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Introduction to Mental Disorders and Clinical Psychology

Mental Disorders

Mental Disorders also known as mental illness are behavioral or mental patterns that cause significant distress or impairment of personal functioning that affects thinking, feelings, mood and behaviour that causes poor ability to function in ordinary life. It is stated as a function of chemical imbalances in the brain, things one cannot control. These thoughts and feelings get so abnormal that it affects themselves and others. These are such that they hinder the normal functioning of a person.

Mental disorders are classified in these six basic categories:

Personality disorders

Personality disorders exist when these traits become so pronounced, rigid, and maladaptive that they impair work and/or interpersonal functioning. These social maladaptations can cause significant distress in people with personality disorders and in those around them.

Personality disorders’ first criteria states that a person could be considered to suffer from a personality disorder if they present “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture.”

They are further segregated into three forms, i.e:

  1. Cluster A (the "odd, eccentric" cluster) that includes - Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal and Antisocial.

  2. Cluster B (the "dramatic, emotional, erratic" cluster); that includes - Borderline, Histrionic and Narcissistic.

  3. Cluster C (the "anxious, fearful" cluster) that includes - Avoidant, Dependent and Obsessive-Compulsive.

Below are some of the symptoms of each category, however it doesn’t mean you can label anyone just by observing some of the characteristics in an individual as personality traits differ from personality disorders.

Cluster A

If they are paranoid they seem overly suspicious of people, places, and things without any specific reason - they are often seen as cold.One example is of Schizotypal Personality Disorder having delusional thoughts for instance, they may believe they can read other people's thoughts.

Cluster B

Antisocial people often break social and legal rules to get what they want. They tend to ignore other people’s feelings. It is difficult for them to pick up normal social cues. ASPD may fail to fulfill their parental obligations, possibly resulting in child neglect, child endangerment or even abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Their emotions of jealousy and comparison often overpowers their personality. BPD is the disorder most commonly associated with suicidal gestures.

Cluster C

In the case of avoidant disorder -These people create feelings of intense anxiety in social situations. They don’t like to hear criticism and like to seek validation from other people. And then in the case of OCD, they are often preoccupied with details, orderliness and rules. At times when they are devoted to work to such an extent that they often neglect social relationships.

Personality Types are the psychological classification of different types of individuals. Many classifications have been done on the basis of personalities through different approaches - such as Type A Type B category ;

The Big Five model

Let’s look at the first one ---- Type A, B, C and D people:

Type A: These people are usually very goal orientated individuals who like to achieve big things in life. They are well aware of their time and like to use it quite efficiently. It is not unusual for them to work outside their comfort levels. But also, on the other hand they are characterised by tense behavior, impatience and aggressiveness. Even when things go right they still have this feeling that it’s not good enough.

Type B: They are often associated with type A personalities since they are the opposite of them. Are typical of low in characteristics and behaviour of type A. The people categorized as B are usually easy going in life, adapt to change because of the tendency to make people happy and take a carefree approach to life. However, this may also lead them to be more procrastinated in life.

Type C: They respond to stress usually by becoming anxious or helpless. Depending on the situation they are also very obedient and respectful.

Type D: The D stands for "distressed that means they are more likely to be anxious and even traumatised. They are involved in high levels of high levels of negative affectivity (NA) combined with high levels of social inhibition (SI).

The Big Five:

The Big Five is an empirically-derived model of human personality traits that can be broken down into five broad traits, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion/introversion, and neuroticism also can be remembered as the acronym OCEAN.

O - Openness to change - Individuals who score high in this area are more intellectually open to new ideas and trying new experiences, low scorers are more conventional and less willing to experiment. It states the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. People who tend to be highly innovative, insightful individuals are said to be "open".

C: Conscientiousness - they have the tendency to be organized and dependable. High scorers tend to be more careful, thorough, and goal-oriented, low scorers tend to be more willing to go with the flow that is basically being easy going while enjoying life and prefer reacting to things coming their way but can be careless as well.

E: E for Extraversion - they are considered to be sociable and energetic people who love being around people and enjoy their company. People who score low in this prefer being on their own, or with a couple of other people.

A: A for Agreeableness, people scoring high in this area are compassionate and cooperative. They are very caring about other people. Low scorers tend to be sceptical and distrusting of others intentions. Agreeableness focuses on people’s orientation and interactions with others (Ackerman, 2017).

N for Neuroticism - It is often mistaken as antisocial behaviour. It is characterised by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. is sometimes called negative emotionality or emotional instability; it is a tendency to experience negative emotions. People who score high in this area are prone to experiencing strong emotions, especially negative ones.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are a category of illnesses that affect a person's everyday emotional state and change in mood. It often impairs the ability to function physically, socially, and at work.


“Not wanting to do anything. Not wanting to be anything”

According to WHO, Depressive episode involves symptoms such as depressed mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, and increased fatigability. Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.

