Most Asked Questions About Mental Health, Answered
From anxiety and depression to bipolar and OCD, we answer the internet's top searches
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and many of you have been searching online for information on the topic. Before we answer all your questions, let's define what mental health is.
What is mental health? Is mental health important?
Mental health is defined as our overall state of emotional, psychological, and social well-being; our ability to deal with everyday life stresses, to realize our full potential, to work productively, and to contribute to our communities. Mental health is critical to living a life that is full and balanced.
What is mental illness?
Mental illness is a range of conditions that affect mood, thinking, and behavior. It is common to have short-term mental health concerns from time to time. However, ongoing changes in mood or behavior warrant a visit to the doctor.
When it comes to various forms of mental health issues, you wanted to know what they are, how they develop, and how they are treated. The most commonly searched conditions were the following:
One of the most searched questions online has to do with understanding anxiety. Mild anxiety is normal, but if your nervousness, fear, or worry are excessive and interfere with normal activities, you may have an anxiety disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are over 3 million cases diagnosed in the US each year Panic disorder, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all forms of anxiety disorders.
What is anxiety caused by?
Anxiety disorders are complex and can be caused by several factors including environmental stressors, genetics, medical factors, brain chemistry, and drug withdrawals.
Is anxiety depression?
Anxiety is not a form of depression, but it is common to suffer from both an anxiety disorder and depression at the same time.
How is anxiety treated?
Treatment includes counseling and sometimes medications. Learning to manage stress through exercise or mindfulness techniques may also help, but it is still a good idea to seek professional help if you suspect you suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Another often searched topic in mental health is surrounding depression.
Is depression chronic?
Depression is characterized by a persistent low mood, loss of interest, or a feeling of sadness lasting more than two weeks. Depression may manifest in loss of energy, sadness, difficulty in focusing, disrupted sleep patterns, no interest in normally pleasurable activities, restlessness, weight gain/loss, irritability, or thoughts of death or suicide. These disruptive feelings over long periods of time can affect your physical well-being, too.
What is depression caused by? Is depression genetic?
The causes of depression are complicated, but the consensus is that any of these factors may lead to depression: genetics, abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), conflict, death or loss, major life events, substance abuse, decreased levels of serotonin, or increased levels of cortisol.
How is depression cured?
Depression is best treated with therapy and medication.
What is bipolar disorder?
Those with bipolar disorder suffer from extended mood swings ranging from very depressed moods to manic highs. The cause is unknown, but the environment, genetics, and brain structure/function are all believed to contribute. This illness requires medical treatment and normally requires therapy and life-long medication.
People living with bipolar disorder experience feelings of isolation and it is important for family and friends to let them know that they are not alone.
Is bipolar depression?
Bipolar disorder can include bouts of depression, but it is not the same condition. It is common to suffer from both bipolar disorder and depression at the same time.
What is schizophrenia?
This severe, chronic disorder is characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality. Sufferers are unable to think clearly or manage their emotions, and they may suffer from delusions and/or hallucinations.
Is schizophrenia genetic?
As with many other mental health issues, the cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but genetics, environmental factors, and brain chemistry are suspected contributors. This illness also usually requires medication and therapy.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
What is OCD?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age. It is marked by a cycle of intrusive thoughts/obsessions and compulsions, intrusion to the point of disrupting normal daily activity. Normally the sufferer knows that their obsessions are extreme which adds to their distress.
Simply "obsessing" about something is not the same as suffering from OCD. Being obsessed about a favorite food item is not the same as having a thought or action that triggers severe anxiety that interferes with normal activities, or ritual that must be completed before the sufferer can go to bed, for example.
What is OCD caused by?
OCD is believed to be the result of genetic, environmental, and hereditary factors. As with other mental health disorders, treatment is usually in the form of therapy and medication.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Is ADHD a mental illness?
Although many do not realize it, ADD and ADHD are considered mental health disorders because they affect the sufferer's ability to focus and control behavior. This results in them becoming bored quickly, not listening, fidgeting, and being impatient (to name a few).
Should I see a therapist?
If you think that you or a loved one has the signs of mental illness or might suffer from a mental health condition, contact a professional for help.
World Health Organization
National Alliance on Mental Illness
International OCD Foundation