Common mental health conditions

Common mental health conditions

It is estimated that one in four people in the UK will be affected by mental ill health at some point in their lives. The most common mental health conditions which affect people are: stress, anxiety and depression.

Each of these conditions can often present similar symptoms, however it is important to be aware of their differences to ensure an individual is being supported and treated in the most effective and appropriate way.

It is also important to assess thoughts and feelings in the context of certain situations and circumstances and not automatically believe someone has a mental health condition. For example, feeling anxious and overwhelmed when starting a new job can be a perfectly proportionate reaction and most people would experience similar feelings in the same situation.

Stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened and it often occurs when we are in a situation or are experiencing something that we do not feel we can control or manage. Some amount of stress can be useful to help us complete a task or deadline, however if feelings of stress are prolonged or very intense they can create a huge strain on both the mind and body.

Common signs and symptoms of stress include headaches, muscle tension and stomach problems, as well as changes to behaviour such as becoming more irritable, sleeping less and eating more or less – although people’s ability to deal with stress varies from one individual to another.

Anxiety is a natural response when we feel worried or tense about something that is about to happen or that we think might happen in the future.

Most people will feel anxious at certain points during their lives, particularly if they are coping with stressful events or changes. Anxiety becomes a problem and a mental health condition for someone when it impacts on their ability to live their life fully.

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety can include light-headedness, headaches, faster breathing, sweating or hot flushes, feeling tense and seeking lots of reassurance from others. Many people have also reported physical health problems as a result of anxiety which include having an upset stomach, constant headaches and being unable to sleep.

Depression is when someone experiences a low mood that lasts for a long time and affects everyday life. It can vary in its severity; mild depression can make everyday tasks seem harder, for example, but does not stop someone leading a relatively normal life, however more severe depression can be life-threatening as it can make a person feel suicidal.

Common signs and symptoms of someone with depression can include them feeling upset or tearful, being more agitated or irritable, finding no pleasure in things they used to enjoy, a sense of hopelessness and feeling suicidal. These thoughts and feelings can exhibit themselves in a number of ways including feeling tired all the time, experiencing a change in appetite and self-harming.

Work and common mental health conditions
Stress, anxiety and depression, as with other mental health conditions, can all be caused by any number of things and everyone’s experience will be different. It is important for employers to be aware of this and take it into account during periods of change to a person’s role or organisational restructuring, for example.

Not everyone will feel and react the same and it is the responsibility of line managers to understand the normal behaviours of their team members to then notice any changes which may indicate a problem.

Support with common mental health conditions
Mental health training can provide workers and managers with the skills and knowledge to spot when a colleague may be struggling, as well as understanding the wider implications of mental ill health on organisations as a whole.

One-to-one counselling is also another form of support for workers who may need therapy and guidance to manage their condition.

Contact us for more information on how we can support the mental health of your workforce via email: or phone: 0121 601 4041.

Sources: Mental Health First Aid England (2022); Mental Health Foundation (2022); Mind (2021); World Health Organisation (2019)