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What is Mental Health?

What is mental health? Further, what factors contribute to maintaining mental health? Learn that and more here.

What is Mental Health?

Just as physical health is the overall wellbeing of your body, mental health refers to your emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. Because mental health is associated with the mind, it can have an impact on our feelings and behavior. It also dictates how we interact with our environment, whether that be with loved ones, decisions, or even stress. Although mental health is focused on the mind, it can also have consequences on physical health.

It's important to note that poor mental health doesn’t necessarily equate to a mental illness. An individual with positive mental health can still suffer from mental illness. However, mental illness can place an additional strain on mental health in the same way physical illness can place a strain on physical health.

A Deeper Look at Mental Wellness

What Are Mental Disorders?

As of 2020, over fifty-two million adults in the United States had a mental disorder or mental illness. Mental disorders are disorders that affect overall mental health, including mood, cognitive function, and behavior. They can be either acute or chronic. These disorders can impact an individual's ability to enjoy each and every day.

There are a variety of mental disorders, with some of the most common being mood disorders, anxiety, and substance use disorders. Sometimes, two or more mental disorders may cause or play off of each other. For instance, anxiety may lead to a substance use disorder. These are called comorbid conditions in this case. 1

Key Factors and Determinants of Mental Health

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

As of now, studies have been able to link a variety of factors to mental health. These can be specific and individual to a person, such as biological, psychological factors, and social factors.  2

Social Factors 

Social factors, or social determinants, refers to how our interactions with our environment, including the people around us, impacts mental health and wellbeing. Personal wealth and economics, home life, and social influences and role models (or the lack thereof) are all forms of social factors can help shape one’s mental health.

Studies have been conducted to gauge how these different factors interact with mental health, with negative social factors such as poverty or poor home environments being linked to negative impacts on mental health as well.  3

Other factors have also been linked to fluctuations in mental health. While events like economic opportunities and success can help create a foundation for positive mental health, unemployment or unstable employment is shown to be linked to greater mental distress.  4

Psychological Reasons

An individual’s psychological background can also play a role in their current mental health. Psychological background can refer to any form of mental disorders that an individual has experienced. Trauma, such as childhood trauma from abuse or the loss of a significant loved one, can play a large role on how an adult’s mental health presents itself as well. If an individual already has a mental illness, this can also impact their current mental health.

Biological Factors

While scientists aren’t yet able to pinpoint the exact genetics that lead to certain conditions, there have been many studies demonstrating how biological factors like genetics play a role in mental health. This is true for mental illness as well, with mental illness becoming more likely if a close family member suffers from the same condition.  

Why is Mental Health Important?

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

Mental health plays a role in your overall health and wellbeing. While it’s common to think of mental health in association with mental disorders like mood disorders and anxiety, mental health is also related to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. 5

Taking care of your mental health and cultivating positive mental health is important not only for health but for a wide variety of other areas, such as enhanced inner peace and better quality of life.

Improving Mood

As one’s mental health begins to decline, people may notice changes in their mood as well. Poor mental health is associated with increased agitation, mental and physical fatigue, and less enjoyment in day-to-day life.

By taking time to foster positive mental health, you may be able to help improve your mood. This will allow for you to better navigate the interactions around you, whether within yourself or with loved ones.

Decrease Crime and Victimization

There have been many studies completed on how mental health relates to crime. Results have shown that individuals who experience mental illness or have poor mental health and receive no treatment are more likely to commit violent crimes. However, similar studies have also shown that victims of crime are more likely to have worse mental health. As a result, fostering positive mental health can help combat crime and victimization in a multifaceted approach. 6

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

Enhanced Sense of Inner Peace

Cultivating healthy inner peace can play a large role in many aspects of life. From reduced anxiety to better productivity to clarity in thinking, inner peace is necessary in navigating life and engaging with the important situations and circumstances around the individual.  

Higher Quality of Life

Because positive mental health is associated with so many beneficial effects, it can also lead to higher quality of life. Individuals who take time to nourish their mental health and recover from daily stress experience less anxiety and cognitive problems and have improved moods. This, overall, enhances day-to-day life and can even increase self-esteem and aid in relationships with others.

Improving Relationships

One of the social impacts of mental illness is the strain it places on relationships. Poor mental health can make it difficult to connect with those around you, especially when you don’t feel like your best self.

As a result, mental health is important for more than individual reasons; it can make a difference in your relationships and how you connect with loved ones.

A Deeper Look at the Benefits of Maintaining Health and Wellness

Early Signs of Mental Illness

Mental illness can manifest in many different ways depending on the exact disorder itself. However, changes in mood, thinking, and behavior are some of the most notable early signs. You or your loved ones may experience symptoms such as:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confusion or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Feel fearful or anxious
  • Extreme level of mood changes
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Extreme anger, hostility, or violence
  • Apathy
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Can’t take the daily problems or stress
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Suicidal thoughts

Is Negative Mental Health Synonymous to Mental Illness?

While all these are symptoms of changes in mental health, they may not always be an indication of mental illness. Mental health naturally fluctuates in response to one’s daily life. As an example, a stressful week at work may lead to increased worries or changes in eating habits. However, more severe symptoms, such as suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, or extreme changes should be discussed as soon as possible with a doctor as they are more likely to indicate a mental illness.

What Are Some Types of Mental Disorders?

