Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. The term “mental health” is often used to mean an absences of a mental disorder; however, there is more to it than that. The World Health Organization stresses that mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Many factors contribute to mental illness:
- Biological factors (genes or brain chemistry)
- Life experiences (trauma or abuse)
- Family history of mental health problems
Mental health illnesses are common. Almost 1 in 5 Americans experience mental health problems each year. A large portion of the people who have mental disorders have more than one.
There are many types of mental conditions. The medical community recognizes more than 200 classified types of mental illness. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), 5th edition, to classify and diagnose mental illnesses.
Some common types of mental health disorders include:
- Anxiety disorders (panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias)
- Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, cyclothymic disorder)
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder)
- Personality disorders (borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder)
- Psychotic disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, postpartum psychosis)
- Dementia (Alzheimer’s disease, head conditions, substance-induced dementia)
- Disorder may worsen and become more complicated
- Development of long-term physical issues
- Decrease quality of life
- Hindering of personal relationship
- Becoming victimized
- Increased potential for incarceration
- Increased risk of accidents
- Increased risk of substance abuse
Because the consequences of a long-term untreated mental illness are potentially sever, it is extremely important to recognize the signs and seek help as soon as possible.
It is not possible to reliably tell whether someone will develop a mental health disorder. However, there are some signs could offer clues if they happen in a short space of time.
- Withdrawing from people or activities they normally enjoy
- Feeling as if nothing matters
- Consistently low energy
- Using drugs more than normal – including alcohol and nicotine
- Displaying uncharacteristic emotions
- Not being about to complete standard tasks – like cooking a meal, going to work, taking a shower
- Persistent thoughts or memories that appear regularly
- Thinking of harming one’s self or others
- Hearing voices
There are various ways people with mental health illnesses might receive treatment. Treatments are determined case by case, and what might work for one, may not work for another. One person may have multiple treatment plans or strategies. Someone with a chronic mental disorder may choose different options at different stages in their life.
Psychotherapy (talking therapy) – This is a psychological approach to treating mental illness, and may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy.
Medication – These can improve symptoms, but they cannot cure mental disorders.
Self-Help – This includes lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol intake, improve sleeping habits, and a healthier diet.
Sources: MedlinePlus.gov and The World Health Organization
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