Health Topics

Mental health and behavior

Child Behavior Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Conduct Disorder
Conduct disorders

All kids misbehave some times. And some may have temporary behavior problems due to stress. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family may cause a child to act out. Behavior disorders are more serious. They involve a pattern of hostile, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors for more than 6 months. The behavior is also not appropriate for the child's age.

Warning signs can include

  • Harming or threatening themselves, other people or pets
  • Damaging or destroying property
  • Lying or stealing
  • Not doing well in school, skipping school
  • Early smoking, drinking or drug use
  • Early sexual activity
  • Frequent tantrums and arguments
  • Consistent hostility toward authority figures

If you see signs of a problem, ask for help. Poor choices can become habits. Kids who have behavior problems are at higher risk for school failure, mental health problems, and even suicide. Classes or family therapy may help parents learn to set and enforce limits. Talk therapy and behavior therapy for your child can also help.


Adolescent Behavior
Child Behavior Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
All kids misbehave some times. And some may have temporary behavior problems due to stress. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in ...
Self-Harm
National Library of Medicine
Cutting
Hair Pulling

Self-harm refers to a person's harming their own body on purpose. About 1 in 100 people hurts himself or herself in this way. More females hurt themselves than males. A person who self-harms usually does not mean to kill himself or herself. But they are at higher risk of attempting suicide if they do not get help.

Self-harm tends to begin in teen or early adult years. Some people may engage in self-harm a few times and then stop. Others engage in it more often and have trouble stopping.

Examples of self-harm include

  • Cutting yourself (such as using a razor blade, knife, or other sharp object to cut the skin)
  • Punching yourself or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning yourself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
  • Pulling out your hair
  • Poking objects through body openings
  • Breaking your bones or bruising yourself

Many people cut themselves because it gives them a sense of relief. Some people use cutting as a means to cope with a problem. Some teens say that when they hurt themselves, they are trying to stop feeling lonely, angry, or hopeless.

It is possible to overcome the urge to hurt yourself. There are other ways to find relief and cope with your emotions. Counseling may help.

Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health


Self-Injurious Behavior
Mental Health and Behavior
Self-harm refers to a person's harming their own body on purpose. About 1 in 100 people hurts himself or herself in this way. More females hurt themselves ...
Child Mental Health
National Library of Medicine
Mental Health, Child

It's important to recognize and treat mental illnesses in children early on. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of your child's behavior. This makes it more difficult to treat.

But it's not always easy to know when your child has a serious problem. Everyday stresses can cause changes in your child's behavior. For example, getting a new brother or sister or going to a new school may cause a child to temporarily act out. Warning signs that it might be a more serious problem include

  • Problems in more than one setting (at school, at home, with peers)
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal or fear of things he or she did not used to be not afraid of
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bedwetting
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging or suddenly getting hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death

To diagnose mental health problems, the doctor or mental health specialist looks at your child's signs and symptoms, medical history, and family history. Treatments include medicines and talk therapy.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Psychology, Child
Mental Disorders
Mental Health
Child Psychiatry
Children and Teenagers
Mental Health and Behavior
... and talk therapy. NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
Eating Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Anorexia Nervosa
Binge Eating
Bulimia
Pica

Eating disorders are serious behavior problems. They can include severe overeating or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight.

Types of eating disorders include

  • Anorexia nervosa, in which you become too thin, but you don't eat enough because you think you are fat
  • Bulimia nervosa, which involves periods of overeating followed by purging, sometimes through self-induced vomiting or using laxatives
  • Binge-eating, which is out-of-control eating

Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. They usually start in the teenage years and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

Eating disorders can lead to heart and kidney problems and even death. Getting help early is important. Treatment involves monitoring, talk therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Feeding and Eating Disorders
Mental Health and Behavior
Food and Nutrition
... counseling, and sometimes medicines. NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
Panic Disorder
National Library of Medicine

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if you are losing control. You may also have physical symptoms, such as

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill
  • Tingly or numb hands

Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes.

