Psychological, Anxiety, Mood, and Personality Disorders


A psychological disorder is a behavioral characteristic with several psychological symptoms that affect various aspects of a person’s life or causing distressing feelings, especially if he or she exhibits the symptoms (Barlow, 2008). Psychological disorders have been classified into several types, depending on their specific characteristics and areas they affect within a persons mental areas. Of the many classifications, the most common ones are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders.

This paper discusses various aspects of psychological disorders; that is, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Research evidence shows that psychological disorders have become very rampant in the modern society, generating a grave concern to the medical fraternity as well as the general society as a whole. Despite their prevalence and lack of proper medical definitions, psychological disorders do have treatments because their causes and symptoms can be identified.

Research Method

This is a secondary research on various materials with psychology disorders as the main theme. Online search with the help of Google scholar and various data bases were accessed. To ensure validity of the sources, I restricted the search to the accredited academic materials and peer review journals. Some of the search terms used were “psychological disorders”, “anxiety disorders”, “mood disorders”, and “personality disorders”. Print academic materials were also used, especially the most relevant texts.

Anxiety Disorders

A 2005 survey report in America showed that in more than one year, anxiety topped the list as the most prevalent of all types of psychological disorders. This survey measured specific parameters such as “specific phobia, social phobia and major depressive disorder” and found out that 18.1% of the respondents have suffered anxiety disorder within the last 12 months (Kessler, et al., 2005).

Everyday people have normal fear, which psychologists describe as normal response to threats, challenges and possible loss which they expect to encounter shortly. However, when this anxiety persists, it’s likely to cause psychological complication to the victim. This form of persistently intense anxiety is likely to cause interference to the daily operations of individuals, thus creating a possibility of anxiety disorder (Berrios, 1985; Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005).

It must be noted that normal fear usually comes as a result of a specific object and situation in mind, clearly defined. The level of fear here is defined by a specific amount of threat expected. Such fears could be fear of losing a job, poverty, possible death (Barlow, 2008). However, when the fear has a not-so-clear source with little objective situation to rely on, it ceases to be normal and worse still, its intensity and persistence is likely to lead to anxiety disorder (Barlow, 2008). Interestingly, this form of threat may not be easily described by the victim, leave a lone acceptance.

Anxiety normally affects people in three levels of existence, i.e. physical, mental and behavioral. Physical symptoms may be seen if a person is experiencing rapid heart rate, discomfort in the stomach, nausea, sweating shortened breath, and many more (Barlow, 2008). Mental symptoms can be seen when a person is ever uneasy, worry a lot and confused, shows poor or little concentration, and seems helpless (Barlow, 2008). Behaviorally, a person with anxiety disorder will tend to revere some objects, places of situations and may end up performing unnecessary rituals just to feel assured of imaginary safety (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000; Barlow, 2008).

What is the cause of anxiety? As noted earlier, about 18.1% of Americans have suffered some form of anxiety disorder. It is believed that anxiety disorder is caused by several intertwining factors in the biological, genetic, psychological, and environmental aspects Barlow, 2008). Every of these causal factors have varying levels of effects on a person’s exclusive vulnerability to develop the disorder. Studies indicate that some cases of anxiety disorder are genetically inherited (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005). For example, a study conducted to investigate the anxiety disorder in identical twins suggested that if one identical twin was found to exhibit some form of anxiety disorder, the other one was likely to exhibit the same even if it’s of different intensity or symptoms (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000). This is because identical twins have the same genetic make-up thus backing up the belief that the disorder is somewhat inherited. However, it is observable that other factors play a role in the anxiety disorders. Environmental factors are likely to influence other causal factors like diseases and habits. Some of the diseases commonly associated with anxiety disorders are heart diseases, premenstrual syndrome, inner-ear interferences, emphysema just to mention but a few (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000). Some of the behavioral habits that are likely to cause anxiety are withdrawal from alcohol, and persistent abuse of substances like cocaine. Some people’s anxiety disorders are associated with their childhood trauma (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000).

