Emotional Health | Institute of Clinical Neuropsychology HKU

Emotional Health

    We all have days with good mood and times when we get agitated easily. When mood problems persist and become an obstacle in achieving your goal or maintaining your desired way of living, it is important to pause and reflect. Sometimes, a persistant mood problem may turn into a mood or psychological disorder. 

    Some common psychological disorders include:

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder comprises of repeated panic attacks under no apparent cause. Panic attack is sudden episodes of anxious reactions in conditions that are not urging or dangerous. Some of the symptoms of a panic attack are as follows:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain


Common types of phobia include Specific Phobia and Social Phobia.

Specific Phobia refers to excessive or unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation. Patient with Specific Phobia will experience anxiety or Panic Attack when confronted with phobic stimulus. Examples of phobic stimulus or situations are listed as follows:

  • Afraid of seeing insects
  • Afraid of heights
  • Afraid of seeing Blood

Social Phobia refers to significant and persistent fear of social or performance situations which patients would feel embarrassed. Exposure to social situation would also cause patients to feel anxious or experience Panic Attack.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The major characteristic of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive anxiety and worry about various events and activities for at least 6 months. Patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to find it difficult to control worry and anxiety; they may also experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Excessively anxious or worried
  • Rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability

Major Depressive Disorders

People with Major Depressive Disorder commonly experience depressive moods, sense of helplessness, and hopelessness, feeling of discouraged. Depression is also considered to be associated with mental stress. When a person faces stress, the brain releases stress hormones (e.g. cortisol). Excessive amount of stress hormones might lead to brain damage or could have impact on the affective function of the brain. Below are some common symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Significant weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Always feel tired, lose motivation in everyday life
  • Loss of Interest or pleasure
  • Feeling of self-blame or worthlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

If several of the above symptoms are present during the same 2-week period, and when normal daily functioning and work performance has been affected, it is recommended that the individual should seek professional help for further assessment or intervention.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder usually includes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior. Patients would experience recurrent and persistent thoughts that cause anxiety. Patients would perform certain behavior to neutralize the obsessive thoughts and lower the anxiety led by these thoughts.

Symptoms related to obsessive thoughts include:

  • Making sure things are in order and symmetrical
  • Often having thoughts of hurting yourself or others

Symptoms related to compulsive behaviour include:

  • Repeatedly check on doors to ensure they are locked
  • Repeatedly check on stove to make sure it is off
  • Frequent handwashing until it causes the skin to hurt

Source: Hospital Authority