Mental health is the ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges and build meaningful relationships. It also includes a person’s capacity to laugh and have fun. Having strong mental health can help people live longer, healthier lives and can prevent illnesses.
Mental illnesses are common and affect about 1 in 5 adults in the United States each year. They can cause a wide range of problems in a person’s life, including poor performance at work and school, fewer employment opportunities and an increased risk of suicide.
Getting treatment is important for anyone who experiences mental illness. Untreated mental illnesses can cause higher medical costs, a decrease in quality of life and increased risk of physical injury or death through accidents, violence and suicide.
About 18% of Americans ages 18-54 have an anxiety disorder in a given year, including panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety is normal, but when it becomes severe or lasts for long periods, it may be considered a mental illness.
Depression is another common mental health problem that is more common in older people. Symptoms of depression can include feeling down all the time, loss of interest in daily activities, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and trouble concentrating.
People can be diagnosed with a mental illness through a series of tests and examinations. Doctors usually do a medical exam to rule out physical conditions and other issues that may be causing symptoms of the disorder. They can then do a psychological evaluation to get more information about a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Genetics, environmental exposures and brain chemistry are other factors that can contribute to a person’s risk of developing a mental illness. If a person has a family history of mental illness, or if their parents or siblings have a mental illness, they are more likely to develop one themselves.
A person’s social environment can also impact their mental health. Having friends and family who have similar situations can increase a person’s sense of self-esteem, which may make it easier to cope with their symptoms.
In addition, having a healthy diet and regular exercise can also improve a person’s mental health. Eating healthy foods and being physically active can reduce depression, stress and anxiety.
Some mental illnesses have a common trigger, such as grief or loss. Others have no known cause.
If you think you might have a mental illness, see your doctor as soon as possible. Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional, who can help you get better.
Identifying the right support system can be difficult for people with a mental health disorder. Many people who are suffering from a mental illness may be ashamed or afraid to talk about it with friends or family members. If this is the case, consider asking a friend or family member to help you reach out for support.
Take control of your mental health by making positive lifestyle choices and by getting the help you need.