What is Mental Health?
Good mental health isn’t just the absence of symptoms like depression or anxiety. Rather, good mental health is characterized by feeling good about your life in a number of areas:
- your relationships with friends and with the people you love
- your sense of fulfillment at work (or, for children, at school)
- your capacity to adjust to the unexpected in life
- your ability to experience, and cope with, both positive and negative feelings
Many factors impact mental health, including your brain chemistry, your family history and stressful experiences as a child or adult.
However, there are many things that you can do to help your mental health:
- get enough sleep
- exercise regularly
- eat well
- connect with friends and family
- talk to others about your feelings and frustrations
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you are just worried that you might be having mental health problems. You could start by talking with your primary care doctor. A psychiatrist or other mental health professional, such as a mental health social worker or professional counselor, can help you sort out what’s normal from what needs treatment.
What is Mental Illness?
All of us worry about our mental health from time to time. But mental illness usually refers to severe problems with thinking or mood that interfere with our ability to relate to our family, perform well at work or school, or keep up a meaningful social life.
Mood disorders are the most common mental illness, and include major depression. Bipolar disorder is another severe mood disorder. By contrast, schizophrenia is usually considered to be a severe disorder of thinking. All of us have anxiety from time to time, and that is normal. But some severe anxiety disorders – disabling phobias and post-traumatic stress, for example - are another form of mental illness.
Mental illness has many causes. Genes, a stressful event, and even lifestyle choices can impact whether or not you develop a mental illness. And just like with most other illnesses, early detection and treatment are important to successful recovery.
What is Psychiatry?
Psychiatry is a medical subspecialty committed to caring for people suffering from mental illnesses ranging from anxiety disorders to schizophrenia to substance abuse. In a medical school setting, psychiatry departments are committed to investigating new and better ways to improve mental health care for those patients with mental illness, as well as improving mental health generally in the population. The Department of Psychiatry at Dell Medical School seeks to lead the way in transforming mental health care delivery in Central Texas, designing integrated and value-based care models for all people affected with mental illness, whether the illness is a primary condition or one that accompanies other medical problems.