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

5-minute fixes for better health

Focusing on small ways to improve health may feel less daunting to some people than taking on big lifestyle changes. Ideas include doing five-minute bursts of a helpful activity. These include five minutes of exercising, meditating, removing fall hazards in the home, moisturizing the skin, watching an educational video about an unfamiliar subject, calling a friend, throwing out expired medications, removing a junk food item in the pantry, and tossing spoiled foods from the refrigerator. Another suggestion is to get five more minutes of sleep each night. (Locked) More »

Do hangovers damage the brain?

Evidence suggests that alcohol hangovers impair concentration, memory, and psychomotor speed. It’s unclear, however, if hangovers cause lasting brain damage. (Locked) More »

Drugstore sleep aids may bring more risks than benefits

Over-the-counter sleep aids are commonly used but may have side effects and risks, including daytime grogginess. They have also been associated with impaired thinking and memory loss. Improved sleep practices and even cognitive behavioral therapy are safer and more effective long-term strategies to address insomnia. More »

Finding hidden risk for heart disease

Most men are familiar with the common factors related to a higher heart disease risk, like cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, poor diet, and inadequate exercise. But there are other signs of risk men may not recognize, such as erectile dysfunction, abdominal fat, gum disease, and depression. The good news is that once these issues are recognized, they can be addressed and managed. (Locked) More »

The head-heart connection: Mental health and heart disease

People with high levels of psychological distress, including symptoms of anxiety and depression, may be more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. Mood disorders and heart disease may have shared, underlying causes that begin even before birth that are carried throughout life. A fetus exposed to its mother’s immune or inflammatory responses may experience changes that affect specific brain regions that regulate both mood and cardiac function. (Locked) More »

Tips to remember

Occasional memory lapses are upsetting, but unfortunately are a natural part of aging. These changes can slow certain cognitive processes, which makes it more difficult at times to learn and recall new and existing information. These minor memory lapses are often not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and there are ways for older adults to sharpen their everyday memory to help retain just-learned information. More »

What is “broken-heart syndrome?”

Stress cardiomyopathy—also known as “broken-heart syndrome”—is a reversible heart condition that often mimics a heart attack. First described more than 25 years ago, it is now recognized more often than in the past. It usually results from severe physical or emotional stress, such as a severe medical illness, the death of a family member, or a natural disaster. During an episode, the heart takes on an unusual shape, in which the tip of the left ventricle balloons outward and the base contracts. The heart’s workload increases, leading to symptoms such as chest pain and breathlessness. But the condition usually resolves within a month. (Locked) More »