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

Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help

Companies are promoting weighted blankets as a means of reducing anxiety and stress and helping people sleep. While evidence on the efficacy of these blankets is scarce, there are few risks in trying them. Weighted blankets and vests are in use by medical professionals to treat children with autism spectrum disorder and other behavioral disorders. People with certain medical problems should check with a doctor first. More »

Can supplements save your sex life?

Most dietary supplements for sexual function haven’t been studied scientifically and may be a waste of money or dangerous for health. The supplements often contain hidden pharmaceutical drugs—like traces of PDE5 inhibitors, medications in the same class that includes prescription erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, and smoking cessation can help boost sexual function without medication. If not, there are medical approaches that can help. More »

Grief can hurt — in more ways than one

The emotional side of grieving can affect the whole body and all organ systems, and maybe even the immune system. Grief is associated with stress; heart problems; depression; and depression-related symptoms such as insomnia, social withdrawal, and a loss of appetite. Though it may feel difficult, it’s important to maintain healthy habits during a period of grief, such as eating right and exercising. Social connections—seeing friends and family—are also crucial for good health, even when grieving. More »

Past trauma may haunt your future health

People who have experienced traumatic events are at higher risk for a number of chronic conditions, including heart disease. Risk is particularly high for those who experienced multiple adverse childhood events. Therapy can help people move past trauma and improve their health. More »

The no-drug approach to mild depression

While antidepressants can relieve and control symptoms of mild or moderate depression, they are not the only option. Fortunately, many nondrug options are available to help manage depression symptoms and prevent future episodes, such as exercising regularly, avoiding unhealthy foods, expressing gratitude, and staying socially active. More »

Can your eyes see Alzheimer’s disease in your future?

Research shows that people with certain eye diseases, specifically glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, appear to have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. The underlying link for these conditions may be related to their common risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. (Locked) More »

Omega-3s for anxiety?

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help ease anxiety symptoms in people diagnosed with a range of physical and mental health problems. But additional research is needed to confirm this possible benefit. More »

The head-heart connection: Mental health and heart disease

People with high levels of psychological distress, including symptoms of anxiety and depression, may be more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. Mood disorders and heart disease may have shared, underlying causes that begin even before birth that are carried throughout life. A fetus exposed to its mother’s immune or inflammatory responses may experience changes that affect specific brain regions that regulate both mood and cardiac function. (Locked) More »

Tips to remember

Occasional memory lapses are upsetting, but unfortunately are a natural part of aging. These changes can slow certain cognitive processes, which makes it more difficult at times to learn and recall new and existing information. These minor memory lapses are often not a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, and there are ways for older adults to sharpen their everyday memory to help retain just-learned information. More »