Overview and Facts
Mental health is the term that describes how people think, feel and act. Mental health is extremely important at every stage of life, as it determines how we handle stress and make choices. It also affects our relationships with others.
It’s very common for people to occasionally feel worried, stressed, sad or have anxiety. However, when these feelings take over and start to interfere with daily life, the person likely has a mental illness or disorder. Mental illnesses are common, as they affect about one in five families in the U.S. Sometimes there is no or little explanation, and sometimes mental illnesses are a result of life-changing events that happen in a person’s life. Mental illnesses can be anything from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to Depression to Bipolar Disorder to Schizophrenia. Mental illness can be defined in the following broader categories:
- Anxiety disorders – these are disorders that cause people to be filled with uncertainty and fear.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Mood disorders – disorders in which a single mood exists in an unhealthy, overpowering manner
- Bipolar disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Psychotic disorders – disorders that cause abnormal thinking and losing touch with reality
- Delusional disorder
- Eating disorders – disorders in which eating behavior has severe disturbances such as extreme reduction of food intake or overeating
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge eating
- Personality disorders – these disorders occur when your ways of thinking, socializing and relating to others are dysfunctional
- Borderline personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Sexuality disorders – disorders in which a person experiences sexual dysfunction
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hypoactive sexual desire disorder
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of mental health disorders vary based on the disorder. Overall, they can be broken into the following categories:
- Unusual thoughts – delusions or hallucinations
- Feelings – ongoing sadness, anger or feelings of extreme euphoria
- Behaviors – obsessive behaviors
- Physical signs – uncontrolled breathing, sweating, racing heartbeat
Causes and Diagnosis
Determining whether a person’s mental health is normal or if it is indicative of a mental illness can sometimes be difficult since there is not an easy test for mental disorders. Instead, a doctor does a complete mental health examination to determine whether or not a disorder exists. A doctor will evaluate the following:
- Signs and symptoms – if signs and symptoms a person is experiencing clearly fall in line with symptoms of a certain disorder, it is easy to diagnose. However, symptoms aren’t always clear and they can differ over time and from person to person.
- Patient’s perceptions – how a person perceives his or her own behavior and how symptoms affect daily life can determine if a mental illness is present.
- Outside perceptions – family, friends and co-workers may be helpful in offering their perception of a person’s behavior and daily life. The patient may believe his or her behaviors are normal, but those around the person may find them peculiar and abnormal.
Tests and Treatment Options
People will mental illnesses can carry on a relatively normal life with the help of medicine and therapy. However, there are cases of mental disorders where it can seriously impact a person’s life and the lives of those around that person. If you suspect that you or someone you know is struggling with a mental disorder, it is important to start conversations with a family doctor, counselor or other mental health professional. This can lead to getting proper treatment, which can improve the quality of life.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
Mental illness can’t always be prevented, but there are everyday tips that can improve your mental health:
- Spend ample time with family and friends
- Get lots of rest
- Get regular exercise
- Try something new to eat and practice good nutrition
- Volunteer or get involved with the community
- Exercise your mind with a puzzle or book
- Take time for yourself