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

Boot camp for better sleep

Being worried about not being able to sleep can itself become the primary cause of insomnia. People with this problem begin to dread trying to sleep and develop negative feelings and beliefs about sleep. A counseling technique called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. It is more effective than sleeping pills in the long term. Many insurance providers cover this service.  (Locked) More »

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain problem that can make it hard for kids to behave appropriately. It can also make time in the classroom challenging, interfere with schoolwork, and affect a child’s social and emotional development. Brain imaging studies suggest that kids with ADHD have brains that work a little differently than the brains of kids without this condition. ADHD tends to run in families. More »

Seasonal affective disorder

In the northern and southern regions of the world, winter means shorter days and longer nights. This seasonal shift, and the lack of sunlight that goes along with it, can trigger a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder. People with seasonal affective disorder, sometimes known as the winter blues, begin to experience sadness, depression, and fatigue in the late fall; symptoms fade away in the spring. Women tend to develop seasonal affective disorder more than men. The condition often begins in the third or fourth decade of life, though some children show signs of it. Individuals with seasonal affective disorder experience some of these symptoms: More »

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is a slight but noticeable change in thinking and memory skills. People with mild cognitive impairment may lose things often, have difficulty recalling names or words, miss appointments, and have a harder time finding familiar places and keeping track of important dates. These changes are large enough to be noticed by the individuals experiencing them or to other people, but aren't severe enough to interfere with daily life or independent function. People with mild cognitive impairment don't have dementia. Some eventually go on to develop Alzheimer's or other type of dementia. Others don't. There are several types of mild cognitive impairment. They are based on the thinking skills affected: More »

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, once known as manic-depressive disorder or manic depression, is a form of depression in which periods of deep depression alternate with periods of hyperactivity and uncontrolled elation (mania). People with bipolar disorder differ from those with other depressive disorders in that their moods swing from depression to mania, often with periods of relatively normal mood between the two extremes. The disorder usually begins with a depressive episode in adolescence or early adulthood. The first manic phase may not follow until several years later. The length of the cycle, from the heights of mania to deep depression, varies from person to person. The risk of suicide is high among people with bipolar disorder; an estimated 1 of 4 people attempt suicide, and 1 of 10 succeed. More »

Generalized anxiety disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time — usually in response to physical stress (such as nearly being run over by a car) or psychological stress (such as having your boss threaten to fire you). When you are being tested or challenged in some way, normal anxiety warns of potential danger and prepares you to deal with it. Normal anxiety has its roots in fear—an emotion that serves an important function. When you face a dangerous or stressful situation, fear helps motivate the body to take action by activating the flight or fight response: the heart beats faster, sending more blood to the muscles; breathing becomes heavier; and muscles tense in readiness for movement. This defensive mechanism provides the body with the necessary energy and strength to cope with threatening situations. When our prehistoric ancestors saw a tiger lying in wait for them, they needed to run. In people with generalized anxiety disorder, the same physical and emotional mechanisms are set in motion, even though there is no physical threat to contend with. For them, feelings of anxiety or apprehension occur for no specific reason. More »