Top 5 Most Common Mental Health Disorders in the UAE

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 4 adults suffers from a mental or neurological disorder, and approximately two-thirds of these individuals are not seeking treatment. While some of these common disorders are short-lived, others, when left unmanaged, can become chronic and debilitating.

Individuals suffering from common mental disorders often feel as though they are all alone. They often feel stigmatized and ashamed. However, they should know, it is very common for individuals in the UAE to experience difficulties with their mental health. According to a recent study conducted by Ibrahim Mahmoud and Coumaravelou Saravanan of The Department of Family Medicine and Community Medicine and Behavioral Science, College of Medicine, at the University of Sharjah found 57.2% of participants suffered from at least one mental disorder.

The study included a cross-sectional survey conducted among 700 adults within the city of Sharjah (ages 18 and older). Among the most 5 common mental disorders within the UAE were Anxiety (56.4%), depression (31.5%), post-traumatic stress disorder (15.1%), phobic disorder (10.8%), and personality disorder (6.4%).

1. Anxiety

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an estimated 792 million people across the world live with anxiety. With the recent arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers continue to rise as individuals worry about their health, employment, and the safety of their loved ones. While occasional anxiety is a natural part of life, people with anxiety disorders have frequent feelings of excessive, intense, and persistent worry. When left unmanaged, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), can negatively impact quality of life and happiness.

Characteristics of anxiety include:

  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling fears or worry
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Inability to concentrate on anything other than the source of anxiety
  • Feeling wound-up or restless

2. Depression

Impacting an estimated 300 million people globally, depression is among the most common mental disorders impacting the UAE. Depression can present itself as both recurring or long-lasting, and when left unmanaged can interfere with a person’s ability to function at work and live a happy and fulfilling life. Severe depression can also lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

Characteristics of depression include:

  • General sadness
  • Loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure
  • Feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem, or guilt
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Lack of concentration
  • Becoming withdrawn from friends and family



3. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a scary, dangerous, shocking, or traumatic event. It’s natural to feel afraid after a traumatic event, and most people recover from these initial reactions naturally. Those who continue to struggle chronically after their traumatic event may be diagnosed with PTSD. People suffering from PTSD often feel afraid or anxious, even when they are not in danger. Individuals with PTSD generally exhibit symptoms within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but they can emerge sooner or later.

Characteristics of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms
    • Flashbacks
    • Recurring dreams or memories
    • Distressing thoughts or feelings
  • Avoidance symptoms
    • Staying away from events, places or objects that serve as reminders of the traumatic event
    • Avoiding thoughts and emotions related to the traumatic event
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms
    • Easily startled
    • Feeling on edge
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Trouble falling or staying asleep
    • Participating in reckless, dangerous, or destructive behavior
    • Angry or aggressive outbursts
  • Cognition and mood symptoms
    • Difficulty remembering key details or facts about the traumatic event
    • Feelings of worthlessness or social isolation
    • Feelings of guilt or blame
    • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

4. Phobic Disorder

A specific type of anxiety disorder, a phobic is a persistent, unrealistic fear of an object, person, animal, activity, or situation. A person with a phobic disorder tries to avoid the situation or object that triggers their fear. Phobias range from simple and specific, such as a fear of spiders or flying to social phobias (fear of being embarrassed or judged by others in social situations) to more complex, such as a fear of going outside (agoraphobia).

Characteristics of phobia disorders include:

  • Excessive, unreasonable, or persistent feelings of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular activity, object, or situation
  • Either irrational or un proportional reactions and feelings (mainly fear) to any actual threat
  • Going out of the way to avoid an activity, object, or situation that triggers a phobia
  • Experiencing anxiety-related physical symptoms, such as tremors, sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea, or dizziness

5. Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which the individual has an unyielding and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning, and behaving. A person with a personality disorder often has trouble recognizing and relating to situations and people. Personality disorders usually start in the teenage years or in early adulthood. When left untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in relationships, social activities, school, and work.

Without professional treatment, personality disorders can dramatically impact life, to include:

  • Way of thinking about oneself and others
  • Way of responding emotionally
  • Way of relating to other people
  • Way of controlling one’s behavior


Treatment for Common Mental Disorders

Common mental disorders can be treated with psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy. Depending on the specific needs of the patient, they may require additional medication to treat their mental health disorder. At BE Psychology Center for Emotional Wellbeing, we will work with you, or your loved one, to help you manage mental health disorders so you can achieve a happy and healthy life. So if you are looking for a psychologist in Dubai, contact a member of our team to get in touch.


reem shaheen counseling psychologist


Reem Shaheen – LMHC