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

Worries on your mind

People who worried a lot about the future or repetitively thought about unchangeable past events were more likely to experience a significant decline in cognitive function and memory in a 2020 study. People with these negative thinking patterns also had more beta-amyloid and tau protein deposits in the brain, which can be a sign of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. It’s possible, study authors said, that these negative thinking patterns raise stress hormone levels, which may lead to changes in the brain. (Locked) More »

The mental side of cardiac rehab

Recovery from a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery often involves cardiac rehabilitation. While it’s normal to have some anxiety and stress after a heart-related issue, dealing with these issues and treating even more significant problems such as depression can affect people’s recovery success and increase their risk of future problems. (Locked) More »

Tips to defuse a meltdown

There are several ways to escape a meltdown—an overwhelming feeling of stress or anger. One strategy is to calm the body with slow breathing. Another strategy is to shift one’s thought patterns. This can be done by paying attention to one’s inner dialogue, trying not to believe one’s thoughts automatically, asking if the thoughts are fact or opinion, thinking about the big picture, and realizing that these emotions will fade. Someone who is experiencing frequent meltdowns should consider speaking to a doctor. More »

Another strategy to cope with life’s dark times

Evidence suggests that attending a religious service at least once per week is associated with a much lower risk of "death from despair" (suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning), compared with never attending religious services. More »

Brain health and walking speed often decline together

Scientists found that slower gait speed and cognitive decline may be related, as both may be affected by similar factors, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and abnormal deposits of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain. More »

How to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe and potentially debilitating anxiety disorder that affects people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD often develops in combat veterans, but it can also strike older adults, and especially men. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to help treat and manage PTSD. These include prolonged exposure therapy, social support, medication, exercise, and meditation. (Locked) More »

Recognizing and easing the physical symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can produce physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach upset, and tightness in the chest. Sometimes this sets up a vicious cycle, in which anxiety triggers physical symptoms, and the symptoms magnify anxiety, which makes them even worse. Doing distracting tasks or relaxation exercises can help break this cycle. People should seek professional help if symptoms can’t be controlled. More »