Mental Health

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Such conditions may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic) and affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.  Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being.

Why is mental health important for overall health?

Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health.  Mental illness, especially depression, increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Similarly, the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness.

Can your mental health change over time?

Yes, it’s important to remember that a person’s mental health can change over time, depending on many factors.  When the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities, their mental health could be impacted. For example, if someone is working long hours,Cdc-pdf caring for an ill relative or experiencing economic hardship they may experience poor mental health.

How common are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.

  • More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
  • 1 in 5 children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness.
  • 1 in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

What causes mental illness?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

  • Early adverse life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse (for example, child abuse, sexual assault, witnessing violence, etc.)
  • Experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditionCdc-pdf, such as cancer or diabetes.
  • Biological factors, such as genes or chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Having few friends
  • Having feeling of loneliness or isolation

People can experience different types of mental illnesses or disorders, and they can often occur at the same time. Mental illnesses can occur over a short period of time or be episodic. This means that the mental illness comes and goes with discrete beginnings and ends. Mental illness can also be ongoing or long-lasting.

There are more than 200 classifiedExternal types of mental illness. Some of the main types of mental illness and disorders are listed below; however, this list is not exhaustive.

Anxiety Disorders

People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread or terror. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, and phobias.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood mental disorders. It can continue through adolescence and adulthood. People diagnosed with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

Disruptive Behavioral Disorders

Behavioral disorders involve a pattern of disruptive behaviors in children that last for at least 6 months and cause problems in school, at home, and in social situations.  Behavioral symptoms can also continue into adulthood.

Depression and Other Mood Disorders

While bad moods are common, and usually pass in a short period, people suffering from mood disorders live with more constant and severe symptoms. People living with this mental illness find that their mood impacts both mental and psychological well-being, nearly every day, and often for much of the day.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults suffer from some type of mood disorder, with the most common conditions being depression and bipolar disorder. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most of those living with mood disorders lead healthy, normal and productive lives. If left untreated, this illness can affect role functioning, quality of life and many long-lasting physical health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve obsessive and sometimes distressing thoughts and behaviors, including

  • Reduction of food intake
  • Overeating
  • Feelings of depression or distress
  • Concern about weight, body shape, poor self-image

Personality Disorders

People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. Personality disorders include antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A person can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, physical abuse, or a serious accident. PTSD can make someone feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. People with PTSD may experience symptoms like reliving the event over and over, sleep problems, become very upset if something causes memories of the event, constantly looking for possible threats, and changes in emotions like irritability, outbursts, helplessness, or feelings of numbness.

Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

People with psychotic disorders hear, see, and believe things that aren’t real or true. They may also show signs of disorganized thinking, confused speech, and muddled or abnormal motor behavior. An example of a psychotic disorder is schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia may also have low motivation and blunted emotions.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders occur when frequent or repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs causes significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. Substance use problems can be fatal to the user or others. Examples include drunk driving fatalities and drug overdoses.

Mental illnesses and substance use disorders often occur together. Sometimes one disorder can be a contributing factor to or can make the other worse. Sometimes they simply occur at the same time.