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On this page

    What is mental health?

    On this page
    1. Why is mental health important?
    2. Types of mental health disorders
    3. How to talk to a GP about mental health
    4. How to improve mental health

    Reviewed by our clinical team

    What is mental health

    Mental health refers to our psychological, emotional and social wellbeing. It impacts how we feel, act, respond to situations and cope with stress throughout our life. And it’s just as important as our physical health.

    Here we share the most common types of disorders and how we can look after our mental health and wellbeing.

    Why is mental health important?

    Mental health has a role in every area of our life, from our daily mood to our sleep quality, relationships and self-confidence. Having a healthy mindset is crucial to improving these areas and being able to handle stress. It allows us to be productive, reach our potential and feel at peace.

    Physical health and mental health are also closely aligned. Many common health problems including heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders and skin conditions such as eczema are directly impacted by stress and anxiety. It’s therefore vital to look after our mental health not just for our overall happiness, but to take care of our bodies too.

    Types of mental health disorders

    Mental health problems are extremely common and vary in severity. 1 in 5 people experience a mental health issue each year in England from general anxiety to personality disorders - and they seem to be increasing each year.

    The most common types of mental health problems are:


    Anxiety is the most common form of mental health disorder, impacting at least 5% of the UK population. It’s a natural human response that occurs when we feel worried, afraid or tense, but can become a problem if it begins to affect your daily life. Find out more about anxiety including tips for coping and where to get help.


    Feeling down and having clinical depression are two different things. But it can be difficult to diagnose and distinguish between the two. Depression typically lasts for weeks or months at a time and can make general life harder to cope with. Read more about common symptoms and if your low mood could be depression.


    Phobias are an extreme form of fear that are triggered by a situation or object. Common phobias include heights, spiders and confined spaces. The symptoms of a phobia are very similar to anxiety and can significantly impact daily life.

    Eating disorders

    An eating disorder is any mental health condition that is influenced by your relationship with food. This could include under or over eating, taking extreme measures to not put on weight or having severe worries about what your body looks like. The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder and binge eating disorder.


    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common mental health problem that can make daily life very difficult to manage. It involves obsessive thoughts, worries or doubts that then turn into compulsive behaviour to attempt to reduce concerns caused by the obsession. 

    Personality disorders

    A personality disorder is defined by someone who acts, thinks and feels very differently to the average person. This could be impulsive behaviour, anger problems or an inability to build relationships with others. There are several different types of conditions including antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

    Bipolar disorder

    Sometimes known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a condition that impacts your mood. It often causes extreme episodes of depression and mania (feeling high), and can sometimes lead to psychotic symptoms.

    How to talk to a GP about mental health

    It can be difficult to talk about our mental health, but it’s really important to speak to a doctor if you feel that you need help. They can check for any family history of mental health problems, suggest lifestyle changes that may help or refer you to talking therapy. Your doctor may also discuss antidepressants. Antidepressants are usually prescribed for depression but they can also help with other mental health problems such as anxiety or OCD.

    Before talking to your GP, make some notes about what you’d like to talk about. You could also keep a journal to spot any patterns in mood or behaviour that could help your doctor diagnose the problem. It’s also recommended to book an appointment at a time where you’ll be relaxed and not rushing to get back to work.

    How to improve mental health

    Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings

    Worries and concerns often feel less overwhelming when you share them with others. Talking also helps you to feel less alone.

    Look after your physical health

    Exercise is key to staying healthy and is also proven to benefit the mind. Find an activity you enjoy and use it to unwind or destress.

    Avoid alcohol and drugs. 

    Some people use alcohol and drugs to improve their mood however this effect is only temporary. Once the effects wear off, it can make you feel worse and is not a healthy way to manage your emotions.

    Eat a healthy, balanced diet

    Processed food and high quantities of sugar can cause you to feel sluggish, resulting in low energy and a low mood. Instead, ensure you get the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy by eating varied foods.

    Practice gratitude and mindfulness

    Make time to slow down and appreciate the things around you. Consciously noting what you are grateful for is shown to improve your mood.

    Look after those around you 

    It’s important we look after each other’s mental health to maintain close relationships and help us feel closer. Men in particular struggle to seek help, so it’s important to check in and be there for each other. Find out more about how you support men with their mental health.

    Ask for help

    Whether practical or emotional, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Your friends and family will always be there for you whether supporting with childcare or advising on a situation that is worrying you.

    If you are experiencing any serious symptoms or suicidal thoughts, please seek emergency help.

    Taking care of our mental health is important at every stage of our life. It impacts us emotionally, physiologically and physically - so make sure to talk and get the support you need.

    Looking for more advice on mental health? Find out more about how to look after your overall wellbeing


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