Mental health disorders are common conditions, affecting an estimated 54 million Americans each year. Mental health conditions can cause frequent stress and can be both emotionally and physically trying. If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health concerns, know that you are not alone and help is available.

What Is Mental Illness?

A mental health disorder is defined as any condition that affects a person’s thoughts, behaviors or moods. While some mental health disorders last for a limited period, others are chronic and lifelong. When these issues cause high levels of stress or affect their daily functioning or relationships, treatment may be necessary to help a person manage their symptoms.

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Common Mental Health Disorders

A few of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders include the following:

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Causes of Mental Illness

Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is unknown, most develop as the result of a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.

Some mental illnesses have been linked to abnormal functioning of the brain due to chemical imbalances, injuries or developmental abnormalities. Mental illnesses sometimes run in families, suggesting that genetics also plays a role. Other links to mental health disorders include:

  • Long-term substance abuse
  • Poor nutrition and exposure to toxins
  • Undergoing severe psychological trauma as a child, including emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Death or divorce
  • Dysfunctional family life
  • Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger or loneliness
  • Social or cultural expectations
  • Substance abuse

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Diagnosing Mental Illness

Physicians will typically check for related complications while diagnosing a mental health disorder and perform:

  • Physical exams to rule out any physical problems that could be causing the symptoms
  • Lab tests to evaluate body processes or screen for alcohol and drugs
  • Psychological evaluation to assess mental illness symptoms, thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns

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Statistics on Mental Illness

Mental health disorders are one of the most common causes of disability in the United States and bear the largest disease burden of any category of health conditions. An estimated 54 million Americans live with a serious mental illness or mental health issues in any given year.

Mental illness also includes alcohol and substance use disorders. In 2013, approximately 17.3 million Americans over the age of 12 lived with an alcohol use disorder in the past year.  Roughly 6.9 million Americans 12 and older abused illicit drugs and were dependent on them in the year before being surveyed.

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Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Co-occurring disorders, or mental health and substance use disorders presenting simultaneously, are exceedingly common. People living with a drug or alcohol use disorder are about twice as likely to already exhibit symptoms of a mental health disorder. Similarly, those who are living with a mental health disorder are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem as well.

Mental Illness Stigma

Some individuals still view mental illnesses as threatening. These views can lead to various forms of exclusion and discrimination for people with mental health problems.

Some of the additional harmful effects of stigma can include:

  • Reluctance to seek help or treatment
  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, co-workers or others
  • Fewer opportunities for work, school or social activities
  • Trouble securing housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover mental illness treatment

Mental Health Treatment

Treatments may vary depending on the type of mental health disorder a person has. However, mental health care almost always involves some form of psychiatric counseling. Medications may also be prescribed.

If you or a loved one is living with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders that are affecting your life, The Recovery Village can help. Individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders can receive comprehensive treatment from one of the facilities located across the country. To learn more, call The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative.