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Mental Illness: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Insurance

Mental Illness or Mental Health Disorders

The term mental illness (also called mental health disorders) applies to a wide variety of mental health conditions. These can be conditions that affect a person’s thinking and behavior. Most people by now are familiar with some specific examples of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. However, these are very visible manifestations of mental illness and it is not always the case with people who suffer from symptoms of the various illnesses in this class.

With many physical illnesses, medical intervention is warranted because failure to treat often leads to death or great physical suffering at the very least. In many ways, the same applies to mental health disorders.

Though the immediate and direct effects of mental health disorders are not physical, they can create physical symptoms in the long term and they can result in death through various avenues. Stress has been shown to contribute, for instance, to heart disease. Also, severe depression can lead to suicide.

You do not have to be a doctor to see that someone is physically maimed and recommend medical treatment. In the same way, you do not need to be a psychiatrist or therapist to see that someone is injured mentally and needs help. However, it is helpful to learn some of the traits and behaviors that are common in mental illness to be there at the right time for your loved ones.

To be helpful at a difficult time in someone else’s life, do not feel pressured to provide solutions. It is just like finding someone that you care about in a physically injured state. You want to get professional and quality help for them as soon as possible. However, if you were in such a situation, you would want to know more about what different signs of injury mean so that you can provide any on-the-spot help that might save a life.

Are Mental Illness and Mental Disorder the Same?

The terms "mental illness" and "mental disorder" are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two. A mental illness is a medical condition that affects a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. A mental disorder is a broader term that encompasses mental illnesses, as well as other conditions that can affect a person's mental health, such as personality disorders and substance abuse disorders.

The term "mental illness" is more commonly used in everyday conversation, while the term "mental disorder" is more commonly used in medical and clinical settings.

Some people with mental health conditions prefer the term "mental illness" because it can help to destigmatize mental health conditions and make them seem more like physical illnesses. Others prefer the term "mental disorder" because it is more accurate and specific.

The term "mental illness" is now preferred by many people. This is because the term "mental disorder" can have a negative connotation, and it can make people feel like they are broken or defective. The term "mental illness" is more neutral and does not carry the same negative baggage.

Ultimately, the best term to use is the one that the person with the mental health condition prefers. If you are unsure of which term to use, it is always best to ask the person what they prefer.

Signs Mental Health is Getting Worse

Mental health issues, if left untreated, can worsen over time and become more difficult to treat. Moreover, some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can increase the risk of physical health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Paying attention to signs of deteriorating mental health is crucial because early intervention can prevent these negative outcomes and improve your quality of life.

Warning signs of mental health:
  • Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Excessive anxiety or worry
  • Frequent mood swings (or if you're feeling emotionally unstable)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Changes in appetite (or weight)
  • Loss of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal / isolation
  • Difficulty concentrating, or making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained physical symptoms (like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue)
  • Increased substance use
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Here's a video with a detailed discussion on mental health signs you shouldn't ignore:

What are Mental Health Disorders?

Mental health disorders (or mental illnesses) can be conceptualized as a group of conditions that affect a person's thinking, feeling, or mood and/or ability to relate to others and function daily. It may be associated with certain kinds of behavior as well.

According to DSM-5 (the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association), mental health disorders are classified into five main categories: Anxiety disorders, Mood disorders, Eating disorders, Substance-related disorders, and disruptive behavior disorders.
Mental health disorders are common and are a major cause of disability affecting how a person functions in family and society. They are associated with personal distress and/or with a high risk of suffering, death, and disability.

Millions of people worldwide are living with mental illness, and you are not alone.

There are many different mental health disorders. You can learn what they are and how to deal with them on this site ➜ LiveWellTalk.

What are the Signs of Mental Illness

We should take note of some of the following traits and behaviors in people around us. Just one symptom is not necessarily enough to justify action. However, if that symptom is manifested very profoundly, you might think otherwise.

Ultimately, each person has to review a list like this and decide if it is time to talk to someone about the problem —

1. Has the person in question become socially withdrawn? A reluctance to participate in social activities is often a sign that something is internally wrong. It may simply be depression. However, when depressed people are allowed to withdraw from activities that they normally find peasant, they often get worse. It is important to keep in mind what a person is normally like. Some people are simply shy and not subjects of mental illness.

