Mental Health

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

Almost 1 in 5 Americans experience mental health problems each year. 

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)
All mental health disorders have a potential for negative effects if left untreated. 
 
  • 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
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

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
  • Confusion
  • 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
  • Delusions

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. 

Treatments include:

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. 

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a normal part of life. But there are times when you may experience anxiety that is persistent, overwhelming, and seemingly uncontrollable. This excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the United States. Nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. Approximately 8% of children and teens experience an anxiety disorder with most people developing symptoms before age 21. Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment , even though the disorders are highly treatable. 

The term anxiety disorder refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time of depression. 

Depression

Everyone goes through moments of feeling down from time to time.  However, if that low mood lingers day after day, it could be a sign of depression. Depression is a diagnosable condition that’s classified as a mood disorder and can bring about long-lasting symptoms such as overwhelming sadness, low energy, loss of appetite, and a lack of interest in things that used to bring pleasure. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It is a major public health concern and a treatable mental health condition. There are an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States who have had at least one major depressive episode in a give year. Women are twice as likely as men to have had a depressive episode. 

Many people who experience depression may also have other mental health conditions. Anxiety disorders often go hand in hand with depression.  If you think you are depressed‚ talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. This is especially important if your symptoms are getting worse or affecting your daily activities. If left untreated, depression can lead to serious health complications. The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of major depression and cannot take the place of seeing a mental health professional.

When to Get Emergency Help

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to the emergency room, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Or you can call a suicide hotline number – in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number
  • Stay with the person until help arrives
  • Remove any guns, knives, medication , or other things that may cause harm
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell

Sources: MedlinePlus.gov and The World Health Organization

Resources

Links to various resources on the topics discuss on this page. 

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