Facts about Common Mental Illnesses

Mental health problems are health conditions involving changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior, and they are associated with distress or impaired functioning. When they are more severe, they are called mental illnesses. These include anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depressive and other mood disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and others. When these occur in children under 18, they are referred to as serious emotional disturbances (SEDs).

Here is some information on some of the most common mental illnesses.

Anxiety Disorders
Panic disorder affects about 2.4 million adult Americans and is twice as common in women as in men. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden terror that often occurs with a pounding heart, sweating, nausea, chest pain or smothering sensations and feelings of faintness or dizziness.

Depressive Disorders
About 18.8 million American adults experience a depressive illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. People with a depressive illness cannot just “pull themselves together” and get better.

Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa: People with this disorder see themselves as overweight despite their actual body weight. With this disorder, a person works to maintain a weight lower than normal for their age and height. This is accompanied by an intense fear of weight gain or looking fat.

Bulimia: Bulimia is characterized by episodes of binge eating—eating an excessive amount of food at once with a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode—followed by behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced purging by vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

More than 2 million Americans a year experience this disorder. It is equally common in men and women. Schizophrenia tends to appear earlier in men than in women, showing up in their late teens or early 20s as compared to their 20s or early 30s in women. Schizophrenia often begins with an episode of psychotic symptoms like hearing voices or believing that others are trying to control or harm you.

Source: SAMHSA’s Resource Center (ADS Center)

Information provided by: Neighborhood Based Mental Health Services Program. For more information about the program, contact: NaKaisha Tolbert-Banks at ntbanks@intecare.org.