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

There are many types of mental disorders, with several subtypes for many of them. Mental disorders are outlined in a guide known as the DSM-5, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of disorders outlined in the DSM-5, many of them are very rare. Below are some of the more common mental disorders.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious and even potentially fatal condition that impacts the individual’s relationship with food. The three most common types of eating disorder are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. While the symptoms may vary based on which type of eating disorder is present, some of the most notable symptoms relate to nutrition.

Types of Eating Disorders

For anorexia and bulimia, which can be associated with malnutrition, some symptoms are brittle hair and nails, dry skin, sensitive teeth, and restrictive eating. For binge eating disorder, the symptoms may be more subtle, such as shame or guilt when overeating and eating large quantities of food frequently in private.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are chronic mental disorders that impact an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions. It can also impact how they view the world around them. Studies have indicated that nearly 10% of adults in the United States have some form of personality disorder. 7

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

Most Common Types of Personality Disorders

There are ten different types of personality disorders most commonly observed:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Dependent personality disorder
  • Histrionic personality disorder
  • Narcissistic personality disorder:
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal personality disorder

While some personality disorders may be similar to others, it is important to understand that they are not identical. For instance, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is often viewed as a type of anxiety disorder.

Substance Abuse Disorders

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a type of mental disorder in which an individual is unable to regulate how often they use either a legal, prescription, or illicit substance. The most severe form of a substance use disorder is addiction.

Over twenty million individuals aged twelve and over in the United States are impacted by some form of substance use disorder. Opioids play a large role in these statistics.

Co-Occurring Conditions

SUDs play a unique role with mental health and mental illness. While a substance use disorder can develop on its own accord, it’s often associated with another type of mental illness, which is known as a co-occurring or co-morbid condition. Many times, substance use disorders develop as an individual is attempting to treat another condition, such as chronic pain or depression. However, substance use disorders can also increase the likelihood of another mental illness developing. 8

Psychotic Disorders

Psychotic disorders are considered severe mental disorders, and they often include symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, like that the television commercial is trying to convey a secret message to you specifically, while hallucinations are false perceptions of sounds, feelings, or objects that aren’t actually there.  

Types of Psychotic Disorders

Schizophrenia is just one form of a psychotic disorder. Other non-psychotic disorders, like bipolar disorder, may have what are known as psychotic symptoms. This is when delusions or hallucinations may be present in severe cases, but they are not a defining characteristic or symptom of the diagnosis. Psychotic symptoms can appear as a result of substance abuse or injury as well.

Often, hospitalization is needed for individuals with psychotic disorders or psychotic symptoms. This is because the individual may pose a threat to themselves or others depending on the exact nature of the delusions and hallucinations.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, aside from anxiety disorders, are one of the most common disorders. In fact, it’s estimated that around 21% percent of adults over the age of eighteen in the United States will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. 9

Some of the most common mood disorders are major depression, bipolar disorder and dysthymia, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Major Depression

Depression is the most common mood disorder, with studies showing that almost three hundred million adults in the United States may be affected each year. There are many different types of depression that can affect people.

Some of the most common types of depression include

  • Postpartum depression
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Psychotic depression
  • Depression as a symptom of a different mental illness, including substance abuse disorder 10

Clinical Depression

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by fluctuating mood, typically extreme mood swings from high (manic) to low (depressive). There are two main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I and Bipolar II. Both of these types of bipolar disorders differ in how the mood swing itself manifests.

Bipolar I is more severe than Bipolar II, and it is always characterized by manic episodes, although depressive episodes may also be prevalent. Bipolar II is the opposite: it is always characterized by depressive episodes, but it may have no or just less severe manic episodes.

The frequency and severity of these mood swings can be made worse by a variety of factors, including poor mental health. Poor mental health is often traced to lack of sleep, stress, or similar situations that can create more severe bipolar disorder symptoms, especially without proper treatment or mental healthcare.


Dysthymia is also known as persistent depressive disorder. It is a chronic form of depression that can last for months or possibly even years depending on treatment and severity. However, despite its length, dysthymia shares many symptoms of depression, such as feeling withdrawn from life and lacking joy in day-to-day activities.

How Are Mental Disorders Diagnosed?

What is Mental Health

What is Mental Health

There are a variety of different ways that a mental disorder may be diagnosed, depending on the mental disorder itself. In many cases, the healthcare provider conducting the examination will first try to rule out any physical conditions. They may also take a look at the patient’s medical history and medications to see if the source of the symptoms may be found there.

Once the doctor is able to ensure that there are no other conditions or situations causing the symptoms, they can begin to diagnose the patient. This often includes referencing professional diagnostic materials, like the DSM-5 mentioned before. In some situations, with your consent, your doctor may also reach out to close loved ones for interviews in order to receive the full perspective of your symptoms. Once the healthcare provider is able to narrow down the symptoms to a particular disorder or set of co-occurring disorders, they can complete their diagnosis and begin working on designing the right treatment plan for you or a loved one.

Mental Health Care and Treatment at Genesis Recovery

Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing, similar to physical health. Just as physical health may fluctuate, mental health can also rapidly change. Sometimes, it may be best to reach out to a mental healthcare professional. At Genesis Recovery, you’ll find a multi-faceted approach that combines the beauty of nature with state-of-the-art care provided by around-the-clock nursing staff.


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