Mental Health (Psychology) (cont.)
Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
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.
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.
In this Article
What is mental health?
Although it might seem easy to define mental health as the absence of mental illness, most experts agree that there is more to being mentally healthy. The U.S. Surgeon General has defined mental health as "a state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity." The state of being mentally healthy is enviable given the advantages it affords. For example, mentally healthy adults tend to report the fewest health-related limitations of their routine activities, the fewest full or partially missed days of work, and the healthiest social functioning (for example, low helplessness, clear life goals, high resilience, and high levels of intimacy in their lives).
What is mental illness?
Mental illness refers to all of the diagnosable mental disorders. Mental disorders are characterized by abnormalities in thinking, feelings, or behaviors. Highly common, about 46% of Americans can expect to meet the formal diagnostic criteria for some form of anxiety, depressive, behavioral, thought, or substance-abuse disorder during their lifetime.
What are common types of mental illness?
Some of the most common types of mental illness include anxiety, depressive, behavioral, and substance-abuse disorders. Examples of anxiety disorders include phobias, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry to the point of interfering with the sufferer's ability to function. Examples of anxiety disorders include the following:
Behavioral disorders (like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder) are characterized by problems conforming to the tenets of acceptable behavior. The most common behavior disorder is ADHD; this condition includes symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. While it used to be considered primarily a disorder of boys, it is now understood to be just as likely to occur in girls and that it can persist into adulthood in about half of children with ADHD.
Dementia, including Alzheimer's dementia, is characterized by a problem with thinking, involving both memory problems and other forms of thinking. These are also known as cognitive problems and include difficulties with language or with identifying or recognizing things despite having no medical cause for these issues such as stroke or a brain tumor.
Depressive disorders involve feelings of sadness that interfere with the individual's ability to function or, as with adjustment disorder, persist longer than most people experience in reaction to a particular life stressor. Examples of depressive disorders include the following:
Substance use disorders, like substance abuse and substance dependence, involve the use of a substance that interferes with the social, emotional, physical, educational, or vocational functioning of the person using it. These disorders afflict millions of people and a variety of legal (for example, alcohol and inhalants like household cleaners) and/or illegal (for example, marijuana in most states, cocaine, Ecstasy, and opiates) substances may be involved.
Developmental disorders, like a learning disability, Asperger's disorder, or mental retardation, are often included in diagnostic manuals for mental disorders, but this group of conditions does not by definition mean the person involved has a problem with their mood.
It is important to understand that the list of conditions above is by no means exhaustive. This article focuses on the more common mental illnesses; illnesses like eating disorders and schizophrenia, that are less common but perhaps quite devastating to the life of the person with the condition, are omitted.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015
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