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

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 »

How stress can harm your heart

Emotional stress may raise heart attack risk as much as smoking and high blood pressure. Stress has been linked to heightened activity in the brain’s fear center (amygdala), which signals the bone marrow to release white blood cells. These cells contribute to chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis. Strategies such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep may help mitigate the risk. But so far, the evidence is limited. (Locked) More »

Learn new things without leaving home

There are many ways to learn something new while at home. Tools include smartphone apps, books, online classes, project kits, podcasts, and even YouTube videos. Learning something new brings invaluable health benefits, such as sharper thinking and maybe even better brain health. The reason behind better thinking skills that result from learning could be new brain cell connections, which may lead to more paths for information to get where it needs to go. More »

Make up your mind

Struggling with making decisions is more likely as people age and experience natural cognitive decline. This can make it harder to choose the right course of action, especially if there are multiple options. There are steps people can take to improve decision making, such as narrowing down choices, gathering only basic information, and consulting with friends and family. (Locked) More »

Should you use an antidepressant to get through a difficult time?

Taking an antidepressant is not something to jump into in order to cope with a difficult time. The medications may take up to six weeks to start working, and it can be tricky to get the dose just right. In addition, antidepressants may have side effects such as nausea, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, or sleep problems. And it can be very difficult to wean off antidepressants. For all of those reasons, antidepressants are typically not prescribed unless someone has a moderate-to-severe case of depression. (Locked) More »