Mental Health: What Is Mental Health? Definition, Common Disorders and More

Just like your physical health, your mental health needs to be carefully supported. Mental health and well-being can affect your physical well-being, with disorders like depression and anxiety taking an equal toll on your body and mind. 

Now is the perfect time to learn more about improving or maintaining your mental health. More and more, people are opening up about the steps they take to look after their mental health, including wellness practices, therapy, and medication. First, we will define mental health, and then we’ll examine some common mental health disorders. 

Please remember that you cannot self-diagnose a mental health disorder. Even if you are experiencing one or more symptoms related to a condition, that does not necessarily mean you will be diagnosed with that condition. If you believe you may be experiencing a mental health condition, talk to a professional about evaluation and treatment. 

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health encompasses how well your social, emotional, and psychological needs are met. Recognizing what you need and making time for those needs helps improve your mental health, which affects how you think, feel, and act. Essentially, you are a happier person when your emotional needs are met.

It is important to understand mental health as a whole before digging into specifics. It is also vital to remember that poor mental health and mental illness are not the same. 

Mental health is ever-changing and depends on various factors, such as your general mood for the day, things that are on your mind, and external stressors. 

Changing mental health is completely normal, and understanding what makes you feel your best is key to successfully caring for your mental well-being.

Signs of Poor Mental Health

Not feeling your best, feeling disconnected from yourself, or feeling disconnected from your routine could indicate that your mental health is in poor condition. Sudden or gradual changes in your regular habits are signs that something is not in check. 

You can use this list to determine whether you are experiencing signs of worsening mental health. Remember, this is not a complete list of signs:

  • Disruptions in your sleep schedule — You’re either sleeping too much, too little, or not at all.

  • You’re experiencing weight and nutrition challenges — You’re eating too much or too little.

  • You are becoming distant — You’re pulling away from loved ones and activities you usually enjoy.

  • You have low or no energy — You constantly feel fatigued.

  • You have unexplained aches — You’re experiencing stomach aches, muscle tension, or other pains without medical cause.

  • You have a general feeling of hopelessness or feel like nothing can fix your current situation.

  • You constantly feel on edge — You’re always on alert or unable to focus.

  • You have mood swings.

  • You’re using drugs and alcohol more than usual.

  • You’ve thought about harming yourself or others.

What to Do if You Notice These Signs

If anything from the list above resonates with you, it is time to reach out for help. 

Talk therapy is an excellent option if you need to discover what is causing the decline in your mental health. 

Not only will discussing thoughts and feelings help identify the underlying causes, but you will learn valuable tools you can incorporate into your daily tasks to make things more enjoyable again. 

Even if your mental health issues are genetic and not situational, there are ways professionals can help.

If therapy reveals that your poor mental health is an indicator of a mental illness, there is help for that, too. Various therapies and medications are available to relieve your symptoms. Mood can help get your mental health back on track, allowing you to grow and thrive.

Common Disorders

The most important thing to remember if you or a family member is suffering from mental health problems is this: You are not alone. 

One in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness each year. That’s 20 percent of the population managing invisible mental disorders. 

This percentage includes people from every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood. The good news is that mental healthcare is becoming more and more accessible, with digital therapies and online appointments rising in popularity. You won’t even have to leave your home to get the care you need.

No matter what symptoms you may be experiencing, professional mental health first aid is just a call or email away. Mental health professionals are available to help you create a happier and more stable future. 

Here are some of the most common mental health disorders. If you have any of these conditions, you can benefit from professional help.

Anxiety Disorders

There are multiple forms of anxiety disorders, separated into categories based on triggers, symptoms, and other variables. 

Anxiety disorders present as a constant and excessive level of fear and worry surrounding a trigger. These triggers are non-threatening, but your body and mind react as if you are in danger. 

Symptoms can include shaking, sweating, dizziness, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and fatigue.


ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. People with ADHD experience symptoms including: 

  • Being easily distracted

  • Dealing with an inability to focus

  • Getting bored quickly

  • Fidgeting

  • Non-stop talking 

While people without ADHD may also experience these symptoms on occasion, ADHD is characterized by the persistence of these symptoms and the inability to control them.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes people to experience extreme highs and lows. These dramatic mood swings can have major effects on productivity, well-being, mood, and ability to think. Bipolar disorder is more extreme than having good days and bad days. Bipolar disorder’s mood swings are known as periods of mania and depression.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, occurs when someone has trouble regulating their emotions. People with BPD experience their emotions at an intense level for prolonged periods, making it hard for them to stabilize after a triggering event. 

