Courtesy of the Mayo Clinic
Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.
A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy).
Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
Examples of signs and symptoms include:
Feeling sad or down
Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
Withdrawal from friends and activities
Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
Problems with alcohol or drug use
Major changes in eating habits
Sex drive changes
Excessive anger, hostility or violence
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder appear as physical problems, such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.
If you have any signs or symptoms of a mental illness, see your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Most mental illnesses don't improve on their own, and if untreated, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.
If your loved one shows signs of mental illness, have an open and honest discussion with him or her about your concerns. You may not be able to force someone to get professional care, but you can offer encouragement and support. You can also help your loved one find a qualified mental health professional and make an appointment. You may even be able to go along to the appointment.
If your loved one has done self-harm or is considering doing so, take the person to the hospital or call for emergency help. The national Mental Health Helpline is accessible at 1-800-662 -HELP.