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

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 »

The health benefits of writing your life story

Leaving some kind of legacy can be a driving force for many men. Writing one’s memoirs can be a way to leave behind something of lasting value for both family and friends. Besides recording life stories, memoirs can be an opportunity to pass along wisdom and life lessons, as well as a way to help explore troubling issues. (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 »

How to overcome grief’s health-damaging effects

Grieving over the death of a spouse, friend, or family member exposes people to many months of constant stress that can lead to anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and general aches and pains. This can place people at a greater risk for a heart attack, stroke, or even death, especially in the first few months of losing someone. Adopting several mind-body strategies designed to help lower and manage stress can help people get through the grieving process. (Locked) More »