Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Illness

Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Illness

 What is mental illness?

The term "mental illness" refers to
many psychiatric disorders that affect
or originate in the brain. A mental illness
can impact the way people think, feel,
behave and interact with others.

What are the more common psychiatric disorders?

  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse
  • Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Delirium
  • Specific and Social Phobias
  • Dementia
  • Panic Disorder
  • Attention-Deficit Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Learning Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Sexual Disorders
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Dissociative and Personality Disorder

What are the warning signs of depression?

The signs of depression can include frequent:

1.      feelings of isolation

2.      thoughts of suicide

3.      sudden loss or gain of weight

4.      chronic pain

5.      sleep disturbances

6.      withdrawal from family and friends

7.      feeling sad or "down"

8.      loss of energy for daily activities

Can a mental illness be treated?

Yes. Mental illnesses are definable, diagnosable and treatable. In fact, psychiatry has a higher success rate than many other branches of medicine. For example, the treatment success rate is 85% for major depression; 80% for panic disorder and bipolar (manic depressive) illness; and 60% for schizophrenia. By contrast, success rates for common heart treatments, such as angioplasty and atherectomy, are only 41% and 52%.

What is main the difference between psychiatrists and other mental health care professionals?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Psychiatrists undergo extensive training and education requiring four years of college; four years of medical school; four years of residency; and additional training for specialization in areas such as adolescent psychiatry or forensic psychiatry. ONLY psychiatrists are medical doctors who can order medical tests and prescribe medication for the treatment of mental illness. Psychiatrists are best prepared to differentiate between the physical and psychological causes of both mental and physical illness.

How can I help a loved one who may be suffering from a mental illness?

Discuss the issue with your primary care physician, or in the case of a child, your family pediatrician. Your physician may perform a physical evaluation to determine whether any physical problems may be the cause or contributor to the mental or emotional problem. The physician can be helpful by providing the names of psychiatrists appropriate to consult. 

Will my insurance cover the cost of treatment for mental illness?

Insurance coverage varies from carrier to carrier. Most existing coverage for mental illness is discriminatory. Bureau of Labor survey statistics show that:

1.      95% of the health insurance plans surveyed limits their outpatient coverage.

2.      79% of employees in large and medium-size firms are offered mental health benefits that are more restrictive on hospital coverage for mental illness than for other illnesses.

3.      66% impose special maximum dollar limits on outpatient visits.

4.      50% of employees have hospitalizations limited to 30-60 days per year for mental disorders, compared with 120 to unlimited days for physical disorders.

5.      38% belong to plans that put a separate, or lower maximum on annual or lifetime expenses.

6.      34% allow fewer outpatient visits per year for mental disorders.


What is Mental Illness: Mental Illness Facts (

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion, or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character, or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.

In addition to medication treatment, psychosocial treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, peer support groups, and other community services can also be components of a treatment plan and that assist with recovery. The availability of transportation, diet, exercise, sleep, friends, and meaningful paid or volunteer activities contribute to overall health and wellness, including mental illness recovery.

Here are some important facts about mental illness and recovery:

  • Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character" or intelligence.
  • Mental disorders fall along a continuum of severity. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion - about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans - who suffer from a serious mental illness. It is estimated that mental illness affects 1 in 5 families in America.
  • The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
  • Mental illnesses usually strike individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.
  • Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
  • The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.
  • With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.
  • Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By ensuring access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective, recovery is accelerated and the further harm related to the course of illness is minimized.
  • Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.