Mental illness is a phrase that is used to cover a wide range and variety of mental disorders. All of these conditions will impact the behavior, thoughts, and/or moods of the individual. There are many different mental disorders, and each one can range from very mild to very severe. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mania, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and many other conditions are classified as mental disorders. This category also includes eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, compulsive gambling and shopping, and other activities and behaviors. Mild forms of any mental illness may only impact the individual once in a while. If the condition causes extreme stress or interferes with the ability of the individual to function on a day to day basis then treatment may be required.
Everyone has highs and lows in life, and there are times when we all feel sad or have had unusual thoughts or behaviors. This does not mean mental illness though, and mental disorders can be difficult to diagnose in many cases because a long term pattern is usually needed to provide an accurate diagnosis. The stigma attached with mental illness means that many people who suffer from mental disorders do so in silence. Even though millions of people in North America have some form of mental disorder many never seek treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illness. Until this changes those who have issues will be more hesitant to ask for help, and less likely to report troubling symptoms.