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Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

In addition to medication treatment, psychosocial treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer support groups and other community services can also be components of a treatment plan and that assist with recovery. The availability of transportation, diet, exercise, sleep, friends and meaningful paid or volunteer activities contribute to overall health and wellness, including mental illness recovery. Mental illnesses are treatable conditions.

Some general signs in adults that may suggest a mental illness include:

  • Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others
  • An unusual drop in functioning especially at school or work
  • Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought and speech that is hard to explain
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality
  • Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings of influences at work; illogical or “magical” thinking
  • Fear or suspiciousness of others
  • Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings or “mood swings”