Mental Health Information

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines ‘mental illness’ as a “medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning…mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.”[1] Although often stigmatized and kept under wraps, mental health problems are actually very common. According to, one in five American adults (45 million people!) experienced a mental health problem in 2011 and “one in 20 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.”[2] Despite these staggering numbers, “only 38% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment.”2 Further, “suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It accounts for the loss of more than 38,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.”2

The White House put the national spotlight on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health problems and improving access to mental health services by hosting a National Conference on Mental Health on June 3rd, 2013. Our government called for mental health awareness and understanding to be made a national priority.

Worried about your own or a loved one’s mental health? Below is an overview of some of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Most of the mental health conditions discussed below include examples of circumstances that someone suffering from this condition may be experiencing. Click on the numbered links to view examples, descriptions, and symptoms of the different mental disorders. The Edison Department of Health and Human Services hopes this serves as a valuable resource to you and your loved ones. 

Mood Disorders 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “if you have a mood disorder, your general emotional state or mood is distorted or inconsistent with your circumstances.”[3] Further, states that people with mood disorders may feel sad all the time, lose interest in important parts of life, and/or fluctuate between extreme happiness and extreme sadness.[4] Click below for more information on the following mood disorders:

  1. Major Depressive Disorder
  2. Dysthymic Disorder
  3. Bipolar Disorder

Psychotic Disorders

According to, people with psychotic disorders “lose contact with reality and experience a range of extreme symptoms that usually includes hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not real, such as voices) and delusions (believing things that are not true).”[5] Click below for more information on the following psychotic disorder:

  1. Schizophrenia

Anxiety Disorders

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause people to feel excessively frightened, distressed, or uneasy during situations in which most other people would not experience these same feeling...In the most severe cases, anxiety disorders can make even regular and daily activities such as shopping, cooking or going outside incredibly difficult…Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America: they affect around 20 percent of the population at any given time…”[6]

“Unlike the relatively mild, brief anxiety caused by a stressful event (such as speaking in public or a first date), anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and can get worse if they are not treated.”[7]

Click below for more information on the following anxiety disorders:

  1. Panic Disorder
  2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  4. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  5. Phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia)

Eating Disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “an eating disorder is an illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spiraled out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also signal an eating disorder.”[8] Click below for more information on the following eating disorders:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Binge-Eating Disorder

Personality Disorders

According to the Mayo Clinic, “a personality disorder is a type of mental illness in which you have trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people — including yourself…In general, having a personality disorder means you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking and behaving no matter what the situation.”[9] Click below for more information on the following personality disorders:

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder
  2. Avoidant Personality Disorder
  3. Borderline Personality Disorder

Substance-use Disorders

Many people with mental health problems may also experience problems with substance abuse. According to

  • “Certain illegal drugs can cause people with an addiction to experience one or more symptoms of a mental health problem
  • “Mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication
  • “Mental and substance use disorders share some underlying causes, including changes in brain composition, genetic vulnerabilities, and early exposure to stress or trauma”[10]

Further, “more than one in four adults living with serious mental health problems also has a substance use problem.”10

Finally, states that signs and symptoms of substance-use disorders can include:

  • Behavioral changes:
    • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
    • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
    • Using substances in physically hazardous situations such as while driving or operating a machine
    • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
    • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
    • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
    • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
    • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
    • Lacking of motivation
    • Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason10
  • Physical changes:
    • Bloodshot eyes and abnormally sized pupils
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
    • Deterioration of physical appearance
    • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
    • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination10
  • Social changes:
    • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
    • Legal problems related to substance use
    • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
    • Using substances even though it causes problems in relationships 10

Suicidal Behavior


The statistics on suicide in the United States are staggering.

About 38,000 Americans die by suicide every year[11]. More Americans die by suicide than by homicide11. “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds and more than 8 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide within the past 12 months”[12]. About 100 Americans die by suicide every single day12.

