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A Guide to Mental Illnesses and How to Care for Your Mental Health

As of 2019, 1 in 5 American adults currently experience some form of mental illness. These mental illnesses consist of two major areas. Any Mental Illness (AMI) and Serious Mental Illness (SMI).

Regardless of which type of mental illness you have, your quality of life is affected.

Mental health is still stigmatized even though it is so prevalent in society. Treating these individuals with compassion is the first step to tackling these conditions.

Without proper education on your mental illness, or those of others, it can be difficult to treat. This guide helps you expand your knowledge by answering key mental illness questions.

What Are Mental Illnesses?

Mental illnesses, or mental health disorders, consist of a wide variety of symptoms. In general, these conditions impact a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior.

An AMI diagnosis ranges in severity depending on the symptoms. This includes mild, moderate or severe impairment from distortions to thinking and behaviors.

An SMI diagnosis is a more intense condition that causes impairments to daily life. This may include interference among social interactions in daily activities.

Mental health awareness needs to become more prevalent since it’s a debilitating disorder. Often, people have to go on disability as their symptoms progress. Understanding this aspect alone helps grasp a better idea of the nature of mental health.

As a whole, mental illnesses range from mild symptoms to chronic conditions. Also, no matter the severity, they are all cognitive conditions that can affect anyone.

Commonly Diagnosed Mental Illnesses

There are many mental health disorders recognized by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5). For the sake of this article, it would be impossible to list them all.

Below are some of the most diagnosed mental illnesses across the United States and the world.

Mood Disorders

One of the most commonly diagnosed mood disorders is clinical depression. It’s estimated to be the biggest cause of global disability. Nearly 264 million people are currently affected.

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-worth
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Disturbed appetite

Many people with depression also experience physical symptoms of their diagnosis. These symptoms are normally unrelated to any physical injury or direct cause.

Another mood disorder that is commonly diagnosed is bipolar disorder. In general, this mental health condition causes unusual or drastic mood shifts.

Often, energy levels and concentration become affected. Activity levels and the ability to complete tasks may also become impaired in some cases.

Bipolar disorder splits into different disorder types that include their own symptoms. Each type represents a different shift in manic behavior. This may include periods where their mood is extremely “up” or “down”.

Anxiety Disorders

There is a key difference between low-grade anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Anxiety around public speaking or driving in heavy traffic differs from diagnosed anxiety. A diagnosis may be given if feelings of fear begin to interfere with daily living.

In the United States, anxiety is the most diagnosed disorder. Approximately 18.1% of adults and 7% of children currently have an anxiety diagnosis.

As with most disorders, anxiety branches off into many types. Some of these types include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias

Each disorder has its own specific list of symptoms yet, all share a few common aspects. This includes experiencing persistent and excessive fear or worry in non-threatening situations.

Additionally, some emotional symptoms may include feeling tense, apprehension or anticipating worst-case outcomes. Physical symptoms include sweating, pounding or racing heart, headaches, insomnia and upset stomach.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health disorder that can result from a variety of life experiences. Depending on the person, the traumatic event may range. This may include witnessing the death of a loved one to experiencing a natural disaster.

Regardless of what triggered PTSD, it’s crucial to understand how debilitating it is. Symptoms of PTSD are broken into four types. Listed below is a breakdown of these categories.


A coping mechanism for those with PTSD is to avoid things that remind them of their traumatic event. This may include deliberately avoiding specific places, people, events or objects.

Many people try and avoid thinking about the traumatic event to avoid re-living it. It is not uncommon to see people with PTSD busy as this is a key way to avoid thinking about the incident.


These symptoms consist of re-living traumatic events due to triggers in everyday life. Re-experiencing will be different from person to person as their triggers differ.

For example, car crash victims may be fearful around cars, roads or even intersections.

People with PTSD can become fearful when they are reminded of the initial trauma. As a result, they may experience flashbacks, nightmares or frightening thoughts.

Arousal and Reactivity

Symptoms of PTSD can also manifest themselves physically. One way this is shown is through faster reaction times. This symptom is a direct result of always anticipating danger.

These symptoms may cause people to experience difficulty sleeping and angry outbursts. Additionally, these people are easily startled.

Cognition and Mood

Finally, PTSD can impact the thoughts and feelings of a person. Typically, these beliefs are altered to become more negative towards general situations. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty remembering aspects of the traumatic event
  • Negative thoughts about self
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Lack of interest
  • Trouble concentrating

Risks and Causes

Mental health conditions are complex since their origins are not definitively known. With this said, many are thought to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors.


It has been known for a long time that mental health conditions are linked to genetics. For example, you are more likely to develop a mental health disorder if you have a blood relative with one.

