Fluctuations in mental health are normal, and everyone struggles from time to time. Mental illness, however, refers to any condition beyond these normal fluctuations, where ongoing signs and symptoms cause severe distress and significantly interfere with a person’s ability to function well. It can be hard for people to seek help when struggling with a mental illness, but it’s a crucial first step in finding the right treatment.
Depression is a common condition that affects all kinds of people all over the world. Experiencing sadness, grief, loneliness, or despair in response to life stresses can be considered part of a healthy emotional experience. Depression, however, occurs when these feelings become consuming, distorting, or persistent to a point where they interfere with the ability to function in life.
There are different kinds of depression, and depression can manifest differently in different people. It is often not possible to know what causes depression in a particular person, but there are known risk factors such as family history of mood disorders, trauma, major life changes, or certain diseases or medications. The first challenge is often recognizing depression and seeking treatment, which can include a combination of psychotherapy, healthy lifestyle choices, social support, and medication. Together, these treatments can help manage the effects of depression.
Bipolar Disorder is a condition that is characterized by unusually dramatic shifts in mood and energy between periods of depression and periods of mania or hypomania. Bipolar disorder is different from the normal ups and downs people may experience from life, and it can cause major disruptions and distress.
There are different kinds of bipolar disorder, but they are all characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy levels. It is not fully understood what causes bipolar disorder, but the known risk factors include family history of bipolar disorder, stress or trauma, genetics, or differences in brain function. It is important to recognize bipolar disorder (which typically gets diagnosed in teenagers or young adults) and seek treatment immediately. Treatment can include a combination of psychotherapy, medication, healthy lifestyle choices, social support, and self-management strategies. Together, these treatments can help manage the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is a serious and often complex condition that is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, or lack of emotional expression and response (catatonic behavior). Schizophrenia can have a profoundly disruptive effect on a person’s life and on the lives of their loved ones. One major challenge with schizophrenia is accepting the diagnosis and treatment. This is often because of the stigma, fear, and lack of understanding of schizophrenia, but also because the disease can periodically affect a person’s ability to connect with an external reality (often referred to as psychosis).
It is not well understood what causes schizophrenia, but there are some known risk factors such as family history of schizophrenia or psychosis, genetics, psychological and social factors, exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, differences in brain function, and potentially the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Schizophrenia typically develops in young adults (early to mid-20’s in men and late 20’s in women). It is essential to seek immediate treatment for schizophrenia, which can include community and social support, antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy, and self-management strategies.