Mental illness is a term used to describe disorders that affect feelings, behaviors, and thinking. You might also hear mental illness referred to as mental health disorders because these types of illnesses happen when a person’s mind causes them to feel unwell or different from how they usually feel when they’re not sick.
Mental health disorders affect 1 out of every 7 children and teens in the United States between the ages of 10 to 19 years-old. Some of the most common of these disorders are depression and anxiety, but there are dozens of other types of mental health issues that people struggle with.
Mental health disorders can sometimes be difficult to identify. This happens because identifying a mental illness is different from the way physical or medical problems are identified. For instance, when a person is diagnosed with an illness like diabetes or cancer, doctors can get evidence of the illness with tests like bloodwork or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Basically, we can identify most physical illnesses using various types of diagnostic tests, but we can’t see mental illness in the same way. Mental health issues are diagnosed after a mental health provider, like a psychiatrist or a psychologist, asks the person several questions about how they feel. There are also paper-and-pencil tests that are given by a mental health provider that can help in identifying a possible mental illness.
Since we can’t test for mental illness in the same way we test for many medical illnesses, it can sometimes be challenging to diagnose and treat people with mental health disorders.
A mental health disorder is a disease of the mind—or a mental illness—that happens when there are changes to the way the brain functions. The brain controls a lot of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, so when there is some sort of problem , a mental health disorder can result.
A common sign of mental health disorders is when behaviors, thoughts, and feelings make it difficult for you to do daily activities, like go to school, enjoy quality time with family and friends, or participate in a favorite sport or hobby. When you have mental illness, it can be difficult to do any of these activities. You might feel sad, down, worried, or too distracted to do things that you typically like doing.
There are many different types of mental health problems, but some of the most common ones include:
These disorders are diagnosed by a medical doctor or other mental health professional. Receiving a diagnosis simply means that a healthcare provider talks to you and gives you an evaluation where they ask you a lot of questions about how you feel, about any changes to your daily activities, and your background and family history. They may also talk to your parents or close family members.
Getting a diagnosis is important when you have a mental health disorder because a diagnosis helps to identify what symptoms you need help with. When mental health professionals are able to diagnose a problem, they are better able to give more helpful treatments. Once your doctor or therapist gives you a diagnosis, they can work with you to treat your mental health disorder. In order to get the right treatment, it’s important to know exactly which mental health disorder you have. Treatments for mental health disorders include therapy and/or medication. Sometimes changes to your diet and physical activity are part of treatment, too.