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Mental health refers to how the brain affects people’s ability to think, feel and act. Anything that involves the status of the social, psychological or emotional well-being of an individual is considered part of mental health.

A variety of factors can influence mental health, including a family history of problems, a traumatic experience, a history of abuse as well as other, unexplained factors. When something is wrong with an individual’s mental health, this is known as a mental disorder or mental illness.

Types of Mental Illness

A variety of conditions can affect mental health. Millions of Americans have depression, which is a persistent feeling of sadness, fatigue and loss of interest in activities that a person used to enjoy. When anxiety affects someone so badly that it negatively impacts his or her life, this may be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias. Bipolar disorder, which is characterized by a series of “high” and “low” emotional states, is another mental illness. There are also personality disorders as well as very serious psychotic disorders like schizophrenia that make up the variety of conditions known as mental illnesses.

Treating Mental Illness

Mental disorders can range greatly in severity, even within a specific mental illness. For example, some people have depression that is much more severe than that experienced by others. Almost everyone with a mental illness, however, can benefit at least partially from some form of treatment. Usually a combination of medications and counseling are needed to treat people with a mental illness. Some individuals with mental illness are able to completely overcome their disorders, whereas others need lifelong treatment in order to function as best they can in society.

SOURCES: U.S. National Library of Medicine

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