What is Mental Health
Mental health refers to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. A neurotypical person with good mental health will find it easier to lead a happy and healthy life.
There are a variety of factors that influence mental health, including genetics and life events. Mental health can also be affected by illness and chemical imbalances in the brain. In these cases, the individual is said to be suffering from a mental health disorder or mental illness.
Mental health disorders affect mood, thought processes, and behaviors. Common examples of mental health disorders include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mental Health Statistics
It can be said that there is currently a mental health crisis in the United States. As many as one in five American adults experience at least one bout of mental illness each year. The statistic is the same, one in five, for adolescent Americans aged 13 to 15.
Although mental illness is common throughout the country, the types of illness and their severity vary. One in 25 adults experience serious and even debilitating mental illness every year. Serious mental illness (SMI) significantly hinders the person’s ability to lead a normal, happy life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are more likely to suffer from SMI than men, and people between the ages of 18-25 are also at a higher risk of suffering from an SMI.
What Causes Mental Illness
The term mental illness is broad, encompassing many different conditions with various causes and effects. Though mental health disorders can affect anyone without warning. Researchers believe mental illness is influenced by factors such as:
- Daily habits
- Environmental factors
- Brain chemistry
- Substance abuse
Types of Mental Health Disorders
Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to categorize and diagnose mental health conditions.
Though the DSM-5 lists nearly 300 different conditions, these are some of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States:
Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health disorder that affects around 2.8% of Americans each year. Extreme shifts in mood characterize bipolar disorder. Symptoms include an exponentially elevated mood called mania, which shifts without warning to extremely low, depressive states. Another name for bipolar disorder is manic depression.
Bipolar disorder is usually categorized as a serious mental illness, and sufferers can have trouble holding down a job, attending to daily responsibilities, and maintaining relationships.
Learn more about bipolar disorder and how it is treated.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and debilitating feelings of stress, nervousness, and fear. GAD is very different from normal anxiety or feelings of worry. GAD sufferers will worry incessantly about things that are mostly out of their control.
This extreme anxiety can be debilitating and can interfere with the sufferer’s ability to perform daily activities and maintain relationships.
Often, people suffering from GAD will experience frequent panic attacks, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and an inability to calm themselves.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
There is a misconception in American culture that OCD is just about organization. In reality, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) goes much deeper than cleaning and organizing. Intrusive, repetitive thoughts and obsessions characterize OCD.
These obsessions and thoughts often lead the individual to carry out tasks compulsively and repetitively. One example of this is an OCD sufferer needing to wash their hands a very specific number of times, frequently throughout the day because they are obsessive about hygiene.
Though most people with diagnosed OCD realize that their thoughts and actions are irrational, they cannot cease the toxic thinking. OCD affects about 2-3 percent of people in the United States.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major depressive disorder (MDD), also called clinical depression, is one of the most common mental health disorders in the US. Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health show that more than 7 percent of adult Americans experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017 alone.
MDD severely impacts mood and basic physical functions such as appetite and sleep. The person will experience feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities. A major depressive episode can last two weeks or more. Individuals suffering from MDD are at a much higher risk of committing suicide.
Schizophrenia is categorized as a serious mental health disorder and can lead to dangerous behavior. People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations and have delusions that lead them to hear voices and see and think things that aren’t based on reality. These delusions can potentially put them in risky situations if left unaddressed. Severe schizophrenia requires immediate attention.
Statistics aren’t easy to come by, but it is estimated that around 1 percent of Americans suffer from schizophrenia.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
Signs and symptoms of mental illness vary from disorder to disorder and are influenced by the patient’s socioeconomic circumstances and other factors.
Some symptoms of mental illness that are often seen across a few disorders include:
- Extreme mood swings
- Confusion and listlessness
- Inability to concentrate which leads to problems with work and school
- Excessive fears or worries and extreme feelings of guilt
- Withdrawal from friends and obligations, self-isolation
- Low energy or problems sleeping and chronic fatigue
- Detachment from reality (delusions) or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with minor daily problems and stressors
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and people
- Loss of or increase in appetite
- Increased or decreased libido
- Aggression, hostility, and violent behavior
- Suicidal thinking
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder manifest as physical problems. People with depression and anxiety can experience stomach pain, back pain, headaches, or other unexplained aches and pains.
Because the symptoms of mental illness manifest themselves differently in each person and depend on the illness and many other environmental factors, it is always best to visit a psychiatrist or psychologist for a clinical diagnosis. People who have a mental illness should never try to self-medicate or self-diagnose themselves.
Dual-Diagnosis / Co-Disorders
Mental Health Disorders & Substance Abuse
Mental illness and addiction very commonly overlap. The Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states that nearly 9 million Americans have a co-occurring disorder. Even though nearly 40 percent of those who suffer from addiction also have a mental illness, less than half get help for either disorder.
Unfortunately, co-occurring disorders can also worsen each other. If the mental illness is untreated, the substance abuse and addiction get worse. On the other end of the spectrum, increased alcohol and drug abuse can exacerbate mental illness symptoms and even trigger more severe episodes.
Often, alcohol and drugs will be used as a form of self-medication. Individuals may use alcohol and drugs to soothe and lessen the symptoms of mental illness. They may also feel the substances help them cope with stress, difficult emotions and improve their mood. In fact, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs can lead to terrible side-effects that worsen the mental health disorder symptoms over time.
In addition to this, if the individual is taking prescription medication such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers to treat their mental illness, alcohol and drugs can interact with the medication, resulting in new, often worse, symptoms.
Another consideration is that drug and alcohol abuse can increase the risk of underlying mental illness. Underlying mental illness can be triggered by a variety of factors, including environment and genetics. For example, some data shows that people who abuse opioids are at a greater risk of developing depression.
Due to how common co-occurring disorders are, most drug and alcohol rehab centers will have specialists on-site to treat both mental illness and addiction that co-occur.
Types of Mental Health Treatment
Mental health treatment is not one-size-fits-all. There are no miracle cures, and treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. While mental health disorders cannot usually be cured, medications and psychotherapy can address underlying causes, alleviate symptoms, and influence the individual’s coping strategies.
The three main forms of mental health disorder treatment are:
Talk therapy gives you the space to discuss your feelings, thoughts, life, and obstacles with a mental health professional. Many talk therapy types are used to treat mental illness, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Psychodynamic Therapy.
In most cases, therapists will act as a sounding board and neutral mediator between the patient and their problems. Therapy gives the individual a chance to understand their condition and develop coping skills.
There are four main categories of medications used to treat mental health disorders:
- Antidepressants (SSRIs)
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Antipsychotic medications
- Mood-stabilizing medications
Determining which prescription medication is best for the condition depends on the type and severity of symptoms experienced. Any other chronic health issues may have a role to play. Finding the proper medication is very important, and often different medications will be trialed until the right type and dosage are found.
Hospital and inpatient treatment
In some cases of more severe mental illness, or when the patient is a suicide risk, a hospital stay or inpatient treatment at a mental health facility may be required.
Get Help for Mental Illness
If you suspect that you or a loved one are suffering from mental illness, it is important to seek professional help. Only a qualified mental health practitioner will be able to diagnose you or your loved one, and help find the right course of treatment for managing the symptoms of the mental illness. This is the only way to avoid the potential risk of addiction, suicide, and other self-harming behaviors that can occur when a mental health disorder is left untreated.
At Addiction Rehab Center, we specialize in treatment plans for co-occurring disorders. Get in touch with us today. Our treatment navigators will help you find the right treatment center for your co-occurring disorder so you can get your life back on track.