Commonly Asked Mental Health FAQs

Looking after your mind is just as important as keeping your body healthy. Mental health disorders are conditions that affect your thoughts and emotions and interfere with your daily life and relationships with others. Mental illness is common - affecting around one in five people in the United States, according to the NIH. If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re certainly not alone.

Many mental health issues are relatively mild and temporary. But some people experience serious mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder which have a big impact on their day-to-day life. Mental illnesses can be just as severe and distressing as physical illnesses. But many people are far more reluctant to seek help for psychological problems than they would be for another medical problem.

Experiencing a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety can be confusing and frightening - particularly if you’ve never had it before. Many people are embarrassed to have psychological problems and see their illness as a sign of weakness. They may avoid talking about how they’re feeling with family members and hope the problem will go away by itself.

The good news is that many mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and stress are extremely treatable with the right support. Digital consultations or online therapy can be just as effective as seeing a mental health worker in person. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help from a qualified healthcare professional today.

For more information on specific mental health problems, take a look at our information on:

FAQs

What are the most common mental illnesses?

The most common mental illnesses are anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders and personality disorders.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US - affecting 40 million adults in the country. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says anxiety disorders are highly treatable but fewer than 40 percent of people with anxiety receive treatment. Symptoms of anxiety include excessive worrying, difficulty sleeping and sometimes panic attacks. Anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and phobias (such as agoraphobia).

Depression is another common mental health condition - affecting around 10% of American adults. Women are more likely to suffer from depression than men. It can develop at any age and in some cases leads to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when someone experiences significant mood swings with periods of depression and manic or hypomanic episodes. The hallmark of the latter is sustained elevated or irritable moods that are excessive.

What is a mental breakdown?

A mental breakdown (which is sometimes called a nervous breakdown) describes a period of severe mental illness or distress. A nervous breakdown is not an official medical term but it’s used when someone is unable to live their normal life because of their mental health problem. Symptoms vary from person to person but can include insomnia, thoughts of suicide, paranoia and panic attacks. People experiencing a mental breakdown may withdraw from life and avoid talking to friends and family.

Although experiencing a mental breakdown can be very frightening, treatments are available. Talking therapies and medication can help address the immediate symptoms and underlying cause of the mental health disorder.

What does mental illness look like?

Everyone experiences mental health in a different way but a mental health problem happens when your emotions, thinking, or behavior are affected. There are many different mental illnesses. Some are relatively mild and only have small effects on your quality of life. Others are more severe and can cause real difficulties. Major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are considered some of the most severe forms of mental illness.

When should I be concerned about my mental health?

Mental health symptoms differ from person to person but there are some red flags to watch out for which might suggest you would benefit from professional mental health treatment. Early warning signs include:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Sustained insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Low mood
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems (brain fog)
  • Not taking pleasure from activities you used to enjoy
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Substance use or abuse

Mental health problems can be successfully treated. If you’re struggling with your mental health, book an online consultation with a mental health professional today.

Does mental illness always run in the family?

It’s not always clear what causes a mental health problem. It could be a mix of biological and environmental factors. But mental illness does sometimes run in the family. Scientists know that genetics do often play a part in the development of a mental health problem. So if your parents, siblings or grandparents had poor mental health, it might make you more likely to experience a problem like depression or anxiety. But in many cases, there is no clear link between poor mental health and family history. Mental health problems can happen to anyone.

How are mental health problems treated?

Mental health professionals treat mental illness in a variety of ways. They sometimes recommend medication such as antidepressants to improve your mood and reduce thoughts of hopelessness and worry. Talking therapy or psychotherapy can also help many people with mental health problems. A type of counseling called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often prescribed for people with mental health problems like depression, anxiety, OCD and eating disorders. CBT helps people deal with overwhelming problems by breaking them down into small parts and challenging thought patterns that are causing difficulty.

Support groups can help many people with mental health difficulties. Peer support allows people to talk about their problems with others who can relate and understand. It helps a lot of people feel less alone.

What works best for one person will not necessarily be the best approach for somebody else. A trained mental health professional will decide on the best course of treatment to help you improve your mental health.

Are mental health problems treatable?

If you’re struggling with your mental health, know that most people can find relief by seeking treatment from a trained professional. Different mental health problems require different treatment options. Your treatment plan might include medication, talking therapy, or accessing a peer support group. As well as formal treatment, ensuring your lifestyle is as healthy as possible can also improve your mental wellbeing. Eating well, getting enough sleep and taking daily exercise can all boost your mood and help you feel better able to cope with life’s stresses. Many people who have suffered with their mental health go on to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

What should I tell my boss if I’m thinking of taking a mental health day?

Just as you’d take a sick day from work if you’re feeling physically unwell, taking a mental health day might be a good idea if you’re feeling overwhelmed or burned out. A mental health day can help you recharge so you’re more able to face your challenges when you return to work. But it can be tricky to ask for if you don’t have an understanding employer. In an ideal world, you’d be able to let your boss know how you’re feeling without fear of the consequences. With growing awareness of mental health problems, more employers are now happy to approve a mental health day compared to previous years. If you don’t think a request for a mental health day will go over well, say you’re feeling under the weather and will be taking a sick day. But it’s best to give your colleagues some advance notice if possible so they can cover your workload if necessary.

How does social media affect mental health?

Social media keeps us connected with others but it doesn’t always make us feel great. Research points to a link between high social media use and depression, anxiety, poor sleep, low self-esteem and body image concerns. This is particularly seen in teenagers but many adults also report negative feelings around social media. Seeing our peers present idealistic versions of themselves on Instagram or Twitter can make us feel bad because we compare our lives to the ‘perfect’ ones we see on our screens. Limiting your social media use may be a good idea if you want to improve your mental health. Though this is easier said than done, there are many apps you can download which can stop you from accessing popular social media sites too often.

What are the best mental health apps?

If you’re worried about your mental health, your best bet is arranging to see a mental health professional (whether that’s online or in-person) who will be able to recommend the best treatment approach. As well as arranging to speak to a mental health worker, there are several mental health apps you could try. These apps can be geared toward specific groups such as women, teens and people of color. There are also apps to help improve your mood, provide stress relief, and combat depression.

Is online therapy safe and effective?

Yes. Online therapy (or teletherapy) has been found to be just as effective as in-person treatment. It can also be more convenient particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when we should be staying at home as much as possible. Instead of traveling long distances to see someone in person, you can speak to an experienced therapist from your computer or smartphone. Just like in-person therapy, anything you say in these sessions will be completely confidential. Online therapists can help with conditions such as stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia.

During your appointment, the therapist will ask you questions and listen closely to how you’re feeling. They’ll then help you make changes to work towards your goals and suggest ways to manage your problems and help you cope better with daily life.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.