Mental Health

Everyone feels worried or anxious or down from time to time. But relatively few people develop a mental illness. What's the difference? A mental illness is a mental health condition that gets in the way of thinking, relating to others, and day-to-day function.

Dozens of mental illnesses have been identified and defined. They include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and many more.

Mental illness is an equal opportunity issue. It affects young and old, male and female, and individuals of every race, ethnic background, education level, and income level. The good news is that it can often be treated.

Signs and symptoms of mental illness depend in part on the illness. Common symptoms include

  • feeling down for a while
  • extreme swings in mood
  • withdrawing from family, friends, or activities
  • low energy or problems sleeping
  • often feeling angry, hostile, or violent
  • feeling paranoid, hearing voices, or having hallucinations
  • often thinking about death or suicide.

In some people, symptoms of a mental illness first appear as physical problems such as stomach aches, back pain, or insomnia.

Individuals with a mental illness can often ease their symptoms and feel better by talking with a therapist and following a treatment plan that may or may not include medication.

Mental Health Articles

Feeling the burn? Antacids can provide some relief

Over-the-counter antacids may be effective at managing occasional bouts of heartburn. But persistent heartburn should be checked out by a doctor, who may want to prescribe medication or look for underlying medical causes. (Locked) More »

How yoga may enhance heart health

Practicing yoga promotes overall physical fitness, but it also includes breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation. The combined effect of these practices may improve a number of factors connected with cardiovascular health. For example, yoga helps lower blood pressure, improves sleep, and may dampen artery-damaging inflammation. By evoking the “relaxation response,” yoga may encourage emotional resilience, which can help counteract the heart-damaging effects caused by everyday (and largely unavoidable) stress. More »

Losing steam? Avoid these energy zappers

Lifestyle habits may be to blame for some daily fatigue. For example, eating too much processed food can increase inflammation, which impairs the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the molecule that delivers energy to cells throughout the body. Getting too little sleep or being too stressed out all the time can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which also reduces production of ATP. Eating a healthy diet, getting more sleep, and reducing stress can reduce fatigue. So can avoiding dehydration, exercising more, and staying socially connected. More »

The mental side of recovery

A major health issue, like surgery, an injury, or even a heart attack is hard enough to deal with without having to also confront the stress, anxiety, and even depression that often comes with it. Yet taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as physical health when it comes to recovery. Relying more on social support, focusing on being more active, and using past successful strategies can help. (Locked) More »

A noisy problem

Age-related hearing loss is common among older adults and can make people more sensitive to sounds that used to be well tolerated, such as noise from crowds and traffic, which in turn increases stress levels, leads to greater anxiety, and reduces overall quality of life. Reducing your exposure to specific sounds that might trigger negative reactions and wearing filtered earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can offer protection. (Locked) More »

Anxiety and stress weighing heavily at night? A new blanket might help

Companies are promoting weighted blankets as a means of reducing anxiety and stress and helping people sleep. While evidence on the efficacy of these blankets is scarce, there are few risks in trying them. Weighted blankets and vests are in use by medical professionals to treat children with autism spectrum disorder and other behavioral disorders. People with certain medical problems should check with a doctor first. More »

Lessons about brain health from a landmark heart study

The Framingham Heart Study—the longest running and best-known study of the causes of heart disease—has also revealed important clues about brain disorders, including stroke, cognitive decline, and dementia. In addition to linking high blood pressure with a higher risk of stroke, the study has confirmed that atrial fibrillation and an enlarged left ventricle contribute to stroke risk. The multigenerational study has also affirmed the importance of exercise and social connections for staving off cognitive decline. (Locked) More »

Spring cleaning: Why more people are uncluttering the mind for better health

Meditating counters the body’s stress response by triggering the relaxation response—a physiological change that can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The health benefits of meditation are so potent that the practice is used as a treatment or complementary therapy for many conditions, such as high stress, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. There are many forms of meditation, such as mindfulness, transcendental meditation, guided imagery meditation, and tai chi and yoga. (Locked) More »

Grief can hurt — in more ways than one

The emotional side of grieving can affect the whole body and all organ systems, and maybe even the immune system. Grief is associated with stress; heart problems; depression; and depression-related symptoms such as insomnia, social withdrawal, and a loss of appetite. Though it may feel difficult, it’s important to maintain healthy habits during a period of grief, such as eating right and exercising. Social connections—seeing friends and family—are also crucial for good health, even when grieving. More »