4 Min Read

What is Mental Health?

Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, Psy.D.

Mental health encompasses our social, psychological, and emotional well-being. It affects our ability to cope with everyday stresses, interpersonal relationships, work and academic performance, and even our physical health. Mental health is important at every stage of life—from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over time, your mental health can change. For example, you might have experienced a natural disaster, or you might be dealing with financial problems. When it comes to mental health, it can be hard to distinguish between what’s normal and what’s not.

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re not alone. Although mental health symptoms can feel overwhelming, professional mental healthcare can help you manage your symptoms, cope with stress, and work toward mental wellness.

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How common are mental health problems?

Mental illnesses are common in the United States. According to behavioral health statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can exacerbate pre-existing mental illnesses. Fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic can lead to strong emotional reactions in adults and children, including stress, anxiety, and depression.

Although mental disorders affect tens of millions of people annually, estimates suggest that only half of people receive treatment due to issues surrounding stigma and lack of access to mental health services.

Common Mental Health Challenges

People choose to seek professional mental healthcare for a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a mental health disorder that causes heightened levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity. People with ADHD may find it difficult to focus their attention on a specific task or sit still for long periods of time.
  • Mood disorders: People with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, experience inconsistent or distorted emotional states that make it difficult to function in everyday life. The symptoms of mood disorders can range from intense sadness and irritability to alternating periods of depression and mania.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders are a range of mental health disorders characterized by unhealthy eating habits, such as severe calorie restriction and binge-eating. If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to serious physical health consequences such as malnutrition, kidney failure, and even death. Although eating disorders can affect people at any stage of life, they’re most commonly reported in adolescents and young adults.
  • Schizophrenia: As one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder characterized by disruptions in thought processes, social interactions, perception, and emotional responsiveness.
  • Relationship issues: When relationship problems become intense or frequent, they can lead to symptoms of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Relationship problems come in countless forms, but some common situations include communication issues, intimacy struggles, and financial problems.

Navigating Mental Health Challenges

If mental health problems interfere with your everyday life, it’s important to seek professional help. If you notice symptoms of a mental health disorder, seeking help as early as possible can help you receive an accurate diagnosis and pursue potential treatment options.

Fortunately, most mental health problems are manageable with proper treatment. Some common treatment options include:

  • Therapy: Psychotherapy is an important component of mental health treatment, according to Mental Health America. Working with a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, social worker, or counselor can help you navigate your mental health problems, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and effectively manage your symptoms. Many therapists offer appointments in individual and group contexts. Additionally, many online mental health services are available for remote support. If you’re not sure where to start, try searching online or asking your clinician for a referral.
  • Social support: Opening up to family members and close friends can give you the opportunity to express your feelings and concerns. Whether you’re meeting in person or over video chat, talking to loved ones can help combat loneliness and foster good mental health habits, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Support groups: Many people with mental health conditions find support groups beneficial in managing symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Support groups can help you meet new people, learn new coping skills, and receive honest feedback from others in the group. If you’re not sure where to get started, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers several support groups for those with mental health disorders, including NAMI Family and NAMI Basics.
  • Self-care: Taking care of your physical health is just as important as your mental health. Research has shown that eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly can help manage emotional distress and make positive mental health changes. 

Final Thoughts

Our everyday lives look much different than they did before the Covid-19 pandemic, and adjusting to new lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming. 

Whether you’re struggling with poor mental health for the first time or searching for a new therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through WithTherapy. We’ll connect you to a therapist you feel comfortable with, regardless of your personal preferences and requirements.

One of the licensed therapists on the WithTherapy platform will help you explore your treatment options, find different ways to cope with mental health challenges, and work toward mental wellness.

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