2. Does the person experience extreme changes in mood that are noticeable? This can be a sign of a wide variety of mental illnesses. It is not your concern to understand exactly what is wrong. You should just know that wild mood swings are always unhealthy unless they are prompted by an obvious and justifiable cause, such as a terrible accident or bad news.

3. Is the person tired a lot? Sometimes this is just a sign of poor sleeping habits. However, if you are close to the person and know for a fact that he or she spends more than enough time in bed, it may be a sign that something is troubling him or her. Additionally, people who suffer from mental illness may sleep quite a bit. They often do this to avoid their thoughts or contemplation of their situation in life.

4. Has his or her sex drive changed? If your partner suddenly seems disinterested, it may be caused by his or her mental illness.

5. Are drugs involved? Sometimes, people with mental illnesses turn suddenly to drugs or alcohol to relieve the mental pain that they feel. If you see an unexpected increase in drinking in someone who normally drinks, that may also be a sign.

6. Expression of suicidal thoughts. This does not have to be a direct statement such as, I want to die. You may just hear the person saying things about not being worth it anymore. Sometimes, people progress from these passive statements to direct actions and successfully kill themselves.

What causes mental illness?

Research shows that mental illnesses are caused by the interplay of genetic, environmental, and biological factors, some of which may be inherited, and that these factors interact in a complex, but definite way in an individual's development.

The environmental factors are mainly the stresses of everyday life.

The biological factors include -

- the effects of the brain on the body and the immune system,

- the effects of brain injuries,

- the effects of the brain on the body,

- the effects of the brain on the immune system, and

- the effects of the brain on physical development.

Genetic factors include the nature of the genes in the person's chromosomes and the effects of the genes on the brain.

How Are Mental Disorders Diagnosed?

Diagnosing mental illness typically involves a combination of techniques, including a thorough medical and psychological evaluation.
  • Medical evaluation: A healthcare provider may conduct a physical exam, and order lab tests to rule out any underlying physical conditions that may be contributing to symptoms.
  • Psychological evaluation: This usually involves a mental health professional conducting a comprehensive interview with the person, taking a detailed history of symptoms, as well as current and past life experiences. The professional may also use standardized questionnaires and rating scales to assess the severity and presence of specific symptoms.
  • Clinical Interview: This involves a mental health professional asking questions to assess the person's thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and overall functioning. The interviewer may ask about the onset, duration, and severity of symptoms, as well as any related stressors or life events.
  • Diagnostic criteria: Mental health professionals use diagnostic manuals, such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to help diagnose mental illnesses. These manuals provide specific criteria for each diagnosis, such as the number, type, and duration of symptoms.
  • Differential diagnosis: To ensure a correct diagnosis, mental health professionals must consider other possible explanations for symptoms, such as substance abuse, physical conditions, or other psychiatric disorders.
Mental illness diagnosis is a complex process and may take some time. It may also require input from multiple mental health professionals, and in some cases, a second opinion may be helpful.

It is important to emphasize that a mental illness diagnosis is not a personal failure, and seeking a diagnosis and treatment is a courageous step toward recovery and improved well-being.

Who Can Diagnose Mental Illness

A psychiatrist is best prepared to diagnose mental health disorders. Not only do they have an extensive breadth of experience in mental health, but they also have experience in medical health.

Mental health professionals who can diagnose mental illness include:
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide therapy.
  • Psychologists are mental health professionals who have a doctorate in psychology. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, provide therapy, and conduct research.
  • Mental health nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have advanced training in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide therapy.
  • Licensed clinical social workers are social workers who have a master's degree in social work. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, provide therapy, and conduct assessments.
  • Licensed professional counselors are mental health professionals who have a master's degree in counseling. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses, provide therapy, and conduct assessments.
Your primary care doctor may also diagnose and treat your mental illness in many cases. They’ll refer you to a specialist when needed.


It is not recommended that you confront the person directly and make accusations. Instead, try to broach the topic conversationally. Open the door so that the person knows that you care. Let him or her know that you can get help. Do not simply say that you are there. Instead, get specific and mention a program or a doctor that you have researched.

