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Mental Health Mindfulness

Written By Michelle Nguyen and Catherine Pei

Medical Marvels Los Angeles Chapter



Trigger Warning: The following information in this article contains content on mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, as well as statistics on these disorders. The article is written with careful connotation and consideration, however, gives medical context to the psychological and physical aspects of these mental illnesses.




During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of mental disorders among individuals experienced an exponential increase. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% since the beginning of the pandemic. This is due to multiple factors such as being quarantined,

loneliness, and unemployment. Let’s take a look at the difference between mental health and mental health conditions, as well as some psychological mental health disorders.



What’s the difference between mental health and mental disorders? 


Mental health describes the state of one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Having good mental health allows an individual to be productive, socialize, learn, and better cope with stress. However, it is also common that people may struggle with their mental health and develop concerns that interfere with their everyday lives. The difference between a mental health concern and a mental disorder is that disorders consistently cause the body to function less efficiently while mental health concerns occur only from time to time. Disorders can hinder someone’s normal functioning and dramatically affect one’s emotional state, thinking, and behavior. Despite the rising number of mental illnesses, many people still choose not to seek help, and sometimes, professional assistance may not be affordable for some individuals. According to a survey conducted by Forbes Magazine, the primary reason people don’t seek help is that they lack knowledge of what kind of help to seek or where to get help. In other cases, people lack confidence in mental health treatment and some have a fear of not wanting others to know about their struggles.



What are the causes and effects of mental disorders? 



A common cause of mental illnesses is a chemical imbalance in the brain. This refers to the fact that there could be either a lack of or an excessive amount of a hormone, most commonly serotonin, in the brain. Experiencing trauma such as abuse or neglect can also increase the chances of developing a mental disorder later in life. Lastly, having a family medical history of mental disorders can also be a risk factor in development. It’s important to note that one should not self-diagnose, but should be aware of their overall mental health and the factors of susceptibility to mental illnesses. 


The effects of mental disorders come in a broad range as they vary with each condition. Some common effects include: 

  • Extreme mood swings

  • Withdrawal from social activities 

  • Excessive fatigue and numbness

  • Feeling isolated or unmotivated

  • Changes in eating/drinking behaviors

  • Excessive paranoia or anxiety


People with mental disorders also have an increased likelihood of indulging in unhealthy behaviors such as alcoholism and drug abuse. These habits can permanently affect the brain in a negative way if left untreated. 


Common Effects of a Mental Disorder




Types of Mental Illnesses


There are more than 200 classified types of mental disorders, some more common than others. The more common disorders include anxiety disorders, depression, dementia, eating disorders, and personality disorders.


Anxiety disorders are considered the most common disorder in the United States, as around 31.1% of adults have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at least once in their life. Almost ⅓ of the US adult population experiences struggles with an anxiety disorder, implying that it is a real condition that many people deal with. Someone with an anxiety disorder may experience excessive worry or fear. They may also experience trouble with sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and withdrawal from social activities. Anxiety disorders, overall, can interfere with an individual’s performance in academics, work, or personal relationships. Some examples of anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


Mood disorders are the next most common mental illness following anxiety disorders as approximately 21.4% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with a mood disorder at least once. These disorders cause frequent, inconsistent and intense mood swings. It can create unmanageable feelings of intense joy or sadness. Many people with a mood disorder may feel either extremely energized or restless, while others may feel the complete opposite.  Mood disorders are more commonly found and diagnosed in females than in males. Examples include depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, etc.


Affecting around 9% of the United States population, eating disorders are found more commonly among women aged 12-35 years, though eating disorders can be found at any age or gender. When someone has an eating disorder, it means they have a distorted relationship with food. These disorders can affect the physical, psychological, and social functions of a person. A likely cause of an eating disorder is anxiety about the consequences of eating food. This results in behaviors such as avoiding foods, restricting diets, or purging foods. These unhealthy eating habits can lead to malnutrition, heart conditions, and gastrointestinal conditions. Different types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and more.



How can someone receive help and support?

