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

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. More »

Get the facts about memory loss

Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment are often mentioned together to describe age-related memory loss, but they are not necessarily the same, and they affect people in different ways. While there is no cure for these cognitive conditions, understanding their differences and recognizing common symptoms can provide a window of opportunity to seek medical care before any memory loss worsens. More »

Skip vitamins, focus on lifestyle to avoid dementia

New guidelines released May 19, 2019, by the World Health Organization recommend a healthy lifestyle—such as keeping weight under control and getting lots of exercise—in order to delay the onset of dementia or slow its progression. More »

What to do when reading gets harder

Many aspects of health in older age can affect the ability to read, such as poor vision, pain, hand tremors, and difficulty concentrating. Treating an underlying condition can help (such as getting a new pair of reading glasses). And sometimes all it takes to improve reading is using a few strategies. If it’s painful to hold a book, one can try propping it up on a pillow or book holder. For vision challenges, electronic reading devices and large-print books can help greatly. When attention is the challenge, reading in a quiet space or reading out loud can help. More »

Meditation: There's an app for that

A booming number of meditation apps reflect growing interest in the technique, which research shows can help with a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. But app quality may vary, so a dose of caution is warranted. People new to meditation may want to combine an app with a class to learn how to meditate effectively. More »