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

What to do when reading gets harder

Many aspects of health in older age can affect the ability to read, such as poor vision, pain, hand tremors, and difficulty concentrating. Treating an underlying condition can help (such as getting a new pair of reading glasses). And sometimes all it takes to improve reading is using a few strategies. If it’s painful to hold a book, one can try propping it up on a pillow or book holder. For vision challenges, electronic reading devices and large-print books can help greatly. When attention is the challenge, reading in a quiet space or reading out loud can help. (Locked) More »

An underused option for severe depression

Nonsurgical brain stimulation techniques use electrical current or magnets to stimulate the brain areas affected by depression. It’s thought that the changes in brain activity the treatments prompt help relieve symptoms of depression. A new study found that these treatments can be an effective alternative or additional therapy for people with medication-resistant severe depression. More »

Meditation: There's an app for that

A booming number of meditation apps reflect growing interest in the technique, which research shows can help with a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. But app quality may vary, so a dose of caution is warranted. People new to meditation may want to combine an app with a class to learn how to meditate effectively. (Locked) More »

Regain your confidence

It’s common for older adults to lose confidence as their body changes and they face life-altering events, like retirement, health issues, and loss of loved ones. Lack of confidence can make them more withdrawn, less active, and more fearful about everyday events like driving and handling technology. Some ways older adults can regain confidence is to work on personal appearance, learn a new skill, set a physical challenge, focus on being more social, and see a therapist or counselor to explore obstacles that affect their confidence. More »

Breathing lessons

When people experience a stressful event, they breathe from the chest. This is part of the fight-or-flight response whereby the lungs bring in more oxygen to fuel the heart and muscles. Yet people often keep breathing from the chest even when the stressful event has passed. Breathing from the belly can counter this reaction by activating the body’s relaxation response and reducing heart rate and blood pressure. (Locked) More »

More evidence that exercise can boost mood

Researchers found that regular exercise seems to prevent depression. The study used genetic data to answer the question of whether a lack of movement causes depression or if depression causes people to move less. Moving more, even when just performing ordinary daily activities, such as walking or gardening, can reduce the risk of depression. More »

The power of forgiveness

Almost everyone has experienced being wronged by a person or group. Dwelling on those events and reliving them over and over can fill a person’s mind with negative thoughts. The REACH method can help a person practice forgiveness, thereby reducing levels of stress and anxiety and increasing self-esteem and feelings of optimism. More »