Know the Warning Signs:
Trying to tell the difference between what expected behaviors are and what might be the signs of a mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness.
Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or low
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
- Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia)
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
- An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:
- Changes in school performance
- Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
- Hyperactive behavior
- Frequent nightmares
- Frequent disobedience or aggression
- Frequent temper tantrums
Where To Get Help
Don’t be afraid to reach out if you or someone you know needs help. Learning all you can about mental health is an important first step.
Reach out to your health insurance, primary care doctor or state/country mental health authority for more resources.
Contact the NAMI HelpLine to find out what services and supports are available in your community.
If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.
Receiving A Diagnosis
Knowing warning signs can help let you know if you need to speak to a professional. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.
Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to assess symptoms and make a diagnosis. The manual lists criteria including feelings and behaviors and time limits in order to be officially classified as a mental health condition.
After diagnosis, a health care provider can help develop a treatment plan that could include medication, therapy or other lifestyle changes.
Getting a diagnosis is just the first step; knowing your own preferences and goals is also important. Treatments for mental illness vary by diagnosis and by person. There’s no “one size fits all” treatment. Treatment options can include medication, counseling (therapy), social support and education.
Mental Health Conditions
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder where there are significant problems with attention, hyperactivity or acting impulsively.
Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, but when it becomes overwhelming and repeatedly impacts a person’s life, it may be an anxiety disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that makes it difficult to socialize and communicate with others.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic highs and lows in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy relationships.
Depression is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch; it’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and treatment.
Dissociative disorders are spectrum of disorders that affect a person’s memory and self-perception.
Early Psychosis and Psychosis
Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t.
When you become so preoccupied with food and weight issues that you find it hard to focus on other aspects of your life, it may be a sign of an eating disorder.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder causes repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions).
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is the result of traumatic events, such as military combat, assault, an accident or a natural disaster.
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as depressive or manic episodes.
Schizophrenia causes people to lose touch with reality, often in the form of hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.
Mental Health By The Numbers
Millions of people in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, so we can understand its physical, social and financial impact — and so we can show that no one is alone. These numbers are also powerful tools for raising public awareness, stigma-busting and advocating for better health care.
The information on this page comes from studies conducted by organizations like Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Justice. The terminology used on this page reflects what is used in original studies. Terms like “serious mental illness,” “mental illness” or “mental health disorders” may all seem like they’re referring to the same thing, but in fact refer to specific diagnostic groups for that particular study.
If you have questions about a statistic or term that’s being used, please visit the original study by clicking the link provided.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34
You Are Not Alone
19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018 (47.6 million people). This represents 1 in 5 adults.
4.6% of U.S. adults experienced serious mental illness in 2018 (11.4 million people). This represents 1 in 25 adults.
16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 experienced a mental health disorder in 2016 (7.7 million people)
3.7% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2018 (9.2 million people)
Annual prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults, by demographic group:
Non-Hispanic Asian: 14.7%
Non-Hispanic white: 20.4%
Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 16.2%
Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 26.8%
Hispanic or Latino: 16.9%
Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 37.4%
Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:
Major Depressive Episode: 7.2% (17.7 million people)
Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)
Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)
Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)
Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)
Mental Health Care Matters
43.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018
64.1% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness received treatment in 2018
50.6% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 with a mental health disorder received treatment in 2016
The average delay between onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 years
Annual treatment rates among U.S. adults with any mental illness, by demographic group:
Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 48.5%
Non-Hispanic Asian: 24.9%
Non-Hispanic white: 49.1%
Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 30.6%
Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 31.8%
Hispanic or Latino: 32.9%
11.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018
13.4% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018
60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist
The Ripple Effect Of Mental Illness
People with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions.
19.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness also experienced a substance use disorder in 2018 (9.2 million individuals)
The rate of unemployment is higher among U.S. adults who have mental illness (5.8%) compared to those who do not (3.6%)
High school students with significant symptoms of depression are more than twice as likely to drop out compared to their peers
At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue
Caregivers of adults with