What is mental health?

mental health

What is mental health?

Mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is all about how people think, feel, and behave. People sometimes use the term “mental health” to mean the absence of a mental disorder.

Mental health can affect daily living, relationships, and physical health.

However, this link also works in the other direction. Factors in people’s lives, interpersonal connections, and physical factors can contribute to mental ill health.

Looking after mental health can preserve a person’s ability to enjoy life. Doing this involves balancing life activities, responsibilities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

Stress, depression, and anxiety can all affect mental health and disrupt a person’s routine.

Although health professionals often use the term mental health, doctors recognize that many psychological disorders have physical roots.

What is meant by the terms “mental health” and “mental sickness” is explained in this article. We also go through the most prevalent varieties of mental illnesses, their early warning signs, and treatment options.

According to the WHO, having a healthy mental state involves “more than just being free of mental illnesses or disabilities.” In order to achieve peak mental health, one must not only take care of acute illnesses but also maintain continuing wellbeing and happiness.

The importance of protecting and regaining mental health on a personal level as well as at the level of a community and society is also emphasised.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with mental health issues on a yearly basis.

The National Institute of Mental Health predicted that 5.6% of America’s adults, or 14.2 million persons, had a serious mental illness in 2020. (NIMH).

Risk elements for mental health conditions

Regardless of age, sex, financial level, or race, everyone is at some risk of getting a mental health issue. Mental diseases are one of the main causes of disability in the US and much of the developed world.

A person’s mental health may be influenced by their social and financial situation, difficult childhood memories, biological traits, and underlying physical disorders.

Many persons who suffer from mental health disorders simultaneously experience many conditions.

The development of these diseases may be influenced by a number of circumstances, and it is crucial to remember that good mental health depends on a delicate balance of factors.

Disruptions to mental health may be caused by the following elements.

Continuous social and economic pressure

The risk of mental health disorders can be raised by having little resources or by being a member of an ethnic minority that is marginalised or targeted for persecution.

2015 Iranian research

According to Trusted Source, there are a number of socioeconomic factors that contribute to mental health issues, such as poverty and living in a large city’s periphery.

Additionally, the researchers discussed both flexible (modifiable) and rigid (non-modifiable) elements that influence the accessibility and effectiveness of mental health care for particular groups.

There are several modifiable risk factors for mental health issues.

  • socioeconomic conditions, such as whether work is available in the local area
  • occupation
  • a person’s level of social involvement
  • education
  • housing quality
  • gender

Nonmodifiable factors include:

  • gender
  • age
  • ethnicity
  • nationality

The researchers discovered that being female roughly quadrupled the likelihood of having poor mental health. In this study, those with “poor economic status” also had the worse scores for mental health issues.

Childhood hardship

Numerous studies : A growing child’s mental and physical health are greatly impacted by traumatic childhood events such child abuse, parental illness, loss, and separation, according to reliable sources.

Additionally, there are links between unfavourable events and other psychotic diseases, including childhood maltreatment. Additionally, these events increase a person’s risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Biological factors

According to the NIMH, a person’s genetic family history may A person is more likely to develop mental health issues as a result of particular genes and gene variants that increase risk.

However, a variety of additional factors also play a role in the emergence of these illnesses.

The presence of a gene linked to a mental health illness does not ensure that the disorder will manifest. Similar to how those with linked genes or a family history of mental illness can still experience problems with their mental health.

Chronic physical health issues like cancer, diabetes, and chronic pain can lead to mental health diseases like depression and anxiety as well as chronic stress.

Types of mental health disorders

Due to traits they share, particular mental diseases are categorised. Here are a few examples of mental illnesses:

  • worry disorders
  • mood problems
  • psychotic disorders
  • Anxiety conditions

The most prevalent mental illness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, is anxiety disorders.

People who have these illnesses experience intense fear or anxiety in relation to particular things or circumstances. Most individuals with anxiety disorders make an effort to limit their exposure to anything that makes them anxious.

Below are some examples of anxiety disorders.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves excessive worry or fear that disrupts everyday living.

People may also experience physical symptoms, including:

  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • tense muscles
  • interrupted sleep

In patients with GAD, an anxiety attack does not always require a specific cause.

When confronted with routine scenarios like housework or appointments that don’t directly endanger them, they may get overly anxious. Anxiety can occasionally strike a person with GAD with no apparent trigger.

Panic disorder

Regular panic attacks characterised by extreme anxiety or a sense of impending doom affect people with panic disorders.


There are various forms of phobia:

Simple phobias: These can involve an excessive fear of particular things, situations, or animals. A common example is a fear of spiders.

Social phobia: also referred to as social anxiety, is the fear of being judged by others. People who have social anxiety frequently limit their exposure to social settings.

