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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Here is Why It’s Never Too Late for You to Achieve Something Worthwhile

Have you ever asked yourself if it’s too late to achieve something worthwhile in life. These two most upvoted responses by Marcus and Jim respectively on Quora will help you if you still have doubts about what you can do at any stage of your career.

1. Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, likes dinosaurs.

Too late for what?

If you slept through your 26th birthday, it’s too late for you to experience that. It’s too late for you to watch “LOST” in its premiere broadcast. (Though, honestly, you didn’t miss much.) It’s too late for you to fight in the Vietnam War.

It’s too late for you to go through puberty or attend nursery school. It’s too late for you to learn a second language as proficiently as a native speaker*. It’s probably too late for you to be breastfed.

It’s not too late for you to fall in love.

It’s not too late for you to have kids.

It’s not too late for you to embark on an exciting career or series of careers.

It’s not too late for you to read the complete works of Shakespeare; learn how to program computers; learn to dance; travel around the world; go to therapy; become an accomplished cook; sky dive; develop an appreciation for jazz; write a novel; get an advanced degree; save for your old age; read “In Search of Lost Time”; become a Christian, then an atheist, then a Scientologist; break a few bones; learn how to fix a toilet; develop a six-pack …

Honestly, I’m 47, and I’ll say this to you, whippersnapper: you’re a fucking kid, so get over yourself. I’m a fucking kid, too. I’m almost twice your age, and I’m just getting started! My dad is in his 80s, and he wrote two books last year.

You don’t get to use age as an excuse. Get off your ass!

Also, learn about what economists call “sunk costs.” If I give someone $100 on Monday, and he spends $50 on candy, he’ll probably regret that purchase on Tuesday. In a way, he’ll still think of himself as a guy with $100—half of which is wasted.

What he really is is a guy with $50, just as he would be if I’d handed him a fifty-dollar bill. A sunk cost from yesterday should not be part of today’s equation. What he should be thinking is this: “What should I do with my $50?”

What you are isn’t a person who has wasted 27 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them?

* What I’d intended as a throwaway comment, about the difficulty of second-language acquisition after childhood, has generated interest and disagreement. I will admit upfront I am not an expert on the matter, and was mostly informed by research I’d read about.

It claimed there’s a window of childhood, after which the brain stops being able to hear certain sounds—one’s not used by a child’s native language—which is why it’s so hard to learn to speak a second language without an accent.

Some people may master it, but not many. (How many people do you know, after 25, learned a foreign language and can speak it so well, natives have no idea they’re listening to a foreigner?) It’s also challenging to learn all the idiomatic expressions that native speakers have known since they were small children.

However, since having written this answer, I’ve learned that the Science behind this is very controversial. As I’m not an expert, let me refer you to the wikipedia article (and it’s linked resources).

“In second-language acquisition, the strongest evidence for the critical period hypothesis is in the study of accent, where most older learners do not reach a native-like level.

However, under certain conditions, native-like accent has been observed, suggesting that accent is affected by multiple factors, such as identity and motivation, rather than a critical period biological constraint (Moyer, 1999; Bongaerts et al., 1995; Young-Scholten, 2002).”

2. Jim Lawrenson, Still driving…

Unfortunately for ‘real’ people, the media is obsessed with the tiny minority who succeed early and display this very publicly.

This is then amplified by the high profile ‘subject’,  for PR purposes, to perpetuate their success.

Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, River Phoenix, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, James Dean, Richard Branson, Whitney Houston, One Direction, Amy Winehouse, Mark Zuckerburg. Need I go on.

Notice a trend in there somewhere?

You are probably being influenced, (like all of us), in how you assess your own progress, compared to these people. It can be a dangerous game to play.

It takes a tremendous amount of luck, as well as talent, to get into the right position at the right time. Not many people who make it will tell you that, often preferring to put it down to their hard work.

That is because they believe that this is the case, not because they are intentionally misleading you. I know that because, to an extent, I’ve done it.

You also may not have considered that even if you were on the list of young successes. It is very hard to follow that early success later in life. Your expectations of yourself are higher and based on that youthful virtual reality you experienced once, you can never improve on your past.

That can be a tough pill to swallow and despite all the money in the world, many struggle with that.

Look at any list of young successes from just 10 years ago and count the number who have disappeared, died or been in rehab. Lots.

Half the list of super successful people above are dead for a start off.

This is not an excuse for you to give up trying however. 

Try to think of life as a long road journey.

The journey can be as exciting or as boring as you choose to make it.

Wherever you are on the journey, there are new experiences, as long as you welcome them and seek them out. Some you can plan in advance.

Often, you need to get out of the car to experience them. Otherwise, you will see them flash past the window and feel like it is too late to stop.

  • Do something every day which contributes to your progress on the journey and always be learning and experiencing new things.
  • Don’t put off experiences which can be done today by getting out of the car, for a tomorrow which may never arrive.
  • Build a vision of where you want to get to in 1, 5 and 10 years and then think about the steps you need to complete in the next 30 days to move towards it, but don’t set deadlines that are too harsh. Do the first step on the list today.
  • Like any long journey, you will hit diversions, obstacles, traffic lights, speed bumps, closed roads and all manner of other problems. There will be crashes – you might be involved in them. Like any long road journey, if you want to get the destination enough, you won’t turn back, you will reroute. The car might break down or need repairing. Just accept it will happen now, and carry on.

Most importantly, don’t wait for all the traffic lights between your house and your destination, to turn green at the same time, before you set off.

They won’t!

Get in the car and start driving.

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