  Read also → How to Cope With Negative Reaction from Others on your Mental Illness

How Are Mental Health Disorders Treated

The treatment for mental health disorders varies from one person to another based on their specific needs. However, most of the treatments are centered around medications and psychotherapy.

A wide variety of medications are used in treating mental illnesses. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. Certain antidepressants can be beneficial in preventing the occurrence of depression attacks, while antipsychotics are used to control psychotic symptoms. Medications can also be used to help patients with mood disorders and anxiety disorders overcome their distressing emotions, as well as insomnia and nightmares.

Medications may take weeks or months to take effect, and some disorders may require long-term treatment with medications. People who are receiving medications for mental disorders need to stay in close contact with their doctors and take their medications exactly as prescribed. Untreated mental disorders, or failure to take medication as prescribed, can result in the development of more serious symptoms over time.

For many mental health disorders, psychotherapy is an extremely important part of the treatment regimen. Psychotherapy sessions can be in the form of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. A therapist will talk with a person to help them deal with troubling thoughts and feelings. Psychotherapy helps to improve the patient's quality of life in many ways, as it helps to manage stress and negative emotions and to improve relationships.

👉 Transform Your Life: A Guide to Personalized Online Therapy

Many other treatments are also available that are specific to the mental disorder. Examples include electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for treatment-resistant depression.

A healthy lifestyle can help to alleviate symptoms of mental illness and make the treatment more effective. What does a healthy lifestyle mean? Eating properly, exercising, having a stable sleep schedule, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding drugs or alcohol, etc. A healthy lifestyle is not only good for your mental health but for your overall physical and psychological well-being.

Support from family, friends, and other significant people also plays a vital role in the treatment of mental health disorders. Group therapy and social support groups are also helpful in many cases. Support groups (local and online) are a great way of helping to cope with mental illness, as well as giving you a place to talk to people who can relate to your struggles.

Find a detailed discussion on support groups and other mental health online communities in the following section.

So, in a nutshell, mental health disorders are generally treated with a mix of prescription drugs (medications) supportive therapy (psychotherapy), and lifestyle changes. The mix must be tailored to the specific needs of the patient. It may take some time until the patient sees complete improvement.

Alternative treatments for mental health disorders: Many people who cannot get conventional medical treatment for their mental health issues or want to avoid taking pharmaceutical medications turn to alternative treatments. Alternative treatments for mental health disorders include Acupuncture, Yoga, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Massage, Naturopathy, Deep Breathing Exercises, Herbal Remedies, and more.

Mental Health Online Community

In our digital age, online communities play a significant role in providing assistance and camaraderie to people dealing with mental health issues. These communities are like groups of friends who come together online to discuss mental health and offer each other support. You can find them on various platforms, such as:

Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit host groups where people share their mental health experiences and connect with others facing similar challenges.

Forums and Discussion Boards: These platforms work like online bulletin boards where you can ask questions, seek advice, and share your own stories about mental health.

Chat Rooms: Chat rooms offer real-time conversations, allowing you to interact with others who understand your struggles and provide immediate support.

Online Support Groups: Some groups are managed by mental health experts, offering valuable professional support.

When considering joining an online mental health community, here are key factors to keep in mind:

Purpose: Determine what you seek from the community. Is it connection, advice, or support?

Size: Consider the number of members. Larger groups may offer diversity and more support, but they can be less personal.

Moderation: Check if the community is overseen by mental health professionals. This ensures a safe and supportive environment.

Cost: Some communities require a membership fee. Evaluate whether this investment is worthwhile for access to experienced moderators and high-quality support.

Here are some specific online mental health communities you can explore:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI is a grassroots mental health organization that provides support and advocacy for people with mental illness and their families. They have a variety of online support groups and forums for people with mental illness and their loved ones.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): The ADAA is a national organization that provides information and resources about anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. They have an online support group for people with anxiety and depression.

Support Groups Central: Support Groups Central is a website that aggregates online support groups from a variety of organizations. They have a search function that allows you to find support groups for specific mental health conditions or interests.

The Mighty: The Mighty is a website that features stories and articles about mental health. They also have a community forum where people can connect with others.

7 Cups of Tea: 7 Cups of Tea is an online peer support platform that offers one-on-one text and video chat with trained listeners.

