Mental Health: MedlinePlus


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What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging.

What are mental disorders?

Mental disorders are serious conditions which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting. They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day. Mental disorders are common; more than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with one at some time in their life. But there are treatments. People with mental disorders can get better, and many of them recover completely.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it can help you to

  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be physically healthy
  • Have good relationships
  • Make meaningful contributions to your community
  • Work productively
  • Realize your full potential

Your mental health is also important because it can affect your physical health. For example, mental disorders can raise your risk for physical health problems such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

What can affect my mental health?

There are many different factors that can affect your mental health, including

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems
  • Your lifestyle, such as diet, physical activity, and substance use

You can also affect your mental health by taking steps to improve it, such as doing meditation, using relaxation techniques, and practicing gratitude.

Can my mental health change over time?

Over time, your mental health can change. For example, you may be dealing with a difficult situation, such as trying to manage a chronic illness, taking care of an ill relative, or facing money problems. The situation may wear you out and overwhelm your ability to cope with it. This can worsen your mental health. On the other hand, getting therapy may improve your mental health.

What are the signs that I might have a mental health problem?

When it comes to your emotions, it can be hard to know what is normal and what is not. There are warning signs that you may have a mental health problem, including

  • A change in your eating or sleeping habits
  • Withdrawing from the people and activities you enjoy
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Having severe mood swings that cause problems in your relationships
  • Having thoughts and memories that you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Not being able to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

What should I do if I think I have a mental health problem?

If you think that you may have a mental health problem, get help. Talk therapy and/or medicines can treat mental disorders. If you don’t know where to start, contact your primary care provider.

  • Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • What Is Mental Health? (Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Mental Health Screening From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • Mental Health: What’s Normal, What’s Not? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Building Your Resilience (American Psychological Association) Also in Spanish
  • For a Healthy Mind and Body Talk to a Psychologist (American Psychological Association) Also in Spanish
  • How to Improve Mental Health: MedlinePlus Health Topic From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • Mental Health and Heart Health (American Heart Association)
  • Anger Management (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Care and Connection: Loneliness Affects All Ages From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
  • Self-Esteem Check: Too Low, Too High or Just Right? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Do Social Ties Affect Our Health? Exploring the Biology of Relationships From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
  • ClinicalTrials.gov: Mental Health From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)
  • Article: A randomised test of the effect of medical v. lay idiom…
  • Article: Implications of electronic cigarette use for depressive mood: A nationwide cross-sectional…
  • Article: Does yoga reduce the risk of falls in older people?
  • Mental Health — see more articles
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • National Institute of Mental Health From the National Institutes of Health
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Good Mental Health (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health) Also in Spanish

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