What Is A Mental Disorder?

Find out about diagnosing and treating mental health disorders.

Mental illness can be defined as any condition that alters the way someone feels, thinks, acts, or a combination thereof. Mental illnesses can lead to distress at home and work and make it difficult for friends and family members to communicate with you.

Many people have a mental illnesses. In a particular year:

  • Almost 20% of adults have some kind of mental illness.
  • 4.1% of people (one in 24) have a serious mental illness.
  • One in 12 (8.5%) has a diagnosable substance use disorder.

Concerning Mental Health

Mental health involves being able to do daily tasks well, which leads to:

  • Useful things to do (work, school, caregiving).
  • Relationships that are strong.
  • The ability to deal with change and hard times.
  • Mental illness is a term for all diagnosable mental disorders, which are health conditions that include:
  • Big changes in how you think, how to feel, or how to act.
  • Stress and/or trouble getting along with other people, at work, or with family.

Mental health is vital for thinking, feeling, communicating, learning and self-worth. Mental health can be important for your relationships, your personal and/or emotional health, and your contribution to society.

Mental illness is often not discussed. Mental illness isn’t shameful. It’s not the same thing as diabetes or heart disease. Mental illness can often be treated. There are treatments for mental disorders.

Mental illness doesn’t care about age, gender, location, income, social status, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background, etc. Everyone is vulnerable. Three-quarters are born before 24 years old.


Mental illness can be reversed. People with mental illnesses often recover and return to work. Some mental disorders can be prevented.

A sad mood can be normal following the death of a loved one. A person with depression may need professional assistance if they feel depressed or have difficulty living a normal life. Family members and friends might notice problems or changes that a person is experiencing.

Some mental illnesses can have physical causes. Hypothyroidism can cause depression. A mental health diagnosis typically includes a physical examination. This includes blood or nerve tests.

Mental health symptoms can vary depending on culture and background. Some people are more likely to see a doctor to treat mental health-related conditions. Some cultures may view mental health differently from doctors.

Many people don’t have access to mental health care due to stigma.

Care And Helping Yourself

Even though someone has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, it doesn’t mean they don’t need treatment. Doctors look at the severity of the symptoms and how they impact daily life.

Mental health treatment is determined by an individual plan with the help of a professional mental health practitioner and the person being treated (and their family members, if desired). It could include psychotherapy (talk therapies), medication, or any other treatment. Therapy and medication are often best used together. People are now more open to using alternative and complementary therapies.

If you want to be able to deal with your problems and get better, it is worth seeking out support and self-help. Mental health can be improved by making lifestyle changes such as changing your diet, exercising, or getting enough sleep. An integrated treatment plan may include changing your lifestyle, joining a support network, and exercising. All of these factors can be helpful in recovery and well-being.

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