Mental Health

Everyone feels worried or anxious or down from time to time. But relatively few people develop a mental illness. What's the difference? A mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of thinking, relating to others, and day-to-day function.

Dozens of mental illnesses have been identified and defined. They include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and many more.

Mental illness is an equal opportunity issue. It affects young and old, male and female, and individuals of every race, ethnic background, education level, and income level. The good news is that it can often be treated.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness depend in part on the illness. Common symptoms include

  • feeling down for a while
  • extreme swings in mood
  • withdrawing from family, friends, or activities
  • low energy or problems sleeping
  • often feeling angry, hostile, or violent
  • feeling paranoid, hearing voices, or having hallucinations
  • often thinking about death or suicide.

In some people, symptoms of a mental illness first appear as physical problems such as stomach aches, back pain, or insomnia.

Individuals with a mental illness can often ease their symptoms and feel better by talking with a therapist and following a treatment plan that may or may not include medication.

Mental Health Articles

Getting Your Selves Healthier

By: Margaret Moore, aka Coach MegCo-author, Harvard Health book, Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life In a companion article, Meet your Inner Family, we introduced the new Harvard Health book Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, proposing a new model of the human psyche that is an adult version of Inside Out, positing that the human psyche has nine internal life forces sculpted by evolution, speaking as our inner "voices," with distinct needs, agendas and emotions. Here's what your nine inner family members might say about getting healthier: I'd really like us to get healthier. We can't be the captain of our ship if we don't have good physical energy. And at the same time... I don't like others telling me how to be healthier. Let's do it our way. More »

Meet Your Inner Family (all nine of you)

While there aren’t really nine of you, as we learned from the Oscar-winning Pixar movie Inside Out, multiplicity of mind is natural and normal. It’s messy, but not a mess. In our new Harvard Health book Organize your Emotions, Optimize Your Life, which I co-authored with Harvard Medical School professor Eddie Phillips and writer John Hanc, we propose a new model of the human psyche that is an adult version of Inside Out, positing that the human psyche has nine internal life forces sculpted by evolution, speaking as our inner “voices,” with distinct needs, agendas and emotions. More »

5 ways to fight loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation are associated with developing a number of health conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke. Avoiding loneliness and isolation takes planning and effort. Strategies include reaching out to family and friends, even if it’s just a phone call or video call; signing up for rides through senior centers; joining a club or spiritual community, such as a church or synagogue; getting a pet; and signing up for visits from volunteers at senior centers. (Locked) More »

Caregivers: Remember your own health

It appears that caregivers of people who spend a week or more on an ICU ventilator have a high risk for developing clinical depression that can last up to a year after the ICU survivor is discharged.  More »

More than a happiness boost: How mood medications help when you’re depressed

Antidepressants help treat more than just the emotional and psychological issues of depression. The medications can also improve other aspects of health, since depression often has physical complications such as appetite loss, insomnia, and fatigue. There are four classes of antidepressants: SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. There are also “atypical” antidepressants that have unique properties. Side effects vary depending on the drug. But all antidepressants take time to work, from two weeks to a month.  (Locked) More »

Need a quick brain boost? Take a walk

A 20-to-30-minute bout of moderate exercise before performing mental tasks may quicken reaction speed and sharpen decision making in people of all ages. A dose of caffeine may have similar effects. (Locked) More »

Unveiling post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced a natural disaster, war, terrorism, serious accident, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault, or other life-threatening events. In fact, research suggests that 70% of men ages 65 and older have been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event during their lifetime. PTSD is often difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms overlap with depression. But most people recover when treated early. (Locked) More »

Is an underlying condition causing your fuzzy thinking?

Underlying conditions are often overlooked as causes of thinking impairment. Common causes of fuzzy thinking include obstructive sleep apnea, medication side effects, an underactive thyroid, low levels of vitamin B12, or anxiety and depression. Treating an underlying condition can often resolve fuzzy thinking. If not, a visit to a neuropsychologist may be necessary. Other ways to improve clarity include eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet; exercising; and getting more sleep. (Locked) More »

What a therapist can do for you

Mental health is just as important as physical health and proper nutrition, and ignoring negative feelings can have a profound impact on all aspects of a person’s life. During these difficult times, men can benefit from seeing a therapist, who can help identify the source of their problems and then help resolve them.  (Locked) More »