Mental health online communities can also be found on social media platforms. Here are some of the most popular social media platforms where you can find mental health online communities:

Facebook: There are many Facebook groups dedicated to mental health, such as the NAMI Support Group and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America Support Group.

Twitter: There are many Twitter accounts that share information and resources about mental health, such as @NAMI, @ADAA, and @TheMighty.

Reddit: Reddit is a social media platform that has many subreddits dedicated to mental health. Some popular subreddits include r/Anxiety, r/Depression, and r/BPD.

Instagram: Many Instagram accounts share information and resources about mental health, such as @the_mighty,, @livewelltalk. etc.

TikTok: There are many TikTok creators who share information and resources about mental health, such as @the.anxious.therapist and @therapist_tessa.

When participating in an online mental health community, exercise caution regarding:

Sharing Personal Information: Only disclose what you're comfortable with to safeguard your privacy.

Cyberbullying: Report unkind behavior or cyberbullying to the moderators.

Misinformation: Verify information from reliable sources, as not everything online is accurate.

If you're considering joining one of these communities, do your research to find one that aligns with your needs. Online communities can be a valuable resource when dealing with mental health challenges, but it's vital to be aware of potential issues as well.

Insurance for Mental Health

For people with mental health disorders, having insurance coverage for their condition is vital. Mental health care can be expensive, and without insurance, many people would not be able to afford the care they need. Unfortunately, mental health disorders are often not covered by traditional health insurance policies, or if they are, coverage is often very limited. This can leave people struggling to afford the care they need.

Fortunately, there are a few insurance companies that are starting to offer coverage for mental health disorders. This is a very positive development, as it will help to make mental health care more accessible and affordable for people who need it. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder, be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they offer coverage for mental health care.

Insurance for Mental Health in the US

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S., about 50 million people, experiences a mental health disorder in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made it possible for more people to get insurance for mental health in the US. The ACA requires all insurance plans to cover a basic set of health benefits, including mental health and substance abuse services. This means that more people than ever before can get the treatment they need for their mental health problems.

If you are one of the many people in the US who suffer from mental health problems, it is important to know that you have options for getting the treatment you need. There are a lot of different insurance plans out there, and each one covers different mental health benefits.

There are a few different types of insurance that can cover mental health in the United States. Private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare all offer coverage for mental health.

Private insurance is probably the most common type of insurance in the United States. If you have private insurance, you will likely have to pay a deductible before your coverage kicks in. After that, you will usually have to pay a copayment or coinsurance for mental health services.

Medicaid is a government-funded insurance program that covers low-income individuals and families. Medicaid coverage for mental health can vary from state to state, but most states do cover some mental health services.

Medicare is a federal insurance program for individuals who are 65 years or older, or who have certain disabilities. Medicare does cover some mental health services, but coverage can be limited.

Things to keep in mind while choosing the best insurance for mental health in the US in 2023

Choosing the best insurance for your mental health needs can be a daunting task. You need to take the time to research your options and understand your needs to find the perfect plan for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best health insurance for mental health in the United States in 2023:

1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The ACA is a federal law that requires all health insurance plans to cover certain mental health services. This means that if you have a plan that is compliant with the ACA, you should have access to mental health care. However, not all plans are ACA-compliant, so it is important to check with your insurer to be sure.

2. Your mental health needs

Everyone's mental health needs are different. You will need to consider what types of services you need to find a plan that covers them. For example, if you need therapy, you will want to make sure that your insurance plan covers that type of service.

3. Your budget

Health insurance can be expensive, so it is important to consider your budget when choosing a plan. There are a variety of plans available, so you should be able to find one that fits your financial needs.

4. Your state's laws

Each state (Florida, Texas, California, etc.) has its own laws regarding mental health insurance. These laws can impact the types of plans available to you and the coverage you can receive. Be sure to research your state's laws before choosing a plan.

5. Your doctor's recommendations

If you have a doctor that you see for your mental health needs, be sure to ask them for recommendations for health insurance plans. They will likely know which plans cover the services you need and are most likely to be accepted by your doctor.

