Mental illness is not as uncommon as you may think with one in four people experience a mental health problem. The most commonly diagnosed forms of mental health are depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression), schizophrenia, personality disorders and eating disorders. Common behaviours and symptoms associated with mental health problems include self-harm, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks.
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.
Some people with a learning disability also have other physical and emotional conditions, and may receive more than one diagnosis. This could have an impact on the kind of support they and their families need in their day-to-day life:
Autism and Asperger syndrome
Someone may have mild, moderate or severe autism, so it is sometimes referred to as a spectrum, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There are three common features of autism, which might affect the way a person:
- interacts with others in a social situation
- is able to communicate with others
- thinks about and deals with social situations
Autism is not a learning disability, but research suggests that around half of people with autism may also have a learning disability, which will affect the level of support they need in their life. Some people may also receive a ‘dual diagnosis’ – for example, they may have Down’s syndrome and autism.
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism which also causes communication and emotional problems. However, people with Asperger syndrome often have fewer problems with speaking and are less likely to have a learning disability.
Some people with a learning disability may demonstrate extreme behaviour, which is often referred to as challenging behaviour.
People with profound and multiple learning disabilities:
- have more than one disability
- have a profound learning disability
- have great difficulty communicating
- need high levels of support with most aspects of daily life
- may have additional sensory or physical disabilities, complex health needs or mental health difficulties
- may have behaviours that challenge us.