Agoraphobia: is the name for a dread of circumstances where escaping would be challenging, like being in an elevator or a moving train. This phobia is sometimes mistaken for the dread of being outside.

Phobias are deeply personal, and doctors do not know every type. There could be thousands of phobias, and what may seem unusual to one person can be a severe problem that dominates daily life for another.


Obsessions and compulsions are characteristics of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In other words, individuals have persistent, anxious thoughts and a strong want to do things repeatedly, like wash their hands.


After experiencing or witnessing a highly stressful or traumatic event, PTSD may develop. The person believes that their life or the lives of others are in risk during this kind of incident. They might experience fear or the notion that they are powerless over the situation.

These sensations of trauma and fear may then contribute to PTSD.

Mood disorders

Affective disorders and depressive disorders are other terms used to describe mood problems.

These illnesses cause severe mood swings in sufferers, which are typically either mania—a period of extreme vigour and joy—or sadness. Mood disorders include, for example:

Major depression: A person with major depression has a persistently down mood and loses interest in formerly enjoyable activities and events (anhedonia). They may experience intense sadness over extended periods of time.

Bipolar disorder: People who have this condition go through unusual variations in their mood, energy level, level of activity, and ability to go about their daily lives. Manic phases are times of extreme mood, while depression phases are times of extreme low mood. Find out more about the various bipolar disorders here.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Reduced daylight during the fall, winter, and early spring months triggers this type of major depressionTrusted Source. It is most common in countries far from the equator.

Schizophrenia disorders

The term “schizophrenia” is frequently used to describe a range of illnesses marked by severe psychotic symptoms. These are extremely difficult circumstances.

The NIMH reports that symptoms of schizophrenia often appear between the ages of 16 and 30 Reliable Source. The person may also have trouble processing information and have scattered ideas.

Both negative and positive signs of schizophrenia exist. Delusions, thought disorders, and hallucinations are instances of positive symptoms, whereas withdrawal, a lack of drive, and an unsuitable or flat mood are examples of negative symptoms.

Early signs

No physical test or scan reliably indicates whether a person has developed a mental illness. However, people should look out for the following as possible signs of a mental health disorder:

  • withdrawing from friends, family, and colleagues
  • avoiding activities they would normally enjoy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • feeling hopeless
  • having consistently low energy
  • using mood-altering substances, including alcohol and nicotine, more frequently
  • displaying negative emotions
  • being confused
  • being unable to complete daily tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal
  • having persistent thoughts or memories that reappear regularly
  • thinking of causing physical harm to themselves or others
  • hearing voices
  • experiencing delusions


Multiple steps must be taken in order to diagnose a mental health issue. In order to rule out any underlying physical diseases or problems that might be causing the symptoms, a doctor may start by reviewing a patient’s medical history and doing a complete physical examination.

Mental diseases cannot be identified by medical tests. To screen for other potential underlying reasons, doctors may however conduct a variety of laboratory procedures, including imaging scans and bloodwork.

They’ll conduct a psychological assessment as well. Inquiries regarding a person’s symptoms, experiences, and how these have affected their lives are part of this process. In order to get insight into a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavioural patterns, a doctor may occasionally ask a patient to complete mental health questionnaires.

Most mental health specialists use the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to make a diagnosis. This manual contains descriptions and specific criteria to qualify for a diagnosis.


The treatment of mental health issues can be done in many different ways. Being highly individualised, treatment may not always be effective for everyone.

Combining certain tactics or treatments can increase their efficacy. A person with a persistent mental illness may make diverse decisions throughout their life.

The patient has to engage closely with a physician who can assist them in determining their needs and offering appropriate therapy.

Below are some treatment options for people with mental ill health.

Psychotherapy, or talking therapies

This style of treatment approaches the treatment of mental illness psychologically. Examples include dialectical behaviour therapy, exposure treatment, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

This therapy is provided by some primary care physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists.

It can assist patients in identifying the underlying causes of their mental illness and in beginning to develop healthier cognitive patterns that support daily life and lessen the likelihood of isolation and self-harm.


Some people take prescription pharmaceuticals such anxiolytics, antipsychotics, and antidepressants.

While working on their mental health, some medications can aid with symptoms and let a person continue social engagement and a routine, even though they cannot treat mental diseases.

Some of these drugs increase the body’s absorption of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin. Other medications either increase the total concentrations of these substances or stop them from deteriorating or being destroyed.


To promote wellness, a person dealing with mental health issues may need to alter their lifestyle.

Reducing alcohol consumption, getting more rest, and eating a healthy, balanced diet are a few examples of such adjustments. It could be necessary for someone to take time off from work or to work out personal problems that are affecting their mental health.

Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness are examples of relaxation practises that may be helpful for those with disorders like anxiety or depressive disorder.

A support system, whether it be through self-help organisations or close friends and family, can be crucial to recovering from mental illness.

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