The subject of mental illness has for decades been surrounded with mystery and fear.  Today though, through extensive research, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding and our ability to offer effective treatments for individuals dealing with mental illness.  However, questions about mental illness often go unanswered and prevent people from getting the help they need.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Mental illness can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income and is not the result of personal weakness or poor upbringing.

Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in treatment and receiving support from family, friends, professionals and the community.

How Common is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is common, and mild symptoms are very common.  One fifth of Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder during any given year.  One fifth of school-age children are also affected by these conditions.  Severe and persistent mental illness is less common, but still afflicts 3% of the population.

The majority of individuals with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives, although with varying impairments.

(Source: National Institute of Health)

Common Types of Mental Illness

Anxiety Disorders—People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread, as well as exhibit physical signs of anxiety or nervousness, such as rapid heartbeat and sweating.  Common anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and specific phobias.

Mood Disorders—Mood disorders, also called affective disorders, involve persistent feelings of sadness or periods of feeling overly happy, or fluctuations from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. Common mood disorders include major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.

Psychotic Disorders—Psychotic disorders involve distorted awareness and thinking.  Two of the most common symptoms of this disorder are hallucinations and delusions.  Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder.

Eating Disorders—Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors involving weight and food.  Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders.

Impulse Control and Addiction Disorders—People with impulse control disorders are unable to resist urges, or impulses and perform acts that could be harmful to themselves or others.  Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing) and compulsive gambling are examples of common impulse control disorders. Alcohol and drugs are common objects of addictions.

Personality Disorders—People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and/or cause problems in work, school or relationships. Examples include antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.