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

Can a dietary supplement help ease your depression?

Some supplements may ease depression symptoms. Supplements that may help include fish oil, methylfolate, N-acetylcysteine, St. John’s wort, and vitamin D. It’s not generally considered dangerous to take certain over-the-counter supplements, but there are some risks. For example, St. John’s wort has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of many drugs, and omega-3 supplements may increase bleeding risk in people taking blood thinners. It’s best to talk to a doctor before starting a supplement regimen. (Locked) More »

Outrunning the risk of dementia

If dementia runs in the family, research suggests there are ways to perhaps avoid the same fate. Adopting certain lifestyle habits—such as engaging in regular aerobic exercise; following a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diet; not smoking; and keeping alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day on average—may offer protection against dementia, delay its appearance, and even slow its progression. More »

Will a pill really help your sex life?

Erectile dysfunction drugs are more readily available than ever before, and in general, men have gotten past any stigma about needing them to get or maintain an erection. Yet many men approach ED drugs the wrong way and think the pills can fix problems in their sex lives that are related to mental or emotional issues. (Locked) More »

Sexual and gender minorities face unique health risks

Sexual and gender minorities may have higher risks of certain health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. A new study also found that they may be at higher risk for dementia.  There are strategies that can mitigate this risk, including adopting health habits proven to promote heart health, such as a healthy diet, regular screening exams and frequent exercise. Experts also recommend addressing mental health problems quickly and finding a LGBT-friendly provider. (Locked) More »

Shining a light on winter depression

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the late fall and early winter, with lack of natural light cited as the main contributor. Adopting light therapy, which involves exposure from a light box for about 30 minutes a day, can help restore the brain chemical imbalances that contribute to SAD. More »

Protect your heart, preserve your mind?

People who have a heart attack or angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart) may face a faster drop in thinking skills than people who don’t experience those heart-related problems. The underlying cause of this long-observed connection between the heart and brain is not exactly clear. But high blood pressure and other factors that damage arteries to the heart may also harm vessels in the brain. Regular exercise, along with controlling other risk factors for heart disease—especially high blood pressure—may help prevent cognitive decline. (Locked) More »

A purpose-driven life may last longer

Having a purpose in life may help improve health, according to a new study. Study authors found that people who have a strong life purpose were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and other conditions than people who don’t. Volunteering, contributing to the well-being of family members, and hobbies are all things that people report give them purpose in life. (Locked) More »