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

Depression and heart disease: A two-way street

Depression is about twice as likely to occur in people with heart disease compared with the general population. Both conditions have been linked to inflammation, which may damage the heart and blood vessels. And people with depression face a heightened risk of heart disease, possibly because they have a hard time getting regular exercise and eating healthy foods. Antidepressant medications (which a primary care provider can prescribe) combined with talk therapy with a mental health professional can help.  (Locked) More »

Getting through grief

Although most people recover from the loss of a loved one, grieving can lead to depression. It’s important for the bereaved to focus on maintaining good health habits, recognize their needs and limitations, and get adequate emotional support. (Locked) More »

Trade bad habits for good ones

All habits, good or bad, follow a typical three-step pattern: reminder, routine, and reward. By breaking down the cycle of a bad habit, a person can identify what triggers the routine and begin to address what really needs to shift. This makes it easier to establish a pattern for new and healthier habits. More »

4 things you can do to alleviate caregiver stress

Taking care of a loved one can take a physical and psychological toll. Getting help with caregiving and finding emotional support are crucial for caregivers. Government programs and nonprofit organizations offer helpful resources. More »

Talk to the animals

Animal-assistant therapy (AAT)—which involves regular interaction with animals like dogs, cats, and even horses—can have both immediate and long-lasting impacts on your emotional and mental health. AAT is used to treat depression, stress, and anxiety, and older men also can use it to combat the challenges of aging, such as dealing with the loss of a loved one or declining health. (Locked) More »

Can you grow new brain cells?

The science of neurogenesis suggests it’s possible to create new neurons in the hippocampus, which can improve a person’s memory and thinking skills. Research has found that certain types of aerobic activities, stress relievers, and brain exercises can stimulate neurogenesis. (Locked) More »

Ease your pain by controlling your mind

Dependency on pain medication is on the rise, and studies have found that many older adults are at a high risk for addiction, hospitalization, and even death because of the habit of managing pain with drugs. A safer approach may be for people to change their mental perception of pain. Doing this enables them to increase their tolerance levels and not be so quick to reach for the pill bottle.  (Locked) More »