The terms “mental health” and “mental illness” are sometimes interchanged, but they differ in meaning. While mental health refers to anyone’s state of mental, emotional well-being, mental illnesses are diagnosed conditions that affect thoughts and behaviors. Though anyone can have moments of poor mental health, not everyone has a mental illness. On the other hand, someone with a mental illness can achieve sound mental health.
Promoting good mental health and treating mental illnesses can require some of the same actions. For instance, counseling sessions can help someone improve their mental health whether or not they have a mental illness. Therapy, along with lifestyle changes, medications and other practices, can help people live more fulfilling lives.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is all about mental well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone who is mentally well can realize their potential, cope with normal stressors and contribute to their community in a productive way. Mental health is about physical, mental and social well-being. Good mental health allows someone to live a fulfilling, satisfying life while dealing with everyday challenges.
Factors like traumatic events can affect mental health, whether or not someone has a mental illness. Things like discrimination, exclusion or poor physical health can also impact a person’s mental well-being. You can promote a community’s mental health in the following ways:
- Providing children with stable, nurturing and protective environments
- Empowering and lifting up marginalized or discriminated groups
- Improving communities and preventing violence
- Offering mental health interventions and programs
- Providing treatment for mental illnesses with therapy, medication and other methods
An individual can improve their mental well-being by making positive lifestyle adjustments and pursuing a sense of purpose in life. A person’s mental health can vary throughout their life, depending on outside factors. Mental illness does not bar someone from achieving good mental health. With proper support, anyone can improve their mental well-being.
What Is Mental Illness? Mental Illness vs. Mental Health Conditions
A mental illness is a diagnosable disorder with a standard set of criteria. It can be caused by factors like genes, brain chemistry or trauma. Anyone can have a mental illness, regardless of age, socioeconomic class, sex or race. These disorders can also be called mental health conditions.
Mental illnesses complicate mental health by affecting the way a person feels, thinks, acts or experiences the world. Different mental illnesses have different symptoms, some of which take effort to work through. Here are some of the most common mental illnesses and their prevailing symptoms.
Major depressive disorder or clinical depression has varying forms. It affects the way a person thinks, feels or functions. It’s about more than feeling sad once in a while — depression is persistent and includes symptoms like extreme low moods, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, exhaustion and social withdrawal. Symptoms vary from person to person. Psychotic depression can also include delusions or hallucinations. With support and sometimes medication, those with depression can live rich, fulfilling lives.
While anyone can experience anxiety from time to time, those with anxiety disorders experience persistent, excessive worry. Symptoms can include restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and sleep problems. Panic disorders and phobias fall under the category of anxiety. Anxiety disorders are very common. About 31% of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Helpful treatments can include talk therapy, medications, relaxation techniques and exercise.
Bipolar disorder involves severe shifts in mood, energy and concentration. Someone with bipolar disorder may feel energized and elated one week and apathetic the next. These intense mood swings are called manic and depressive episodes, respectively. Proper diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference. Talk therapy and medications are the prevailing methods for dealing with bipolar disorder. Exercise and mood-tracking can also help.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes recurring, unwelcome thoughts or ideas. These thoughts can lead to repetitive, compulsive behaviors, which can have a huge impact on a person’s daily life. Obsessions can include an intense fear of germs, concern with symmetry or precision, fear of losing things or intrusive thoughts. Compulsions can be excessive hand-washing, cleaning, arranging things, checking locks or seeking approval.
Talk therapy and medications can help lessen OCD’s impact. One therapy method involves exposure and response prevention. In extreme cases, someone with OCD may require inpatient treatment or partial hospitalization. Many people with OCD live fulfilling, functional lives.
As you can see, mental illnesses are about more than mental health. While anyone can and should pursue strong mental health, those with mental illnesses often require special treatments to gain a healthy mental well-being.
The Difference Between Mental Health and Mental Illness
In essence, mental health and mental illness are not the same. Mental health affects all people, while only some experience diagnosed mental illnesses. It’s helpful to realize that mental illness does not always lead to poor mental health and that poor mental health is not always due to mental illness. Life events or other outside factors can affect anyone’s mental health, whether or not a mental illness is present.
Components of Mental Well-Being
Those looking to improve their mental well-being, whether or not they have a mental illness, can take certain actions. Many outside factors can help sustain positive mental health. If you’re looking for ways to promote your mental health, try some of these methods:
- Get exercise: Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental well-being. It can help improve your mood, self-esteem and cognitive functions. It helps you sleep, relieves stress and increases your mental alertness. Exercise doesn’t need to be intensive — 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week can lead to improvements.
- Eat well: A well-balanced diet can help you think clearly and feel more alert. It leads to stronger decision-making skills, faster reaction times and decreased fatigue. Try to eat more vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and seafood. Cut back on meat, dairy and processed foods.
- Use relaxation techniques: If you need to manage your stress levels, try relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help you feel calmer and improve your reactions to stressful circumstances.
- Be social: Humans are social by nature. Socializing can improve your mental health. Surround yourself with positive friends and make an effort to connect with others. If you have an isolating day job, you might consider joining a social group for those with similar interests.
- Seek counseling: Above all, seeking professional counseling can help improve anyone’s mental health. You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental illness to benefit from counseling services. A professional counselor will help you talk through your concerns and offer strategies for promoting strong mental health.
Request an Appointment With Taylor Counseling Group
Mental health, like physical health, takes work to maintain. Those with mental illnesses may need to take more steps than others to achieve positive mental health. Even still, everyone can benefit from engaging in healthy practices, such as seeking counseling.
If you want to improve your mental health with professional counseling, consider Taylor Counseling Group. Our trained clinicians provide helpful, reliable services for reasonable prices in Central Texas, San Antonio and Houston. We accept most major insurance plans and offer affordable care policies when needed. For personal, thoughtful counseling, request an appointment with Taylor Counseling Group today.