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 atrial fibrillation may affect your brain

People with atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm disorder that causes a rapid, irregular heart rate—may face an increase risk of thinking and memory problems. Atrial fibrillation causes blood to pool in the heart’s upper left chamber, which may form clots that can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. But tiny clots can cause silent, unnoticed strokes. Over time, these stroke gradually injure part of the brain involved with thinking and memory. (Locked) More »

Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature

Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement. If they do not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, men can find relief by interacting more with nature, whether by walking in the woods, listening to nature sounds, or even looking at pictures of soothing outdoor settings. More »

The new networking

In order to stave off isolation and loneliness in later life, a person should consider expanding his or her social network by reaching out to create new friends. It may take work to find and nurture relationships. Some ways to meet new people include getting to know one’s neighbors, volunteering for political organizations, joining an adult sports league, getting a part-time job, mentoring young people, joining a choir, taking a class, and just asking an acquaintance to meet for coffee. (Locked) More »

A personalized approach to preventing Alzheimer’s disease

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, ongoing research suggests that people can lower their risk by adopting certain diet, exercise, and lifestyle behaviors. These include doing adequate amounts of weekly aerobic exercise, following the MIND diet, not smoking, and getting sufficient sleep. (Locked) More »

Tuning in: How music may affect your heart

Music engages many different areas of the brain, which may explain why listening to music may boost exercise ability, ease stress and anxiety, and enhance recovery from heart surgery and strokes. Listening to or creating music (playing an instrument or singing) triggers the release of a brain chemical that makes people feel engaged and motivated, which may allow people to exercise longer. Relaxing music may lower a person’s heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure—perhaps because sound processing begins in the brainstem, which also controls the heart rate and respiration. Patient-selected music shows more benefit than music selected by someone else. (Locked) More »

Working later in life can pay off in more than just income

Many older adults are working past retirement age, which may have a good or a bad effect on health. Studies have linked working past age 65 to a reduced risk for developing heart attack or dementia, and a reduced risk of dying prematurely. However, working past retirement age can cause stress. Some studies have linked retiring from the work force with a substantial reduction in mental and physical fatigue and depressive symptoms. If one is going to work past retirement age, it’s best to get a job that is meaningful and enjoyable. More »

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis

Any kind of cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. But one part of the cancer process that often gets pushed aside is the psychological aspect of how to manage the stress, anxiety, and depression that come with it. No matter a person’s prognosis, there are ways to address the emotional aspects of dealing with cancer. (Locked) More »

When the arrival of menopause brings symptoms of depression

The odds of experiencing symptoms of depression go up as women reach perimenopause and early postmenopause. Hormone therapy has been shown to help ward off these symptoms. But experts say despite the findings, hormone therapy should be used for prevention only in limited circumstances, because the treatment brings its own risks. More »