A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.
One in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to a person’s directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.
A mental health condition isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.
Half of mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24. The normal personality and behavior changes of adolescence may mimic or mask symptoms of a mental health condition. Early engagement and support are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery. There is hope. Recovery, including meaningful roles in social life, school and work, is possible, especially when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery process.
Below is a glossary of mental health conditions, with information provided by NAMI.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder where there are significant problems with attention, hyperactivity or acting impulsively.
Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, but when it becomes overwhelming and repeatedly impacts a person’s life, it may be an anxiety disorder.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic highs and lows in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy relationships.
Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch; it’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and treatment.
Dissociative disorders are a spectrum of disorders that affect a person’s memory and self-perception.
Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t.
When you become so preoccupied with food and weight issues that you find it hard to focus on other aspects of your life, it may be a sign of an eating disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions).
PTSD is the result of traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, an accident or a natural disaster.
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as depressive or manic episodes.
Schizophrenia causes people to lose touch with reality, often in the form of hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.
Learn more about mental health conditions on the NAMI National website.