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

Lend a hand, help your heart?

Doing volunteer work has been linked to better physical and mental health outcomes. People who volunteer may be more active, less depressed, and more likely to get preventive health care services. Volunteers tend to be more socially connected to their communities, which could give them better access to health-promoting information such as where to find fresh vegetables or where to get a free flu shot. Volunteerism is also linked to having a greater sense of purpose in life, which appears to lower the risk of having a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.  (Locked) More »

How to stay motivated

Want to make a change but wondering how to stay motivated? Dr. Srini Pillay talks about the things that can impact personal motivation and the power of a sense of meaning to help you stick with your goals. More »

How your attitudes affect your health

Emotional vitality—characterized by enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance—and positive views of aging are associated with lower risks of heart attack and stroke and may increase longevity. (Locked) More »

The lowdown on low-grade depression

Dysthymia, or low-grade depression, is the most common type of depression, yet it often goes undiagnosed and thus untreated. Knowing the warning signs and how the condition affects life and health can motivate people to seek appropriate treatment.  (Locked) More »

A stronger heart may help keep your brain young

People with higher levels of cardiovascular fitness may do better on tests that measure memory, motor skills, and executive function (mental skills to manage time, plan and organize, and recall details) than people who aren’t as fit. Exercise delivers extra oxygen to the brain and also seems to stimulate the growth of new cells and blood vessels in the brain. Experts believe that meeting the federal physical activity guidelines may help keep a person’s brain young, or at least slow down the normal decline in age-related thinking skills. (Locked) More »

Mindfulness: Not just for stress reduction

More doctors are beginning to embrace mindfulness as a complementary therapy. The practice that trains the mind to focus on the present moment is being used to help manage high blood pressure, bronchitis, gastrointestinal distress, headaches, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction, among other conditions. Mindfulness is effective in several ways. It can reduce stress, which may relieve symptoms and possibly resolve some disorders. Mindfulness also helps people cope better with disease by helping them accept discomfort and thereby suffer less.  (Locked) More »