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

Holiday for one?

Facing holidays alone may trigger stress, loneliness, or depression. Ways to navigate this period include reframing one’s image of what a holiday should look like. Creating new holiday traditions can help, such as making holiday foods, listening to holiday music, watching holiday entertainment on TV, or reading holiday stories. It can also help to reach out to others, for instance, by inviting neighbors over, volunteering for a local charity, or going to a community dinner. (Locked) More »

Staying connected can improve your health

Research shows that loneliness may have ill effects for health. Social bonds can fray as people age, particularly in times of stress such as after the loss of a partner or in cases of illness or disability. Taking steps to reconnect can not only help improve social life, but can also help protect health over the long term. More »

What to do about mild cognitive impairment

Everyone has occasional bouts of forgetfulness, but if these episodes become frequent or interfere with daily life, it may be a sign of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI—a stage between the usual cognitive decline of normal aging and more serious dementia. While there is no single proven method for preventing or slowing MCI, research has found that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by eating right, exercising, and perhaps enlisting in an MCI-focused clinical trial. (Locked) More »

Ramp up your resilience!

Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and it has many health benefits. It’s associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. There are many ways to increase resilience. Practicing a meditation technique counters stress by eliciting the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. Seeing the upside rather than the downside of a predicament can also help build resilience. So can leaning on friends and family. More »

The pursuit of happiness

The Harvard Study on Adult Development, the longest-running study on happiness, has found certain behaviors and lifestyle choices can influence a person’s level of happiness, such as letting go of negative relationships and past failures and maintaining social connections. Participating in other activities like volunteering, joining support groups, exercising, and rediscovering childhood activities also can help increase and maintain levels of happiness. (Locked) More »

Anxiety and heart disease: A complex connection

Small amounts of anxiety can spur people to take better care of themselves. But excessive worrying may signal an anxiety disorder, which may increase a person’s risk for heart disease. One common form is generalized anxiety disorder, which is characterized by at least six months of excessive worrying or feeling anxious about several events or activities almost every day. Other people have panic disorder, which is marked by bouts of intense anxiety (panic attacks) that may cause chest pain that is mistaken for a heart attack. Both therapy and medications can effectively treat anxiety disorders. (Locked) More »

Men (back) at work

A stronger social life is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and depression and greater immune function. Men often struggle with building social circles after they retire. Recreating the social structure of the workplace can help men stay socially active, boost thinking skills they may have left behind from work, and develop new friendships. (Locked) More »

How you deal with pain goes a long way toward relieving it

In general, men tend to be less verbal about seeking help with their pain. They accept it and tough it out, because they feel embarrassed or guilty about admitting they have pain. However, when men keep pain and discomfort bottled up, they get more irritable, feel less confident in their ability to be active, and become more withdrawn. While men need to see their doctor about the source of their physical pain and ensure they get the proper diagnosis and treatment, they also need to address their psychological pain. This begins by adopting more positive thinking. (Locked) More »

How to stay motivated

Want to make a change but wondering how to stay motivated? Dr. Srini Pillay talks about the things that can impact personal motivation and the power of a sense of meaning to help you stick with your goals. More »