Most mental illnesses won’t improve without support or help and can get worse as time progresses, which is why it’s so important to seek care for a mental illness. A common treatment for mental disorders is psychotherapy, which is used to improve the negative habits of a patient. This form of therapy is especially effective when no medication is available for a specific mental illness. Some mental disorders can also be treated through prescribed medication. However, medication is only a temporary solution to specific effects and cannot directly cure a mental disorder. 


People can also join support groups and find help from their peers. In these groups, peers assist each other in one’s recovery. It can greatly benefit both the patient and peer since it allows peers to become more educated on mental health topics. Setting up a self-help plan can also be helpful for someone because it allows someone to create a plan that is specific to their own needs and individual goals. A self-help plan can motivate recovery because it is fitted to an individual’s certain needs and helps promote one’s mental well-being. 



Closing Thoughts

Being aware of our mental health is extremely important when learning about mental disorders. However, we shouldn’t panic if we find that our mental health sounds similar to the effects of a disorder and self-diagnose ourselves. Seeing a medical professional, therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist can help with talking about personal mental health and getting professional advice. Mental illnesses can be more common than most people think, which is why it is crucial to learn about them so that one becomes more aware of their mental health and the mental health of those around them. This way, we can break down the negative stigma around the topic, while also encouraging others to open up about their mental health. 




Extra Resources!

Learn more about mental health and its importance at: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm 

Learn more information about more mental disorders at:

SAMSHA’s National Helpline:



Key Takeaways:


  • A mental disorder is characterized by a consistent disturbance of one’s cognition and behaviors and causes the body to function less efficiently. 


  • Around 970,000 million people in the world (1 in 8) live with a mental disorder! It is not uncommon to live with a mental disorder.


  • A chemical imbalance in the brain is the most common cause of mental illnesses.


  • Common effects of a mental disorder include extreme mood swings, excessive fatigue, and changes in eating/drinking behaviors.


  • There are many types of mental disorders, the most common ones being anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders.


  • Therapy, prescribed medication, support groups, and self-help plans are all ways that people can seek help with their mental health. 


  • If we educate ourselves and others about mental health, we will be able to better break down the negative stigma around the overall topic and spread more awareness.



Works Cited

“5 Most Common Mental Health Conditions.” Agape Treatment Center, 7 Aug. 2020, www.agapetc.com/common-mental-health-conditions/

Better Health Channel. “Types of Mental Health Issues and Illnesses.” Vic.gov.au, 2012, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/types-of-mental-health-issues-and-illnesses

Brunier, Alison. “COVID-19 Pandemic Triggers 25% Increase in Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression Worldwide.” Www.who.int, 2 Mar. 2022, www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide#:~:text=Wake-up%20call%20to%20all

https://www.facebook.com/verywell. “Seeking Help and Saving Your Relationship with a Mentally Ill Spouse.” Verywell Mind, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/coping-with-a-mentally-ill-spouse-2302988

Mental Health America. “Mental Health Treatments.” Mental Health America, 2022, www.mhanational.org/mental-health-treatments

National Institute of Mental Health. “NIMH» Any Anxiety Disorder.” Www.nimh.nih.gov, 2017, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder

Nietzel, Michael T. “Almost Half of Americans Don’t Seek Professional Help for Mental Disorders.” Forbes, www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2021/05/24/why-so-many-americans-do-not-seek-professional-help-for-mental-disorders/?sh=711d14553de7.  

Radhakrishnan, Rohini. “What Are the 5 Signs of Mental Illness?” MedicineNet, 14 Oct. 2020, www.medicinenet.com/what_are_the_5_signs_of_mental_illness/article.htm

TAYLOR COUNSELING GROUP. “Mental Health vs. Mental Illness: The Difference and Why It Matters.” Taylor Counseling Group, 18 June 2021, www.taylorcounselinggroup.com/blog/mental-health-vs-mental-illness/#:~:text=While%20mental%20health%20refers%20to

“The 7 Types of Mental Disorders.” Alter Behavioral Health, 6 Apr. 2021, www.alterbehavioralhealth.com/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-the-7-types-of-mental-disorders/  

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “What Is Mental Health?” Mentalhealth.gov, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 28 Feb. 2022, www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health



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