Mental Health and Mental Illness

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Mental health and mental illness facts

  • Mental health is more than just being free of a mental illness. It is more of an optimal level of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
  • Mentally healthy individuals tend to have better medical health, productivity, and social relationships.
  • Mental illness refers to all of the diagnosable mental disorders and is characterized by abnormalities in thinking, feelings, or behaviors.
  • Some of the most common types of mental illness include anxiety, depressive, behavioral, and substance-abuse disorders.
  • There is no single cause for mental illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
  • While everyone experiences sadness, anxiety, irritability, and moodiness at times, moods, thoughts, behaviors, or use of substances that interfere with a person's ability to function well physically, socially, at work, school, or home are characteristics of mental illness.
  • There is no one test that definitively indicates whether someone has a mental illness. Therefore, health-care practitioners diagnose a mental disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information.
  • Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is usually considered the first line of care in helping a person with a mental illness. It is an important part of helping individuals with a mental disorder achieve the highest level of functioning possible.
  • Psychotherapies that have been found to be effective in treating many mental disorders include family focused therapy, psycho-education, cognitive therapy, interpersonal therapy, and social rhythm therapy.
  • Medications may play an important role in the treatment of a mental illness, particularly when the symptoms are severe or do not adequately respond to psychotherapy.
  • A variety of factors can contribute to the prevention of mental-health disorders.
  • Individuals with mental illness are at risk for a variety of challenges, but these risks can be greatly reduced with treatment, particularly when it is timely.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/19/2015

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