Mental illness is a serious medical condition that affects your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It can make it difficult to work or school, keep up with daily chores, and have healthy relationships. It can also affect your mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. But, with early and consistent treatment—often a combination of medication and psychotherapy—it is possible to manage your condition and lead a fulfilling life.
Psychological illness is caused by an imbalance in chemicals in your brain. This imbalance can be caused by genetics, biology, and life experiences. Many people with mental health conditions have a family history of the illness or have experienced traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or a loss.
Depression is the most common mental illness. It can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or extreme fatigue. It can also affect your thinking and judgment. Bipolar disorder is another condition that can cause extreme shifts in your mood. Symptoms of this condition include manic episodes, which are periods where you feel very happy or euphoric, and depressive episodes, which are times when you feel deep sadness. Schizophrenia is another mental disorder that can cause you to have hallucinations, delusions, and highly disorganized thinking.
In order to be diagnosed with a psychological illness, you must have significant disturbances in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The disturbances must be different from the way most people react to certain life events, and they must be persistent or severe. If you are experiencing psychosis, you may need to undergo a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital.
Once you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, your psychiatrist or psychologist will develop a treatment plan that is unique to you. Treatment usually includes psychotherapy, which is a conversation with a trained mental health professional that can help you understand your symptoms and their causes. You will learn coping skills and strategies that you can use to manage your symptoms. Some psychotherapies may be done individually, while others are group based. Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can be beneficial for some people.
Medication can help reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of some mental illnesses. These medicines may be prescribed by your doctor or a mental health professional. They may be given orally, injected, or inhaled. Psychotherapy paired with medication is the most effective way to promote recovery from mental illness.
Although scientists don’t know what causes mental illness, they do know that it can happen to anyone. Most people recover from their mental illness with the right treatment and support. With early and consistent treatment—often a mix of medication and psychotherapy—it is possible for most people to overcome their symptoms and live a full life.