This difficulty in returning to baseline can cause impulsivity, poor relationships with others, and strong responses to stress.


Depression is more than feeling sad. Major depressive disorder occurs when someone experiences deep lows for extended periods. Each person’s depression can have varying symptoms, including disruption to sleep schedules, the urge to eat too much or too little, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are recognized as involuntarily escaping reality through a disconnect between thoughts, consciousness, memory, and identity. Dissociative disorders usually stem from a traumatic event, worsening with stress over time.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are diagnosed when people become so concerned with food or weight that they can hardly focus on anything else. This intense preoccupation with food and weight can present itself in various eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, over-exercising disorder, and more. 

Women are most commonly affected, with adolescents and young adults being the most vulnerable.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, occurs when someone suffers from repetitive, intrusive thoughts and intense desires to perform specific actions. People with OCD often know that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational but are unable to stop them. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is typically brought on by witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event. People with PTSD relive this experience involuntarily and have difficulty escaping from unwanted memories. 

Events, topics, or visuals that remind someone with PTSD of their original stressful event can trigger them. Sometimes, they experience these memories even without a trigger.


Psychosis occurs when a person cannot tell if what they see, hear, feel, or know is real. 

They are so disconnected from themselves and their surroundings that they do not know what to believe. This can be overwhelming, and most people who experience psychosis say the confusion and fear are debilitating.


Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by hallucinations, delusions, disconnection from others socially and emotionally, and disorganized thinking. 

People with schizophrenia have a hard time relating to others, thinking clearly, and managing their emotions. They also tend to have a deficient level of self-awareness, making them unlikely to seek out help.

Poor mental health and mental illnesses can be linked to other issues, as well. These issues go hand in hand with mental health disorders and can get in the way of proper treatment. 


Anosognosia occurs when a person is not self-aware about their mental health or receives a diagnosis and involuntarily stays in denial. 

People with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to experience anosognosia since those disorders are in part characterized by low self-awareness. Unfortunately, this can cause someone to believe they do not need help, delaying or stopping them from beginning psychotherapy or treatment.

Suicide or Self-harm

The risk of suicide and self-harm are two other factors often linked to mental health disorders. Depressive disorders, BPD, and other mental illnesses can cause urges for one to end their life or inflict injury on themselves. 

Mental illness suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals ages 15 to 35 in the United States. It is essential to look for the signs of suicidal ideations. Suicide prevention starts with noticing the triggers and knowing when to seek help.

Sleep Disruption

Many mental health disorders also disrupt sleep patterns. Depressive disorders can cause poor sleep quality or excessive sleep. In contrast, anxiety disorders can cause someone to have a hard time falling asleep or to experience a lack of sleep. 

Alcohol or Drugs

Unfortunately, some people with mental health disorders, particularly PTSD, are more apt to seek out drugs and alcohol to cope with their disorder. These substances can worsen symptoms. Regular substance use, substance use disorders, and withdrawal can all negatively affect your mental health.

Physical Health Issues

Mental health disorders can also stem from physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, or disability.

Closing Thoughts

Mental health is a huge topic. It ranges from general emotional well-being in the absence of mental illness to a full spectrum of mental health disorders. 

Knowing your personal mental health needs and ensuring they are met is the first step to reducing your symptoms and working to get back to a healthy mindset. 

Regardless of whether your emotional distress is a temporary problem or a long-term diagnosis, it is crucial to get the support you need. Talking to a mental health professional is the first step if you feel disengaged from things you once enjoyed, find yourself inexplicably fatigued, live in a constant state of worry, feel hopeless, or otherwise feel off balance.

Whether you think you may suffer from a mental health disorder or simply want to be proactive about your mental health care, remember to regularly take stock of your mental health. 



What Is Mental Health? | MentalHealth.gov

Learn About Mental Health – Mental Health | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Mental Health Conditions | NAMI

Mental Illness | National Institute of Mental Health