It’s also thought that certain genes provoke mental illnesses when triggered naturally. These elements work in combination to increase the likelihood of a diagnosis.

Additionally, damage to neural networks within the brain can cause symptoms of mental health disorders. The neurotransmitters in our brains send signals to parts of the body to help it function. If these are damaged, impaired functioning is more likely.

Depression and other emotional disorders may appear due to impairment in nerve receptors.


Environmental conditions are also thought to impact the development of mental health conditions. These conditions include exposure to environmental stressors such as:

  • Toxins
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Alcohol/drug consumption while in womb

Outside of these proven and proposed causes are some other risks. These risks may also make the formation of a mental health disorder more likely.

Some risks include traumatic experiences and childhood abuse. A more researched area surrounding mental health risks is the impact of brain damage.

After the first year of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), depressive symptoms may arise. Roughly half of the people affected develop them. Additionally, many of these people also develop anxiety.

Often, depression and anxiety co-exist in individuals with and without brain injuries.

Depression caused by a TBI has to do with the physical and emotional changes from the injury. These risks are amplified if combined with specific genes associated with mental health.

How to Care for Your Mental Health

Like all other health conditions, your mental health can be treated with a variety of options. Non-medicinal and medicinal treatments are used individually or combined to treat mental illnesses.

As with the types of mental health conditions, there are far too many treatments to list here. The following treatments are among the most practiced methods in mental health care.

Non-Medicinal Treatments

Non-medicinal treatments can be broken down into three main areas. Some areas, like natural products, need more research to verify their effectiveness. The following are a few approaches to treating your mental health outside medication.

Natural Products

Consuming vitamins and minerals have been shown to decrease symptoms of mental health. These findings were reported by many people with pre-existing disorders.

There is no scientific evidence to back-up these claims. Continual use of this treatment is due to a lack of evidence that they produce negative side effects.

Some of these natural products include folate and omega-3 fatty acids.

Therapeutic Approaches

Mental health conditions benefit greatly from therapeutic remedies. One of the most notable therapies is psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy consists of individuals working with a mental health professional to manage symptoms. This may include learning coping strategies for stressful situations.

Brain-stimulation and animal-assisted therapy have also been used to treat mental illnesses. Brain-stimulation, or electroconvulsive therapy, is used when psychotherapy has been ineffective.

Also, you can request to be treated with animal-assisted therapy. This decision will ultimately be up to your primary physician.

Lifestyle Choices

Mental health can also be treated through mind and body connections. Also, physical activity helps promote mood and behavioral changes through increased muscle movement.

For example, people with anxiety practice yoga and meditation to reduce their symptoms.

Other ways to cope may include joining a support group and keeping a journal. It’s also recommended that you stay in touch with family and friends. In some cases, you may want to learn more about your mental health condition to understand it.

Medicinal Treatments

Aside from therapy, medication is recommended for those with a mental illness. Below are medications prescribed to people with commonly diagnosed mental health conditions.

Mood Disorders

Depression is often treated with antidepressants. The most widely used types are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These may include:

Additionally, selective serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs) are also used to treat depression.

Medication prescriptions differ among individuals with the same mental health condition. This is due to each individual’s unique body chemistry and symptoms.

When learning more about medications, it is recommended that you seek professional advice.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with antidepressants like those prescribed for depression. SSRIs are the most commonly distributed when treating different types of anxiety conditions.

Anxiety conditions are also treated with a family of medications known as benzodiazepines. Some of these medications include alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).

Benzodiazepines can pose a higher risk of addiction and are not prescribed as often. Additionally, a serotonergic drug known as buspirone (Buspar) has been used. This is due to its non-habit forming effects.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Treatment of PTSD will look different depending on an individual’s body chemistry. Additionally, a person’s trauma can impact treatment.

Although this is the case, there are a few types of medications that are normally prescribed. SSRIs and SNRIs are the primary route of medicinal treatment for this type of mental illness.

Physicians may also prescribe medications in the benzodiazepine and antipsychotic families of medication. These approaches are considered to be “off-label”.

This means that they’re not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specifically treat PTSD.

As a whole, your physician will make the best judgement call. Their judgement relies on how you respond to certain medications. Like any physician recommended medication, you should never discontinue use without their approval.

Depending on a physician’s recommendation, both forms of treatments can be used. In fact, combining both treatments is the most often suggested route of treatment.

Managing Your Mental Health

Understanding mental illnesses has shown extreme value when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. With the right knowledge, you can approach mental health conditions with confidence.

Receiving treatment is the best way to begin your journey. Without it, you may risk having a lower-quality of life.

During your treatment process, you should never have to worry about accessing medication. Our services provide professional and efficient information on all your pharmaceutical needs.

Discover more about how you can access your medication by contacting us through one of our many customer service outlets.

Works Cited