What Is Mental Health: 12 Mental Health Warning Signs


What Is Mental Health

Mental health is the combination of your psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing; it affects how you feel, think, and act and affects how you handle stress, make choices, and relate to others.What is Mental Health

Your mental health is influenced by various factors, including life experience, use of alcohol and drugs, family history of mental health problems, and brain chemistry or other biological factors.

Mental health issues are familiar: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around one in five adults in the U.S deals with mental illness every year.

Your mental health changes over time and can be linked to your situation. Suppose you are experiencing an incredibly stressful or demanding period, such as working long hours, taking care of an ill relative, or experiencing economic hardship.

In that case, you may experience some form of poor mental health.

Suppose your mental health is affecting you negatively. In that case, help is available in many forms, by talking to a loved one, telling your doctor about problems you may have, or reaching out to a mental health professional online or in person.

For immediate help, call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), the Veterans Crisis Line (800-273-8255, press 1), or live chat online with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/).


The mind-and-body connection is extensive and complex, and your mental health directly influences your physical health.

According to the (NIH) National Institutes of Health, having a mental illness, especially depression, puts you at high risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The connection goes the other way, too: chronic physical conditions can increase your risk of developing a mental illness.


Having good (or positive) mental health allows you to cope with life’s stressors, work productively, meaningfully contribute to your community, and realize your full potential. You can achieve and maintain a positive mental attitude in various ways:

  • being physically active
  • getting enough sleep
  • connecting with others in a meaningful way
  • helping others
  • staying positive
  • developing a sense of purpose by doing expressive and fulfilling activities
  • developing coping skills, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • getting professional help if you need it


If you or one of your loved ones has experienced some of the following more common symptoms, it may be an indication of poor mental health or a mental health disorder:

  • sleeping or eating too much or too little
  • having little to no energy
  • experiencing unexplained aches and pains
  • pulling away from people and usual activities
  • feeling helpless, hopeless, or like nothing matters
  • feeling unusually anxious, scared, worried, upset, forgetful, or confused
  • experiencing extreme mood swings
  • Unable to care for yourself or your loved ones or not being able to go to school or work
  • smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs more than usual
  • having persistent thoughts or memories that you can’t get out of your head
  • detecting voices or believing things that aren’t true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others


Poor mental health and mental disorders (or illnesses) are not the same, but having prolonged poor mental health may develop or exacerbate a mental illness.

However, if you have a mental illness, you don’t have to have poor mental health, and having poor mental health doesn’t mean you have a mental illness.

A mental ailment is a disorder affecting your thinking, feelings, behavior, or mood and can affect your daily functioning and ability to relate to others.

The illness can be chronic, occasional, life experience-triggered, or familial. There are many different kinds of mental disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders: People respond inappropriately to a situation or object with dread, fear, and physical signs of anxiety (sweating, increased heart rate). Examples include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
  • Mood disorders: People experience persistent feelings of sadness or have extreme changes in their energy or mood (periods of powerful happiness to intense sorrow). Examples include depression, bipolar disorder, and cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar disorder).
  • Psychotic disorders: People experience distorted awareness and thinking, such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t real) or delusions (believing things aren’t true). Examples include schizophrenia and delusional disorder.
  • Eating disorders: People have extreme behaviors, attitudes, and feelings toward food and weight, which tend to cause extreme under- or overeating. Examples include Nervosa, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating.
  • Impulse control and addiction disorders: People cannot resist impulses to perform acts that can be harmful to themselves or others, possibly leading to addictions. Examples include alcohol and drug addictions and manias such as kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (starting fires).
  • Personality disorders: People have extreme or inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and possibly causing problems with work, school, or social relationships. These traits tend to differ significantly from societal expectations and interfere with the person’s daily functioning. Examples include paranoid personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): People experience constant thoughts or fears (obsessions) that make them perform specific actions, routines, or rituals (compulsions). Examples include a fear of germs that cause someone to constantly wash their hands or fear fire, making someone frequently check their stove or oven.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): People feel emotionally numb and experience lasting or frightening thoughts and memories of a traumatic and terrifying event, such as a natural disaster, unexpected death of a loved one, or a physical or sexual assault. (Many people who serve overseas in the military and witnessing violence and engage in it have PTSD after being discharged and returning to civilian life.) The traumatic or terrifying event is what triggers PTSD to develop.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): People have trouble focusing, paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or be overly active. This is one of the most common childhood mental disorders and is typically diagnosed during childhood but persists throughout adulthood.


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Katella, Kathy. “Taking Your ‘Mental Health’ Temperature During COVID-19.” Yale Medicine. August 5, 2020. https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/mental-health-covid-19/ (accessed August 28, 2020).

“Learn about Mental Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 26, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm (accessed August 28, 2020).

“Mental Health.” MedlinePlus. August 24, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/mentalhealth.html (accessed August 28, 2020).

“Mental Health By the Numbers.” NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. September 2019. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers (accessed August 28, 2020).

“Mental Health During COVID-19: Signs Your Teen May Need More Support.” HealthyChildren.org. June 8, 2020. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Signs-your-Teen-May-Need-More-Support.aspx (accessed August 28, 2020).

“Older Adult Mental Health.” MedlinePlus. May 5, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/olderadultmentalhealth.html (accessed August 28, 2020).

Pfefferbaum, Betty, and Carol S. North. “Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic.” New England Journal of Medicine. August 6, 2020. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2008017 (accessed August 28, 2020).

“What Is Mental Health?” MentalHealth.gov. May 28, 2020. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health (accessed August 28, 2020).



American Psychological Association, 750 First St. NE, Washington, DC, 20002-4242, (800) 374-2721, (202) 336-5500, TTY: (202) 336-6123, https://www.apa.org .

Mental Health America, 500 Montgomery St., Ste. 820, Alexandria, VA, 22314, (800) 969-6642, (703) 684-7722, Fax: (703) 684-5968, https://www.mhanational.org .

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 3803 N Fairfax Dr., Ste. 100, Arlington, VA, 22203, (703) 524-7600, HelpLine: (800) 950-6264, https://www.nami.org/Contact-Us, https://www.nami.org .

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 6001 Executive Blvd., Rm. 6200, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD, 20892-9663, (866) 615-6464, TTY: (301) 443-8431, Fax: (301) 443-4279, nimhinfo@nih.gov, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml .