Approximately 43.8 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness.

That number may be much higher, due to the fact that many people are not educated about what mental illness is.

Throughout history, mental illness has had a negative connotation attached to it. The majority of people believed if you were “mentally ill” it meant you were insane.

Luckily in recent years, mental health awareness has spread and people are now understanding mental illness on a deeper level.

However, there’s still a long way to go. Many people don’t know what it means to live and function with a mental illness. It’s important for these patients to understand their illness so they can move forward and live their life to the fullest.

Understanding Mental Illness: What You Need to Know

If you’re diagnosed with a mental illness, or you believe you may be suffering from one, it’s important you understand what this means exactly.

You should know what causes mental illness and what the common types of mental illness. This is important so you can be treated by professionals such as these counselors.

What Causes Mental Illness?

While there is no singular cause of mental illness, there are contributing factors.

If you have a history of mental illness in your family, you’re at a much higher risk for developing that same illness in your lifetime.

This doesn’t mean that you are for sure going to suffer from the disease. Even if both your parents suffer from the same mental illness, it doesn’t mean you will too. However, it definitely increases the likelihood.

Another major factor in developing a mental illness is stressful life events. If you’ve experienced the death of someone you love, it can trigger strong emotions that change your brain chemistry.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you’re also at much higher risk of developing a mental illness.

Another main cause of mental illness is the use of drugs. Using drugs can affect your brain chemistry and make you more likely to develop mental illness.

Common Types of Mental Illness

There are many mental illnesses that people suffer from, but it’s important to the 3 most common diseases.


Depression is the most well-known mental illness, but it’s actually only the third most commonly diagnosed. Major depressive disorder can be identified by these common symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or irritable every day
  • Lack of interest in your favorite hobbies or activities
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Sleeping too much or hardly sleeping at all
  • Unusually tired due to a lack of energy
  • You feel guilty or worthless, like you have nothing to offer the world
  • You have difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • You have thoughts of self-harm or suicide

To be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, you must have at least 5 of these symptoms occurring every day for at least two weeks straight.


Anxiety is the second most commonly diagnosed mental illness with 18% of adults in the United States suffering from the disease.

Anxiety can affect people in many ways, some may feel it mildly, while others are debilitated by the disease on a regular basis.

There are 4 different types of anxiety disorders: panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and specific phobias.

Panic disorder is defined as experiencing regular panic attacks that happen suddenly. Physical symptoms of panic attacks include sweating, difficulty breathing, and an increase in heart rate.

People who suffer from panic attacks experience impending doom which makes the panic attack even worse. Panic attacks can be so severe that many people believe they are actually dying.

Social Anxiety Disorder occurs when you feel overwhelming anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness when you’re around other people.

People who suffer from social anxiety will constantly be worried about what other people are thinking about them. They’ll try to blend in with everyone as much as possible to avoid being judged or embarrassed.

General Anxiety Disorder applies to those people who feel a general sense of excessive worry that can easily spiral out of control. This worry isn’t caused by anything in particular and can come up out of nowhere.

Specific Phobias are fears that people have about something like heights, driving, or the ocean. These phobias will cause people to feel an unreasonable fear that others who don’t have the phobia will not feel.

Substance Abuse Disorder

Otherwise known as drug addiction, this is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the United States, affecting over 21 million adults.

Drug addiction occurs when you have a physical or mental need to continue taking a drug beyond when it’s medically necessary.  Consider a Treatment Management Behavioral Health center.

If you don’t take the drug regularly you will experience mental and physical symptoms that are extremely unbearable. You will also feel the need to increase your dose to receive the same effects of the drug.

Addiction is a disease that you will battle for a lifetime. No matter how many years sober you are, there will always be an intense urge to use again.

Additional Mental Illnesses to Know

There are tons of mental health diseases out there, and it’s important to touch on a few more.

PTSD affects millions of people every year, many of which are veterans, and goes largely untreated. Over 40,000 people commit suicide each year from PTSD.

PTSD causes a lot of the same symptoms as depression and anxiety. In addition, patients have to relive the trauma that caused the PTSD. This occurs through physiological reactions, psychological distress, flashbacks, and recurring nightmares.

Bipolar Disorder is another severe mental illness that is defined by extreme highs (manic episodes) and extreme lows (depressive episodes).

When experiencing a low, bipolar patients will have the same symptoms as someone who is depressed. When experiencing mania, patients will be abnormally upbeat and active, have an increase in self-confidence, and poor decision making.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects over 1% of the population. People who suffer from schizophrenia will often experience hallucinations, delusions, confused thoughts, and weird movements.

For More Information

It’s important for everyone to have an accurate understanding of mental illness so it can be recognized and treated.

For help on understanding health and well-being, check out our health blog for more information.

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How to Trick Your Brain into Making Better Decisions (Backed By Scientific Studies)

What are some tools to use for effective decision making? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing site where questions are answered by people with unique insights. This answer was shared by Charles Duhigg, staff writer for the New York Times and author of Smarter Faster Better, on Quora:

Here is what scientific studies say will help you make better decisions:

Thinking through various, contradictory possibilities, and then trying to force yourself to figure out which ones are more or less likely, and why. (This is known as probabilistic thinking, and studies show that it significantly increases the quality of people’s decision making.)

Say, for instance, that you are trying to decide whether your group of rebels should attack the Death Star. Seems like an easy decision, right?

After all, the Death Star is filled with jerks, and it has a big glaring weakness (that apparently no architect considered when designing the ship): one well placed shot can blow up the entire thing.

If you are some hillbilly from Tatooine, you’ll charge off into space. You’ll think about this decision in binary terms (“The Empire=bad. The rebels=good. What can go wrong?”)

But, if you are practiced at decision making, you’ll probably do something a bit differently: you’ll sit down with Adm. Ackbar, and you’ll try to envision the dozens of different outcomes that are possible. (“We could get defeated before we make it to the ship. We could make it to the ship and not have enough X-wings.

We could have enough X-wings but then miss the shot. We could make the shot but our intel could be wrong. We could have good intel and make the shot and the Death Star blows up, but our reward is Jar Jar Binks…” You get the point.)

Now, here’s the thing: you aren’t going to be very precise at assigning probabilities to all those possibilities. (“What are the odds that our intel is bad?”) But forcing yourself to think through all the possibilities and then simply TRYING to assign odds will be really helpful in revealing what you do and don’t know.

So, maybe you are pretty certain that your intel is good, and maybe you are pretty certain that, if they can get close to the Death Star, your pilots will hit the target (because, after all, you’ve got the force on your side), but you aren’t particularly certain that you have enough X-wings to make sure that you’ll get close to the Death Star.

Now you know which parts of your plan are weakest, you know what you need to learn more about and what problems you need to solve to increase the odds of success.

Our brains, left to their own devices, prefer to think about choices in binary terms. (And, from an evolutionary standpoint, this is really efficient.)

But to make better decisions, we have to force ourselves to think probabilistically – AND THEN WE NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE FACT THAT PROBABILISTIC THINKING TENDS TO REVEAL HOW MUCH WE DON’T KNOW.

It is scary to confront uncertainty. It can make you crazy and anxious. That’s why it is so much easier to look at choices as binary options (“I’ll either succeed or fail”) or deterministic outcomes (“I ended up married to her because she was my soulmate.”)

But if you genuinely want to make better decisions, you have to fight that instinct, and make yourself think about multiple possibilities – both the good and the bad – and be really honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know (and what is knowable and unknowable.)

And then you have to take a leap, and make a decision, and see it as  an experiment that gives you data, rather than a success or failure that you should congratulate yourself on/beat yourself up about.

Because, unfortunately, the force doesn’t really exist. But probabilities do.

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