Category: Mental Illness

Mental Health Disease: An Overview

Mental Health Disease: An Overview


Often misunderstood, mental health disease is surprisingly common with one in five adults experiencing a mental health disorder every year. Half of diagnosed mental health disorders are observed before the age of 14 and 75% before a person turns 24 and these disorders will often follow a person throughout his or her life.


Generally speaking, mental health disorders are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, behavior and mood. These disorders are wide ranging and include depression, eating disorders, addictive behavior and various mood disorders. Although each person suffering from these diseases may exhibit different symptoms while sharing the same diagnosis, all may experience difficulty in social settings, interpersonal relationships and work and family life.


The factors contributing to mental illness can be both social and biological in nature. Genetics are one cause and these inherited traits can often be triggered by a life event. Biochemical processes and brain structure are also involved in the development of a mental illness. The impairment of neural networks in the brain and the change in nerve receptors often lead to disorders such as depression. A person’s environment from birth is also a strong influencer in the development of mental illness. Traumatic environments such as war zones or neighborhoods in poverty can lead to structural changes in the synapses of a person’s brain. Alcohol and drugs consumed while a baby is in the womb also increase the risk of mental health disorders.


Treatment for those suffering from mental health disease is often two faceted and combines both medication and therapy to improve a patient’s chance of recovery and well being. Physical activity and a healthy diet are also imperative in mood regulation. While suffering from a mental health illness often carries social stigma and loneliness, a support group is strongly encouraged to improve a patient’s outlook and ability to function.

Getting Rid of the Stigma Around Mental Illness

Getting Rid of the Stigma Around Mental Illness

Some believe that the goal of fighting stigma is a lost cause. What does it matter what people think? But the truth is that because of stigma, those who have mental illness issues are sometimes seen as nothing but their condition. They are often:

  • Expected to magically change their behaviors, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Viewed as “flakey” or unpredictable.
  • Held responsible for the things that are out of their control.
  • Isolated by others.

Having a mental health condition is already difficult, and the stigma can sometimes lead to tragic results. More than 41,000 people take their own life every year, according to the CDC. In America, suicide is the the 3rd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24 and also the 10th leading cause of death among adults. So fighting the stigma associated with mental illness could mean staying lives.

To decrease the stigma related to mental illnesses, we need to be open to having more conversations with each other about it. The more open and honest conversations we have about mental illness, the more normalized it will become. Starting the conversation is important. It can go a long way towards getting rid of stigma.

Another advantage to eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness is that those who experience mental health issues will feel better about asking for help. It is absolutely essential that they should be able to. Just like individuals who have addiction issues, it is not helpful if we as a society make it seem like these people are “bad” or that they do not have a real disease. The misconception that people suffering from depression should just “pick themselves up off the ground” or that alcoholics “just need to stop drinking” is a problematic one.

Removing the stigma associated with these conditions will go a long way when it comes to the way they are treated. It’s important that we open up to one another and start to have conversations about mental health in America.

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The Connection Between Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) states that there is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances” and that mental health disorder patients are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 44 percent of cocaine
  • 38 percent of alcohol
  • 40 percent of cigarettes

NBER also reports that people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some point are responsible for the consumption of:

  • 84 percent of cocaine
  • 69 percent of alcohol
  • 68 percent of cigarettes

Clearly, there is a connection between mental illness and substance abuse. This is called a dual diagnosis. Many rehabilitation centers treat for co-occurring disorders, which is what you need if you have both mental health issues and substance use disorder.

The highest occurrence of substance abuse in patients who suffer from mental illness is the use of substances for purposes of self-medication. Patients will abuse drugs and/or alcohol in order to treat their own untreated symptoms. There are so many different examples of this.

Have you ever known someone with social anxiety to drink in order to relax? This person is using alcohol to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to abuse marijuana because they are depressed? This person is using marijuana to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone to take Adderall, cocaine, or meth to increase their energy and motivation? This person is using stimulants to self-medicate. Have you ever known someone who started taking benzodiazepines for panic or anxiety disorder but then it led to abuse? This person is abusing narcotic medications to self-medicate.


Unfortunately, for these patients, not only are they failing to treat these symptoms, but they are actually creating new symptoms. If you are in this situation, you have to get help with your substance abuse and your mental illness. The best thing you can do is seek treatment in a rehabilitation facility that treats dual diagnosis patients.

Remember, when it comes to substance abuse or mental illness, help is available to you if you are only willing to reach out and take it.