Individuals with depression feel worthless, sad and empty to the extent that these feelings impair effective functioning. They start to lose interest even in the activities that they love, day to day living becomes exhausting. Extreme laziness, extreme difficulty with self-care.The heightened perception of pain in many persons with depressive disorder is accompanied by an inability to experience normal emotions.Often, they lose the capacity to cry.

The movie -The Perks of Being a Wallflower shows the character suffering from clinical depression where he constantly blames himself for the death of his aunt but it was his repressed feelings that reveals something else.


It is when the person goes through drastic mood swings, from extreme euphoric highs (mania), to extreme lows (depression) i.e they will have periods of feeling joyful, energized, and excited (called mania). These are followed by periods of feeling sad and depressed. The phases can last from hours to months at a time. There are several disorders on the bipolar spectrum: bipolar I (manic episodes, usually with minor or major depressive episodes), bipolar II [hypomanic episodes (no psychosis or major social/occupational impairment) with major depressive episodes], bipolar NOS (doesn't fit criteria for type I or type II).

To have a look at a great representation of this disorder - watch Modern Love Episode 3: Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am starring Anne Hathaway. You could feel the discomfort when the character goes back and forth between being highly energetic and being depressed.

Substance-induced mood disorder:

People going through this disorder develop symptoms of depression during or after the use of substance, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment which also gives them withdrawal effects.

Treatment of Mood Disorders:

Mood disorders can be treated quite effectively. In the cases of common forms of depression treatment include psychotherapy and antidepressants. Bipolar disorder treatment may include a combination of therapies, such as medication management and psychotherapy. The most commonly prescribed drug for bipolar disorder is lithium, which can treat long-term episodes of depression or mania.

The therapist usually refers to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment combines established cognitive and behavioral theories into one method that focuses on your actions and behaviors. This therapy is focused on changing the person’s distorted views of himself or herself and the environment around him or her. It also helps to improve interpersonal relationship skills, and identifying stressors in the environment and how to avoid them.

Phobias and Panic attacks

What is a phobia?

A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. It is an irrational fear of something. A true phobia is totally irrational. A phobia is a crippling fear that is usually unjustified and accompanied by avoidance of the feared object or situation. Avoiding the feared thing only makes further contact with it even more anxiety-provoking. If a person is faced with a situation or an object about which he/she is fearful, the response might be an anxiety attack or a panic attack.

Panic attack can be described as a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear that is often a mix of intense fear, heart pounding, dizziness, chest pain, shaking, heavy breathing. It can occur completely at random instances or might get triggered suddenly as the adrenaline kicks in.

Let’s have a look at some of the common phobias:

  1. Arachnophobia - is the fear of spiders and other arachnids.

  2. Acrophobia – fear of heights

  3. Belonephobia – fear of needles

  4. Cynophobia – fear of dogs

  5. Social phobia - involves the fear of social situations

  6. Agoraphobia – fear of open place

Phobias of some celebrities:

Bob Thornton has a phobia of antique French furniture, as well as silver flatware. Singer-actor Justin Timberlake is believed to be afraid of spiders, snakes and all other creepy crawlers, Pamela Anderson has a phobia of mirrors and Matthew McConaughey would rather avoid revolving doors, noting he gets anxious when he’s near them.


Mental Disorders impairing healthy mental functioning in people. It is divided in six basic categories, the first includes personality disorder, where the personality traits become so problematic that it interrupts the general functioning of the person. These are further clustered into A, B and C personality types where type A is competitive and goal oriented, B is easy going, C is nervous and anxious and type D is for distressed and traumatized.Personality theories also include OCEAN or Big 5 personality, where O is for openness to experience, C for Conscientiousness, E for extroversion, A for Agreeableness and N for Neuroticism. In mood disorders, the mood is faulty which in turn causes malfunctioning, types include depression, bipolar disorder and substance induced disorders. Phobias happen to be an irrational fear of a particular thing or situation. There are a wide variety of phobias. Both mood disorders and phobias can be treated effectively, with combination of therapy and medication.

This article on ' Introduction to Mental Disorders and Clinical Psychology ' has been contributed by Fiza Rehman who is a student pursuing B.A psychology from Sophia College for Women, Mumbai and the article is Peer reviewed by Komal Saloni who is pursuing masters in psychology.

Both Fiza and Komal are part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is mentored by Anil Thomas.

Fiza has a keen interest in researching the human mind and behavior. It is quite fascinating for her to learn and unlearn a lot of ideas in the field of Psychology.

Kumud's favourite branches in the field are Cognitive psychology and social psychology.

GIRP is an initiative by (International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology) IJNGP and Umang Foundation Trust to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.

Anil is an internationally certified NLP Master Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist. He has conducted NLP Training in Mumbai, and across 6 other countries. The NLP practitioner course is conducted twice every year. To get your NLP certification


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