Your Emotional Health
People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships. They can keep problems in perspective.
It's important to remember that people who have good emotional health sometimes have emotional problems or mental illness. Mental illness often has a physical cause, such as a chemical imbalance in the brain. Stress and problems with family, work or school can sometimes trigger mental illness or make it worse. However, people who are emotionally healthy have learned ways to cope with stress and problems. They know when they need to seek help from their doctor or a counselor.
"Mood Disorders" are the most common groupings of psychiatric disorders. The primary symptom is that of changed affect or mood. These mood disorders may be bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression), in which the person swings between extreme high and low moods, or depression in which the person has persistent low moods. The medical cause is attributed to chemical imbalances or structural defects that disrupt normal brain processing. The most common affective disorder is depression.
Depression is a mental illness marked by feelings of profound sadness and lack of interest in activities. Depression is not the same as a blue mood. It is a persistent low mood that interferes with the ability to function and appreciate things in life. It may cause a wide range of symptoms, both physical and emotional. It can last for weeks, months, or years. People with depression rarely recover without treatment.
Bipolar disorder results in extreme swings in mood, energy, and ability to function. The mood changes of bipolar disorder are more dramatic than normal ups and downs. They can hurt relationships and cause poor job or school performance. Bipolar disorder can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have this condition.
The two extremes of the illness are mania and depression. In mania, energy peaks. The mood may be overly happy or irritable. In depression, lethargy takes over. The mood may be very blue.
The cause of bipolar disorder is not known. This condition tends to run in families. Specific genes may play a role. It is most likely many different genes that act together.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) causes chronic, exaggerated worrying and anxiety about everyday life. Everyone worries at times, but people with GAD can never relax and usually anticipate the worst. The intensity and pervasiveness of their worry interferes with normal functioning at school, work, and in their relationships. The worrying is often not related to anything in particular. Instead, each day provokes tension and anxiety.
People with GAD often worry excessively about health, family, work, or money. The worry is so severe that it interferes with their ability to live their lives. The anxiety can also progress to the point where people "worry about worrying." GAD usually starts in childhood or adolescence, but can also start in early adulthood. It is not unusual for GAD to start after age 20.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic event. PTSD has also been called shell shock or battle fatigue.
The exact cause of PTSD is unknown. PTSD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event, but not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
Situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness, or horror are considered traumatic.
Mental Illness in the Family ... Recognizing the Warning Signs
In older children and pre-adolescents:
In younger children:
The following additional resources may be helpful when learning about Your Emotional Health: