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

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and discomfort bottled up, they get more irritable, feel less confident in their ability to be active, and become more withdrawn.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 »

Could changes in thinking skills be reversible dementia?

We use the term "dementia" to describe a number of conditions that cause permanent thinking skills changes, such as memory loss and confusion. The most common kind of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which is characterized by clumping proteins that get tangled in and around brain cells, eventually causing them to die. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, caused by decreased blood flow to the brain from atherosclerosis—the accumulation of fatty deposits on artery walls. Once dementia strikes, the damage is permanent, and we don't have many treatment options. So, before a diagnosis is made, it's crucial to rule out whether the causes for dementia are actually reversible conditions. More »

4 tricks to rev up your memory

Forgetting things from time to time is probably related to either brain changes that come from aging or from underlying conditions. Treating underlying conditions can help boost memory. Other strategies can help, too. Tricks include repeating something out loud to increase the likelihood that information will be recorded and retrieved later when needed; creating a list of errands or appointments to give the brain additional hints to retrieve information; and making associations between old and new information, such as connecting a person’s first name to something familiar. More »

Can drinking tea prevent dementia?

A new study suggests being a regular drinker of tea may protect against dementia, especially for people who are genetically predisposed to the disease. Researchers point to tea components like flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential, and L-theanine, which regulates neurotransmitter and brain activities. More »

The healing power of art

Creative activities, particularly when undertaken with the direction of a trained art therapist, can relieve stress and aid communication in people with cancer, dementia, or depression. Doing arts and crafts can help arrest cognitive decline in healthy older people. (Locked) More »

Can relationships boost longevity and well-being?

A Harvard study that’s lasted for eight decades suggests that maintaining meaningful relationships plays an important role in health, happiness, and longevity. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has collected health and wellness information from a group of men since they were teenagers in 1938. By following the men, researchers have found that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and longer-lived than people who are less well connected. (Locked) More »

Looking for early signs of Alzheimer’s

For a long time, memory loss was seen as the telltale sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but this is not necessarily the best way to identify the disease in its earliest stages. In fact, it is now believed that Alzheimer’s-related changes begin in the brain at least a decade before common symptoms emerge. The goal now is to find multiple markers and use a consolidated effort in hopes of diagnosing the disease as early as possible. More »

The power of the placebo effect

The idea that the brain can convince the body a fake treatment is the real thing—the so-called placebo effect—and thus stimulate healing has been around for millennia. But research has shown that under the right circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments. (Locked) More »