It has been revealed that therapies targeting these conditions are likely to lead to reduced cases of persistent anxiety. It’s important to note that because of the multifaceted nature of these causes, the treatment should also take similar form. This therefore follows that treatment is directed towards a multifaceted approach (APA, 2003). For instance, the treatment focuses on the rebalancing of the brain component and functionality. In other words, treatment of anxiety takes the three forms of symptoms of anxiety aspects, i.e. physical, mental and behavioral. This is done through psychological approach to changing some of the beliefs regarded as unhealthy and reducing stress with the help of positive lifestyle (APA, 2003). This approach is called cognitive-behavior therapy. The physical approach is trying to repeatedly expose the patient to things they are trying to avoid in a more controlled and safe setting (APA, 2003). This helps them develop more self control as they subsequently realize that whatever they feared would harm them is safer than they could imagine. To some extent medication may be in order, especially if the person suffers obsessive-compulsive disorder (APA, 2003). Still, it can be used to help relieve the pain in a short term basis to give way for other therapeutically better methods for long-term benefits.

Mood Disorders

This form of disorder is used to describe a group of disorders associated with individuals suffering disturbed moods. It is sometimes described by observing the ‘longitudinal emotional state’ of an individual as expressed externally by other people (Berrios, 1985. It’s normally categorized into two, depending on whether the individual has experienced either the manic or hypomanic effects. These two therefore gives us two types of disorder: “major depressive disorder (clinical disorders), and the bipolar disorder” (Berrios, 1985, P.39). America Psychiatric Association describes mood disorders as “major depression, dysthymia, bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, mood disorder due to a general medical condition, and substance-induced mood disorder” (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2008)

Statistics indicate that about 9.5% Americans aged 18 years and above do suffer from mood disorders (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005). Many psychiatrists reckon that mood disorders are central to any diagnostic evaluation in psychiatry. This is because of the need to follow diagnostic hierarchy in the treatment process. In other words, if a person suffers from mood disorders, he is likely to be diagnosed with other psychiatric symptoms; hence mood disorders are those conditions that will not be recognized when other symptoms are diagnosed (Barlow, 2008).

The symptoms of mood disorders are based on what type, according to the classification. The mood disorders symptoms are therefore characterized by extreme disturbances in the emotional expressions as seen in the physiological changes (Berrios, 1985; Barlow, 2008). Such people may experience the two extremes of emotional expression overly expressing their feelings or may be overly depressed at different periods. The common physiological changes are often associated with disturbed sleep, irregular and unmonitored eating habit and lack of concentration. It is noted that alcoholic and drug abuse individuals do experience mood disorders in a more prevalent manner than they would experience other co-occurring psychotic disorders (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000).

People who are under addiction treatment are not likely to be diagnosed with mood disorder due to some conflicting factors. One of the most common reasons is that diagnosis is usually complicated with drug impairment that usually mimics depressive symptoms (Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett, 2000). The other associated complication is that many professional medics are not trained on the clinical diagnosis of mental illness, hence causes the disjointed approach to diagnosis. Intoxicated individuals or those who have adopted chronic use of substances or withdrawal from substance may also present potential symptoms similar to those of major mood disorders. For example, Watkins, Lewellen & Barrett (2000) highlight a scenario where an individual with sedative intoxication experienced acute episodes of depression for some hours within the day, which extended to some days. When the usage became chronic, the episode lasted for six weeks. When the patient was in the process of withdrawal, he developed some intensive emotional state and even attempted suicide.

The treatment of mood disorder is a somewhat complicated exercise. Barlow (2008) recommends that the most critical issue to be considered first is time of diagnosis and treatment. The first step is to determine whether the mood changes are related to the substance abuse or mental disorder. The initial screening therefore requires that the patient is subjected to questions related to substance use as well as history of the symptoms related to mood disorder (Barlow, 2008). However, if depression symptoms still look intense after a month of detoxification, the person may be suffering from a depressive episode (Barlow, 2008).

