Following are links to some basic information about important health issues facing today's families.


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Mental Health.

Mental disorders are abnormalities in cognition, emotion or mood as well as other aspects of life, such as social interactions. Some mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, are serious illnesses, while other forms of mental issues may go entirely undiagnosed.

The type of disorder can vary by any number of factors, including age, gender, race and culture. People who suffer from mental health issues can show a number of symptoms, ranging from mood swings, anxiety, incorrect thought processes or even paranoia.


Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of mental disorders. Anxiety is a natural response to stress, such as a threat to one's safety, but it can also operate in abstraction, leading to inappropriate expression of anxiety which is excessive, such as phobias or panic attacks. Obsessive-compulsive disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder are also believed to be anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of anxiety can include feelings of fear or dread, a rapid heart rate, trembling, restlessness, muscle tension, lightheadedness or dizziness, perspiration, cold hands or feet and shortness of breath.


Any disturbance in a person's perception or thought process can be considered psychosis. The most common symptoms of psychosis include hallucinations, which, of course, are not grounded in reality. Hallucinations can take many forms, including visions, hearing voices, sensing smells that aren't there -- any number of false sensory sensations. More complex is delusions, which is a false belief that a person believes is true, even though it isn't. An example is paranoia, in which someone believes another is trying to cause them harm.

Schizophrenia can involve the following symptoms: hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts, loose or illogical thoughts or agitation. On the other end of the scale, the person may display agitation, form concrete thoughts, inability to experience pleasure, lack of motivation or spontaneity.

Mood disturbances

Mental health issues can take many forms. Perhaps the commonest is a feeling of sadness, either for a short period or time or long term. Everyone feels sad now and then, but a prolonged period can be an indication of a serious mental disorder, ranging from depression to bipolar disorder.

The most common signs of depression are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Poor self-esteem or feelings of helplessness

At the other end of the spectrum (and the other half of bipolar disorder) is mania. The symptoms of mania include:

  • A euphoric mood
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Decreased sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Lots of energy
  • Poor judgment
  • Impulsiveness
  • Rapid or pressured speech

Unlike many diseases, there's no single test for mental health issues. Diagnosis rests largely on the patient's reports of daily activity along with their response to the input they receive, including the intensity, duration and type. Clinical observation may be required to put together a pattern known as a syndrome. When a series of syndromes meet selected criteria, it constitutes a mental health condition.

Following are just a few of the many disorders that can be identified:

  • Delirium, dementia, and amnesic and other cognitive disorders
  • Mental disorders due to a general medical condition
  • Substance-related disorders
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Factitious disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Sexual and gender identity disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Impulse-control disorders
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Personality disorders


Because the breadth of mental health issues is so great, treatment can vary widely, from individual and group therapy to medication and institutionalization.


Adapted from materials provided by AOL Health








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