Mental Health Options for Uninsured: Mental Health Therapy without Insurance

If you don't have insurance and need mental health support in the United States, here are some mental health therapy without insurance and other options in the United States:
  • Community Health Centers: Community Health Centers provide primary medical and behavioral health services to underserved populations. They often offer mental health services on a sliding scale based on income, making them accessible to those without insurance.
  • Non-profit organizations: Some non-profit organizations offer free or low-cost mental health services, including therapy. One such non-profit organization is NAMI.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI is a national organization that provides support, resources, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI offers support groups, educational classes, and other resources that can be helpful for those struggling with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which provide free therapy services to their employees and sometimes their families.
  • University/College Counseling Centers: Many universities and colleges offer counseling services to their students and sometimes to the public, either for free or for a nominal fee. These services can provide low-cost mental health care to individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.
  • Local government resources: Some city or state government agencies provide access to mental health resources.
  • Hotline and Support Groups: National hotlines and support groups offer free emotional support and resources for those in need. Find a detailed discussion on support groups and other mental health online communities in the above section on "Mental Health Online Community".
  • Crisis text line and hotlines: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and crisis text line offer free, confidential support to individuals in crisis, including those with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 to provide support and resources. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a national helpline that offers referrals to local mental health resources.
  • Mental health clinics: Some mental health clinics offer low-cost services for individuals without insurance.
  • Online therapy: Several online therapy services offer affordable or sliding scale fee therapy services.
It's important to reach out to local organizations and government agencies in your area to learn about available resources and to find a mental health therapy without insurance option that works for you.

Mental Health Resources and Important Phone Numbers

Here are some important numbers to contact for help in case of mental illness:

United States
  • 988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: This is a new nationwide hotline that is available 24/7. You can call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • NAMI Helpline: You can call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text "HELPLINE" to 62640 to connect with a trained crisis counselor from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Veterans Crisis Line: You can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255 to connect with a trained crisis counselor from the Veterans Crisis Line.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a trained counselor. Crisis Text Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Crisis Services Canada: You can call 1-833-456-4566 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.
  • Mental Health Canada: You can call 1-866-531-2600 to speak to a Mental Health Canada counselor about your mental health concerns.
  • Kids Help Phone: You can call 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a Kids Help Phone counselor about your mental health concerns.
United Kingdom
  • NHS 111: You can call 111 to speak to a nurse or mental health nurse about your mental health concerns.
  • Samaritans: You can call 116 123 to speak to a Samaritans volunteer about your mental health concerns.
  • Papyrus: You can text SHOUT to 85258 to speak to a Papyrus volunteer about your mental health concerns.
  • Lifeline: You can call 13 11 14 to speak to a Lifeline counselor about your mental health concerns.
  • Beyond Blue: You can call 1300 22 4636 to speak to a Beyond Blue counselor about your mental health concerns.
  • Kids Helpline: You can call 1800 55 1800 to speak to a Kids Helpline counselor about your mental health concerns.
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline: You can call 0800 273 8255 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.
  • Samaritans India: You can call 0800 22 72 72 to speak to a Samaritans volunteer about your mental health concerns.
  • Childline India: You can call 1098 to speak to a Childline counselor about your mental health concerns.
  • Lifeline: 03 5286 9090
  • Samaritans Japan: 03 3576 9090
  • TELL: 03 5577 8888
  • Samaritans: 01 45 39 40 00
  • SOS Amitié: 01 45 84 82 88
  • Écoute Enfants-Parents: 01 44 48 48 48
  • Telefonseelsorge: 0800 111 01 11
  • Kinder- und Jugendtelefon: 116 111
  • Depressionshilfe: 0800 33 44 5 33
New Zealand
  • Lifeline: 0800 54 33 54
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757
  • Youthline: 0800 37 66 33
If you live in another country, you can find a list of helplines here:

Here are some other resources that may be helpful:
  • NAMI:
  • The Trevor Project:
  • Crisis Text Line:
In addition to these, you can also reach out to your doctor, therapist, or another mental health professional for help.


Mental illness affects millions of people around the world. In some cases, it is a temporary phenomenon that can be cured and left behind. Others struggle throughout their entire lives with it. 

Researchers have discovered, however, that prompt intervention and treatment can not only save people from suffering, but it can also save their very lives. Identifying at least the possibility of mental illness is as useful ability as recognizing physical trauma. In both cases, you are enabled to contact health professionals and possibly save someone’s life.


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