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

Are video calls a loneliness cure?

Doctors say connecting with loved ones and friends via video calls may help people feel less lonely and isolated. Video calls are made using applications ("apps") on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. These apps enable users to reach people anywhere in the world. As of the spring of 2020, apps commonly used to make video calls included FaceTime, Google Duo, Snapchat, Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp. Video calls can also be used to engage in book clubs, support groups, or exercise instruction. (Locked) More »

Is your habit getting out of control?

Times of stress or trauma can trigger new substance use disorders or lead to relapse in people who are recovering. During these times, the brain seeks to find relief for the most pressing short-term problems, which takes the focus off long-term health. People shouldn’t wait until the problem is entrenched to seek help. Reaching out early brings benefits. (Locked) More »

In search of sleep

Many factors, including hot flashes, mood disorders, and sleep apnea, can disrupt sleep in women who are going through menopause. Getting treatment for chronic sleep problems is crucial to long-term health. Women who don’t get enough sleep may be at higher risk for a number of medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and dementia. More »

Overcome your fear factor

Research has shown that feelings of general anxiety, nervousness, and fear tend to rise with age. This can lead to increased isolation and less exercise, and may progress to an anxiety disorder. Strategies to help manage and overcome increased feelings of fear include seeing a therapist, practicing mindfulness, consulting with a financial expert, and hiring a personal trainer. More »

Surviving tumultuous times

Traumatic events in the world or personal life can take a toll on mental health. Strategies such as limiting news about the event, taking an active role in the problem, and reframing the event in more positive terms can help people endure the event and successfully move on. People may need to get professional health help if sadness and stress lead to a mood disorder, such as depression. More »

Your heart’s best friend: A canine companion?

Living with a dog may help protect against heart disease and help people live longer. Potential perks of dog ownership include lower blood pressure, a lower resting heart rate, and possible small improvements in cholesterol levels, perhaps because dog owners are less sedentary than non-owners. But dogs may also provide emotional and social benefits, such as reducing loneliness and anxiety, encouraging people to interact with neighbors, and fostering stronger ties to the community. (Locked) More »

Testing for dementia

There is no cure for dementia, and people cannot substantially reverse its effects, but there are ways to possibly slow its progression. But first, people need to know if they may have a memory disorder. Testing to confirm Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is a multilayered process that includes several types of neuropsychological evaluations and biomarker testing. (Locked) More »

The dating game

One downside to aging is the higher likelihood that people may be without a partner at some point. No matter what the reason for an individual’s singlehood, an excellent remedy is to begin dating again. Older people can find potential partners using Internet dating sites or by interacting with various group and community activities. More »

How to be a mentor

Older adults who serve as a mentor to a child or young adult can not only help someone else, but also improve many aspects of their own health, such as self-esteem, cognitive function, and quality of life, and reduce their risk of loneliness and depression. (Locked) More »