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What Is Mental Illness?



“Mental illness” covers a wide range of mental health conditions, which affect your mood, thoughts, and behavior. Mental illness can come in the form of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.


Many people have mental health conditions that occur from time to time; however, a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when signs and symptoms cause constant stress and affect your ability to function.


Mental health disorders can make you feel miserable and cause problems in your daily life, school, work, and inter-personal relationships.


If you have — or think you might have — a mental illness, the first thing you must know is that you are not alone.


None of this means that you’re broken or that you, or your family, did something “wrong.” Mental illness is no one’s fault. And for many people, recovery — including meaningful roles in social life, school and work — is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.


Symptoms of Mental Illness

There are different signs and symptoms of mental illness, depending on the circumstances of the disorder. The symptoms of mental illness can affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness

  • Confused thinking or loss of concentration

  • Excessive worry or extreme feelings of guilt

  • Extreme mood swings

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

  • A significant feeling of tiredness, low energy levels, and irregular sleep patterns

  • Paranoia and hallucinations (mostly auditory)

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations

  • Problem connecting with people

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • A major change in eating habits

  • Change in sex drive

  • Excessive anger, violence

  • Suicidal thoughts

Many people who have a mental illness do not want to talk about it. But mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of! It is a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes. And mental health conditions are treatable. We are continually expanding our understanding of how the human brain works, and treatments are available to help people successfully manage mental health conditions.

How To Cope Day-To-Day


Accept Your Feelings

You may find yourself denying the warning signs, worrying what other people will think because of the stigma, or wondering what caused your loved one to become ill. Accept that these feelings are normal and common among families going through similar situations. Find out all you can about your loved one’s condition by reading and talking with mental health professionals. Share what you have learned with others.

Handling Unusual Behavior

The outward signs of a mental illness are often behavioral. A person may be extremely quiet or withdrawn. Conversely, they may burst into tears, have great anxiety or have outbursts of anger.

The individual's behavior may be as dismaying to them as it is to you. Ask questions, listen with an open mind and be there to support them.

Seeking Counseling

Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members. A mental health professional can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one’s illness.

Taking Time Out

It is common for the person with the mental illness to become the focus of family life. When this happens, other members of the family may feel ignored or resentful. Some may find it difficult to pursue their own interests.

It is important to remember that there is hope for recovery and that with treatment many people with mental illness return to a productive and fulfilling life.

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