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 you missing these signs of anxiety or depression?

Depression and anxiety are not a routine part of aging. But the signs of these conditions are sometimes brushed aside. Common symptoms include apathy, hopelessness, changes in sleeping or eating habits, persistent fatigue, difficulty focusing or making decisions, mood swings, unending worry, and wanting to be alone. If any of these symptoms are interfering in a person’s daily life, it may be time to reach out for help. Treatment ranges from medications and talk therapy to exercise and socializing. More »

Does loneliness play a role in cardiovascular problems?

Many older adults are at risk for social isolation because they’re divorced or have lost a partner. But loneliness may slightly raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, perhaps by increasing stress hormones that can harm the cardiovascular system. One explanation for this phenomenon is that solitary people don’t have anyone to help them manage stress and cope with difficult situations. Ways to increase social connectivity include signing up for a class, joining a group (such as a book club), or volunteering. (Locked) More »

How meditation helps with depression

Depression continues to be a major health issue for older adults, affecting about 20% of adults ages 65 and older. Antidepressants and psychotherapy are the usual first-line treatments, but ongoing research has suggested that a regular meditation practice also can help by changing how the brain reacts to stress and anxiety, which are often the main triggers of depression. (Locked) More »

How atrial fibrillation may affect your brain

People with atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm disorder that causes a rapid, irregular heart rate—may face an increase risk of thinking and memory problems. Atrial fibrillation causes blood to pool in the heart’s upper left chamber, which may form clots that can travel to the brain, causing a stroke. But tiny clots can cause silent, unnoticed strokes. Over time, these stroke gradually injure part of the brain involved with thinking and memory. (Locked) More »

Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature

Many men are at higher risk for mood disorders as they age, from dealing with sudden life changes like health issues, the loss of loved ones, and even the new world of retirement. If they do not want to turn to medication or therapy for help, men can find relief by interacting more with nature, whether by walking in the woods, listening to nature sounds, or even looking at pictures of soothing outdoor settings. More »

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 »

How to stay motivated

Want to make a change but wondering how to stay motivated? Dr. Srini Pillay talks about the things that can impact personal motivation and the power of a sense of meaning to help you stick with your goals. More »