The Five Most Common Mental Health Diagnoses

woman at psychiatrist officeDespite decades of work to educate the public about the nature of mental health conditions, mental health issues are still accompanied by stigma. Many people perceive that mental health issues happen to people they never see and certainly never care about.

The reality is that almost everyone knows someone with a mental health diagnosis, and such a diagnosis does not in any way mean that a person cannot live a normal, healthy, happy life. About 26% of Americans experience a mental health diagnosis in any given year. Most of these diagnoses are highly treatable conditions.

Anxiety Issues

Anxiety issues make up the most common group of mental health conditions in the United States, with 40 million American adults—or about 18% of the population—experiencing anxiety in any given year. Obsessive compulsion, panic, posttraumatic stress, generalized anxiety, and social phobia are all examples of anxiety disorders. Among people who experience such a disorder, social phobia is the most common, with 15 million people experiencing this condition each year.


Mood Issues

Mood issues undermine a person’s ability to regulate mood. About 9% of the adult population, or 21 million people, experiences a mood disorder such as depression, bipolar, or dysthymia each year. Depression is the most common mood disorder, affecting almost 15 million people every year. It is also the leading cause of disability among adults.

Attention Deficit

About 11% of children have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity. This diagnosis isn’t limited to children, though; ADHD affects 4% of adults every year.

Personality Issues

While many therapists and mental health practitioners do not support diagnoses of personality disorders of any kind, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) lists several types of personality diagnoses, and they are still frequently used. Rather than changing the way a person behaves in a specific context, personality disorders fundamentally alter a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Avoidant personality, which leads to avoidance of social situations and chronic feelings of inadequacy, is the most common personality issue, affecting 5% of adults every year. Overall, personality issues affect 9% of adults every year.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can lead to addiction to substances ranging from alcohol to illicit drugs. About 23 million Americans experience an addiction each year, with only about 10% receiving proper psychological and medical treatment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these common mental health issues, help is available. Find a therapist near you on by searching the Directory.


  1. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder data & statistics. (2013, November 13). Retrieved from
  1. The numbers count: Mental disorders in America. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  1. The science of addiction: Drugs, brains, and behavior. (2007). Retrieved from

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  • Julia

    April 16th, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    I didn’t know that substance abuse would fall into mental health disorders. I always thought that these diagnoses would fall more into those things that were genetic and while I guess there are those people who will argue that substance abuse is genetic, or at least there is a predisposition to become an addict, I guess I still maintain that there is a level of self control that you could engage and therefore this seems different to me somehow than the others you have listed like anxiety and mood disorders. I would love to hear other thoughts on this because I am all for addicts getting treatment, they need it, but still just curious about how other people feel about it being lumped here. Thoughts?

  • Frannie

    April 16th, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    I was stunned when I saw how many people in this country alone are plagued with mood disorders. I know that some are more manageable and treatable than others, but that seems like a whole lot of people are afflicted for the little bit of conversation that I continue to hear.

    Quite honestly I would have thought that with the numbers that high then there would be more talk about the issue and more of a societal investment and commitment to treating these disorders.

    Instead it is more like we want to sweep them under the rug and ignore what it could be doing to a whole generation.

  • Jake

    April 17th, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    Obviously personality disorders would include split personalities- is that such a thing?
    I have been curious about that ever since seeing that old movie Sybil.

  • millie

    April 18th, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    I have a hard time believing there are really that many people diagnosed with ADD or ADHD? I never knew anyone with this disorder when I was in school, and now it is like every other kid out there is getting this diagnosis and being treated for it. How is it that something like this has taken off so exponentially or is it just that before we didn’t have the diagnostic tools to make this determination?

  • Walton

    April 19th, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    When we are looking for answers do we have any idea of how many of these problems are interconnected, and how many people are actually afflicted with multiple issues?
    I would think that it would be safe to say that many with abuse issues also suffer from depression or vice versa, and that there are other diagnoses that are experienced concurrently with one another in many patients.
    I would rarely think that there is just one issue going on with each person. Of course you would probably look for what the starting point issue actually was so that the others, the offshoots could be treated too, but it is important to recognize that generally there could be a whole lot of other things going on with this person than just the one issue that we might see on the outside.

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