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What Defines Mental Illness?

September 29, 2021 , Agape Treatment Center

What Defines Mental Illness?

What Is A Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are disturbances in a person’s thinking, feeling, or behavior, or a combination of these, that reflect a problem in mental function. They cause distress or disability in social, work, or family activities. Just as “physical illness” is used to describe a range of physical health problems, “mental illness” means the same as it encompasses various mental health conditions.

Mental illness can be defined as a health condition that involves changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior—or a combination of these. If left untreated, mental illnesses can have a huge impact on daily living, including your ability to work, care for family, and relate and interact with others. But, like other medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease, there is no shame in having a mental illness, and support and treatment are available.

Mental Illnesses Are Incredibly Common

According to SAMHSA, Mental illnesses are incredibly common in the United States. Each year:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults live with serious mental illness
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6 to 17 years experience a mental health illness

What Are The Types Of Mental Illnesses?

There are hundreds of mental illnesses, but instead of listing all of them, here is the most common:

  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias
  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia

What Signs And Symptoms To Look Out For

Everyone experiences ups and downs in their mental health. A stressful experience, such as the loss of a loved one, might temporarily bring you down and take a toll on your psychological well-being. For your situation to be considered a mental illness, your symptoms must cause significant distress or interfere with your social, occupational, or educational functioning and last for a significant period.

Each disorder has its own set of symptoms that can vary greatly in severity, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include:

  • Excessive fear or uneasiness: Feeling afraid, anxious, nervous, or panicked
  • Mood changes: Deep sadness, inability to express joy, indifference to situations, feelings of hopelessness, laughter at inappropriate times for no apparent reason, or thoughts of suicide
  • Problems thinking: Inability to concentrate or problems with memory, thoughts, or speech that are hard to explain.
  • Sleep or appetite changes: Sleeping and eating dramatically more or less than usual; noticeable and rapid weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawal: Sitting and doing nothing for long periods or dropping out of previously enjoyed activities

It’s important to know that the presence of one or two of these signs alone doesn’t mean that you have a mental illness. But it does indicate that you may need further evaluation.

What Causes My Mental Illness?

There is no one reason or single cause of mental illness. Instead, it’s thought that they stem from a wide range of factors or a combination. The following are some factors that may influence whether someone develops a mental illness:

  • Biology: Changes in your brain chemistry, such as an imbalance in neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers within the brain, are often associated with mental disorders.
  • Environmental exposures: Children exposed to certain substances in utero may be at higher risk of developing mental illness. Such as when a mother abuses substances or is exposed to dangerous chemicals while pregnant can increase risk.
  • Genetics: Mental illnesses tend to run in families. People who have a relative with a mental illness—such as autism, bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia—may be more likely to develop it.
  • Life experiences: The stressful life events that cause PTSD may contribute to the development of mental illness. 

Get Help Today At AGAPE Treatment Center

At the AGAPE Behavioral Healthcare Network, we take mental health issues of all varieties very seriously and provide a safe, nurturing environment where one can learn about the disorders plaguing them from an emotionally unstable life.

Our licensed mental health clinicians will fully assess an individual that seems, feels, or has been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder and meet them exactly where they are in life.