Personality Disorders

According to American Psychiatric Association’s definition of personality disorder, (cited in Barlow, 2008, p.30), it is “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of individual who exhibits its.” While it is widely accepted that every person has a unique personality trait that defines their beliefs, feelings, behaviors, and how they think, flexibility and adaptability is a prerequisite of a well psychologically organized individual (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005). That is to says, a person with stable psychological setup will be ready to adjust according the environmental experiences they encounter in various episodes of their life.

However, when a person suffering from personality disorder will not show flexibility and adaptability towards varying situations they encounter in their lives. According to Hockenbury & Hockenbury (2005), the maladaptive behavioral patterns tend to develop during adolescents and early adulthood, and tend to stabilize with age. About 15% of the general populations suffer from personality disorder (Kessler, et al., 2005). The bad news is that people with personality disorder are not likely to accept the situation, hence they tend to avoid seeking any form of help as they belief nothing is wrong with them. There are most common and widely studied types of personality disorders as: paranoid personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Persons with paranoid personality disorders are ever cautious and keep alert even to an unfounded fear. They always believe that other people can never be trusted and are out to harm or exploit rather than help. They therefore keep off any form of association with people, fearing the worst is likely to happen due to perceived untrustworthy people. However, the cause is yet to be established although studies shows that the disorder tends to occur together “with schizotypal and avoidant personality disorders (Thompson-Pope & Turkat, 1993, cited in Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005). Statistics show that 6% of men and 1% of women have experienced one form of antisocial personality disorder in one way or the other (NIMH, 2008).

Antisocial personality disorder on the other hand is characterized by individuals who would violate others rights with impunity (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005; Levin, 2005). They possess the ability to find their way out after committing a crime through lies, cheating and manipulative tactics (Levin, 2005). They are usually indifferent whenever confronted with their actions and tend to blame the victims for their failures to protect themselves. They exhibit high alcoholism behaviors, loads of past crimes and imprisonment just to mention but a few. This behavior is common in children and research suggest that they tend to as these individuals grow old, these behaviors diminish as they tend to develop more rational conducts to life with time (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005).

Borderline personality disorder is often associated with inability to be stable socially, emotionally, and failure to build strong self image subsequently leading to unstable relationships. These people are likely to experience strong mood swings, sometimes leading to serious outbursts when slightly upset. For fear of being abandoned, they portray sense of insecurity and low self esteem thus creating constant crisis to their thoughts and imaginations. In many occasions, they will frequently seek reassurance to feel temporal security of their status. Borderline personality disorder is caused unsocial childhood experiences (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2005). Such experiences may have been abandonment, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.

Treatment of personality disorders is often associated with proper identification of cognitive, affective, impulse control, and relationship approaches of such individuals must be identified (Levin, 2005). Psychologists suggest that the best approach to treat personality disorder is through psychotherapy. Prescribing medications should only be aimed at minimizing the symptoms only, while the patient should be exposed to adequate psychotherapy to help him or her cope with new skills, regulate emotions (Levin, 2005).


Psychological disorders have become common phenomena in the society today. This fact puts to a lot of question and pressure as to the solution to the problem. Several factors are attributed to the cause of psychological disorders, ranging from genetics to environment. While many health conditions can be managed by medical approach to treatment, psychological disorders, which come into many forms has not conformed to the medical treatment. This is largely due to the lack of medical evidence to support its existence. This means that any single medical approach will be treating symptoms rather than the problem itself. Multifaceted approaches to treatment that target physical, mental, and medical dimensions have therefore been recommended to achieve maximum feedback to the treatment process.


American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2003). APA Statement on Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders. Web.

Barlow, D.H. (2008). Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders: A step-by-Step Treatment Manual. New York. Guilford Press.

Berrios G E (1985) The Psychopathology of Affectivity: Conceptual and Historical Aspects. Psychological Medicine 15: 745-758.

Hockenbury, D., & Hockenbury, S. (2005). Psychology: The Human Experience Telecourse Guide. Fourth Edition. New York. Worth Publishers.

Levin, C. (2005). Personality Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment. Mental Web.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2008). The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. Web.

Watkins, T. R., Lewellen, A., & Barrett, M. C. (2000). Dual Diagnosis: An Integrated Approach to Treatment. Texas. Sage Publications.