Risk Factors

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for suicide are

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Being in prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or media figures11

Chronic medical illness and pain, social isolation, and “history of trauma (e.g. child abuse or combat experience)” are also associated with an increased risk of suicide[13]. Further, women are more likely to attempt suicide while men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide13. Young people and older adults are particularly at risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Warning Signs

According to, the following are warning signs of suicide that must not be ignored:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings12

If you or anyone you know display any of these warning signs, you need to seek help IMMEDIATELY.


Studies show that many different types of talk therapy can play an important role in suicide prevention. “Studies showed that a type of psychotherapy called cognitive therapy reduced the rate of repeated suicide attempts by 50 percent during a year of follow-up. A previous suicide attempt is among the strongest predictors of subsequent suicide, and cognitive therapy helps suicide attempters consider alternative actions when thoughts of self-harm arise.”[14]

Important advice from the National Institute of Mental Health if you think someone is suicidal:

“If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Eliminate access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including unsupervised access to medications.”14

*If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any day of the week, any hour of the day. If you have concerns about friends or family members being suicidal, encourage them to seek treatment from a mental health professional IMMEDIATELY!*


Seeking treatment for mental illness may be difficult due to stigma, uncertainty, and inadequate insurance coverage. But treatment should definitely be sought because many people suffering from mental health problems experience great relief and recovery after taking advantage of the several different treatment options and support services available to them. Treatment success rates for mental illnesses are about 60-80 percent.[15] Treatment success rates are roughly 60% for schizophrenia, 70% for depression, and 80% for bipolar disorder.[16] In comparison, success rates for common surgical treatments of heart disease are roughly 40-60 percent.15

Treatment plans for a mental illness are tailored to each individual. Options include psychosocial treatments, prescription psychiatric medications, and a combination of the two. Other treatments are ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), additional mental health services and supports that can aid in recovery are case management, supported employment, psychiatric hospitalization, residential treatment programs, and peer support services. Primary care physicians, psychiatrists (medical doctors who specialize in mental disorders and can prescribe medication), psychologists, social workers, counselors, and religious leaders can often either refer you to or provide treatment services.


According to the Mayo Clinic, the most commonly used classes of psychiatric medications are

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Mood-stabilizing medications
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antipsychotic medications[17]

Psychosocial treatments

Psychosocial treatments include psychotherapy, psychoeducation, self-help, and support groups. According to the Mayo Clinic, “psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or psychological counseling, is a process of treating mental illness by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider.” 17

Specific types of psychotherapy include

  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • psychodynamic psychotherapy[18]

For a thorough description of each of these types of psychotherapy, click on the following link: ID=10510

Other Links


  • [1] National Alliance on Mental Illness, "What is Mental Illness?." Accessed July 26, 2013.
  • [2] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Myths and Facts." Accessed July 26, 2013.
  • [3] Mayo Clinic, "Mood disorders--Why choose Mayo Clinic?." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [4] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Mood Disorders." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [5] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Psychotic Disorders." Accessed July 25, 2013.   
  • [6]Duckworth, Ken, and Jacob Freedman. National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Anxiety Disorders." Last modified April 2012. Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [7]  The National Institute of Mental Health, "Anxiety Disorders." Accessed July 25, 2013.   
  • [8] The National Institute of Mental Health, "Eating Disorders." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [9] Mayo Clinic, "Personality disorders." Last modified September 10, 2010. Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [10] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [11] The National Institute of Mental Health, "Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [12] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "Suicidal Behavior." Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [13] Duckworth, Ken, and Jacob Freedman. National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Suicide." Last modified January 2013. Accessed July 25, 2013.
  • [14] The National Institute of Mental Health, "Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention."           Accessed July 25, 2013.          statistics-and-prevention/index.shtml
  • [15] National Alliance on Mental Illness, "Mental Illnesses: Treatment Saves Money & Makes Sense." Last modified March 2007. Accessed July 26, 2013.
  • [16] Wisconsin United for Mental Health, "Mental Illnesses are Treatable." Accessed July 26, 2013.
  • [17] Mayo Clinic, "Mental illness: Treatments and drugs." Last modified September 15, 2012. Accessed July 26, 2013.
  • [18] Duckworth, Ken, and Jacob Freedman. National Alliance on Mental Illness, "About Psychosocial Treatments." Last modified July 2012. Accessed July 26, 2013.