Mental health is how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.
Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at work or in relationships. In most cases, mental illness symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and counseling (psychotherapy).
What Is Normal
Understanding what is considered normal mental health can be tricky. See how feelings, thoughts and behaviors determine mental health and how to recognize if you or a loved one needs help.
What is the difference between mental health and mental illness? Sometimes the answer seems clear. For instance, a person who hears voices in his or her head could have schizophrenia. A person who goes on a frenzied shopping spree or starts an ambitious project — such as remodeling the bathroom — without any plans might be having a manic episode caused by bipolar disorder.
In some cases, however, the distinction between mental health and mental illness is not so obvious. If you are afraid of giving a speech in public, does it mean you have a mental health condition or a run-of-the-mill case of nerves? If you feel sad and discouraged, do you have the blues, or is it full-fledged depression?
Why is it so tough to tell what is normal?
It is often difficult to distinguish normal mental health from mental illness because there is no easy test to show if something’s wrong. Mental health conditions are diagnosed and treated based on signs and symptoms, as well as on how much the condition affects your daily life.