people.



Binge eating Uncontrollable episodes of eating very large quantities of food over a short period of time. It occurs in bulimia.
Bipolar disorder is a disorder in which a person can experience recurrent attacks of depression and mania or hypomania. It used to be called manic depression. See our leaflet on Manic depression (Bipolar Disorder) for further information.
Body dysmorphophobia is a preoccupation with imagined or minor defects in one’s appearance that leads to marked distress and significant handicap.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised by binge-eating, vomiting and purging by making themselves sick, or abusing laxatives. See our leaflet on eating disorders for further information.
Burnout A term used to describe feeling worn out and unable to carry on with a stressful activity.



Capacity is the ability to understand and take in information, weigh up the relative pros and cons and reach a sensible decision about the issue.
Claustrophobia is the fear of being in an enclosed space.
Confabulation Making up things that are supposed to have happened in the past. It happens in people with poor memory especially those with Korsakoff's syndrome.
Coprolalia is the frequent use of obscene language
Creutzfeld Jacob disease A rare form of dementia, possibly caused by similar virus like particle as that found in BSE.



Delerium tremens is sometimes known as 'DTs'. The main symptoms are sweating, shaking, confusion and hallucinations. It is caused by alcohol withdrawal.
Dementia is a condition in which there is a gradual loss of brain function. The main symptoms are usually loss of memory, confusion, problems with speech and understanding, changes in personality and behaviour and an increased reliance on others for activities of daily living. There are a number of causes of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most well known. See our leaflets on Memory and Dementia or on drug treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease for further information.
Depressionis a common condition. The main symptoms are feeling low, sleep problems, loss of appetite, concentration and energy. There are a number of treatments that can help. See our leaflets on Depression, Depression in Older Adults, and Physical Illness and Mental Health or our factsheet on antidepressants for further information.
Depersonalisation is an uncomfortable and, for some, a frightening feeling in which people feel unreal and detached from their surroundings. It's related to derealisation
Derealisation An uncomfortable and, for some, a frightening feeling in which people feel that things around them are unreal. It's related to depersonalisation
Dystonia is a prolonged muscle spasm which can be extremely painful. These can affect various parts of the body and cause unusual movements and postures.It can be a side-effect of antipsychotics.



HypomaniaA state of high mood that is not quite so severe as mania.



Korsakoff's syndrome A condition in which there is a very poor short term memory. Sufferers are unable to take in and retain information. It is most commonly caused by brain damage due to excess alcohol intake.



ManiaA state of extreme overactivity and high mood. It is seen as the opposite of depression. See our leaflets on Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) and Medications for Mania for further information.
Manic depression is a condition in which people have mood swings that are far beyond what most people experience in the course of their lives. These mood swings may be low, as in depression, or high, as in periods when we might feel very elated. These high periods are known as ‘manic’ phases. Many sufferers have both high and low phases, but some will only experience either depression or mania. See our leaflet on Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) for further information.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a fairly common problem where people experience ‘obsessions’, recurring unwanted thoughts which are difficult to stop, and ‘compulsions’, rituals of checking behaviour or repetitive actions which are carried out in an attempt to relieve the thoughts.
Open verdict is the verdict passed by a coroner when unable to decide why a person has died, such as when someone dies in suspicious circumstances or when it is unclear as to whether someone has committed suicide or not.



Panic Attack is an intense and sudden feeling of fear and anxiety. It is associated with many physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, trembling, rapid shallow breathing, pins and needles in the arms and feeling faint. Many people who have a panic attack fear that they will collapse or die. These attacks are not harmful and usually go away within 20-30 minutes. See our leaflet on Anxiety and Phobias for further information.
Paranoid psychosis The main symptoms of this condition are hallucinations and delusions, often with a change of mood. It is very similar to schizophrenia.
Parasuicide is sometimes called Deliberate Self-Harm. It is a term used when someone self harms, but does not kill themselves.
Personality disorder describes someone who has severe disturbances of their character and behaviour. Personality disorders usually appear in late childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood. The thought patterns and behaviours cause distress to the person or to those around them. See our leaflet on Personality Disorder and its treatment for further information.
Phobia is an irrational and intense fear of a situation or object. See our leaflet on Anxiety and Phobias for further information.
Postnatal depression is a mental illness that occurs within the weeks or months after childbirth. See our leaflet on Postnatal Depression for further information.
Psychosis is a condition in which a person isn't in contact with reality. This can include: sensing things that aren't really there (hallucinations); having beliefs that aren't based on reality (delusions); problems in thinking clearly; and not realising that there is anything wrong with themselves (called ‘lack of insight’).
Puerperal psychosis is a mental illness which comes on after childbirth. The symptoms are usually severe depression or mania, often with psychotic features. See our leaflet on Mental Illness after Childbirth for further information.



Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression or mood disorder with a seasonal pattern. The symptoms of SAD are most obvious during the winter months when the days are shortest. Symptoms of SAD tends to appear from around September each year, and reduce or disappear in the spring and summer months.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness. The main symptoms are hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (a firm belief in something that isn’t true) and changes in outlook and personality. See our leaflet on Schizophrenia or visit our schizophrenia resources page for further information.
Social Phobia is a feeling of intense fear and anxiety which comes on when a person is doing something in front of others. Common situations which provoke this anxiety can include eating and talking in public. See our leaflet on social phobias for more information.
Substance misuse is a term which refers to the harmful use of any substance, such as alcohol, a street drug or misuse of a prescribed drug. See our leaflet on Substance Misuse for further information
Suicide The purposeful taking of one’s life.



Tardive dyskinesia Abnormal movements that can occur after long-term use of some older antipsychotic drugs

Temporal Lobe epilepsy A form of epilepsy in which people get an aura before a fit. This aura may include, hallucinations of sound, smells or tastes or feelings of anxiety
Thyrotoxicosis A condition caused by an overactive thyroid gland. One of the symptoms may be anxiety
Tourette's syndrome A condition in which people may have abnormal movements and a tendency to call out or make noises.
Trichotillomania Repeated pulling out of one's own hair or eyelashes and eyebrows



Vascular dementia A common cause of memory loss or dementia in older people. It is due to furring up of the arteries supplying the brain leading to very small stokes that can cause progressive brain damage. See our leaflets on memory problems.
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