Panic disorder is more common in women than men. It usually starts when people are young adults. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medicines can also help.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Panic Disorder
Mental Health and Behavior
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if ...
Coping with Chronic Illness
National Library of Medicine
Chronic Illness, Coping

Having a long-term, or chronic, illness can disrupt your life in many ways. You may often be tired and in pain. Your illness might affect your appearance or your physical abilities and independence. You may not be able to work, causing financial problems. For children, chronic illnesses can be frightening, because they may not understand why this is happening to them.

These changes can cause stress, anxiety, and anger. If they do, it is important to seek help. A trained counselor can help you develop strategies to regain a feeling of control. Support groups might help, too. You will find that you are not alone, and you may learn some new tips on how to cope.

You may be able to manage your illness better if learn more about it. It is important to evaluate the information that you find, to make sure that it is reliable. It is also important to find a health care provider that you can trust.


Chronic Disease
Mental Health and Behavior
Having a long-term, or chronic, illness can disrupt your life in many ways. You may often be tired and in pain. Your illness might affect your appearance or ...
Mental Health
National Library of Medicine
Emotional Health
What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are serious disorders which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting. They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day. Mental disorders are common; more than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some time in their life. But there are treatments. People with mental health problems can get better, and many of them recover completely.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it can help you to

  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be physically healthy
  • Have good relationships
  • Make meaningful contributions to your community
  • Work productively
  • Realize your full potential
How can I improve my mental health?

There are steps you can take to help you improve your mental health. They include

  • Staying positive
  • Being physically active
  • Connecting with others
  • Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills
  • Meditating
  • Getting professional help if you need it

Mental Health
Mental Health and Behavior
Wellness and Lifestyle
... stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every ... mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting. They ...
Mental Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Psychiatric Disorders
Mental illness
What are mental disorders?

Mental disorders (or mental illnesses) are conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.

What are some types of mental disorders?

There are many different types of mental disorders. Some common ones include

  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias
  • Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia
What causes mental disorders?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

  • Your genes and family history
  • Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Having a serious medical condition like cancer
  • Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated

Mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.

Who is at risk for mental disorders?

Mental disorders are common. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with a mental disorder at some time in their life.

How are mental disorders diagnosed?

The steps to getting a diagnosis include

  • A medical history
  • A physical exam and possibly lab tests, if your provider thinks that other medical conditions could be causing your symptoms
  • A psychological evaluation. You will answer questions about your thinking, feelings, and behaviors.
What are the treatments for mental disorders?

Treatment depends on which mental disorder you have and how serious it is. You and your provider will work on a treatment plan just for you. It usually involves some type of therapy. You may also take medicines. Some people also need social support and education on managing their condition.

In some cases, you may need more intensive treatment. You may need to go to a psychiatric hospital. This could be because your mental illness is severe. Or it could be because you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. In the hospital, you will get counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients.


Mental Disorders
Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Mental Health and Behavior
... get counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients.
Compulsive Gambling
National Library of Medicine
Gambling
Pathological Gambling
Gambling addiction

Many people enjoy gambling, whether it's betting on a horse or playing poker on the Internet. Most people who gamble don't have a problem, but some lose control of their gambling. Signs of problem gambling include

  • Always thinking about gambling
  • Lying about gambling
  • Spending work or family time gambling
  • Feeling bad after you gamble, but not quitting
  • Gambling with money you need for other things

If you have concerns about your gambling, ask for help. Your health care provider can work with you to find the treatment that's best for you.

NIH: National Institutes of Health


Gambling
Mental Health and Behavior
Many people enjoy gambling, whether it's betting on a horse or playing poker on the Internet. Most people who gamble don't have a problem, but some lose control ...
Suicide
National Library of Medicine

Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the United States. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can't see any other solution to their problems. Often it's related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or a major stressful event.

People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. But women and teens report more suicide attempts. If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.

Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health


Suicide
Suicidal Ideation
Mental Health and Behavior
Social/Family Issues
Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the United States. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can't see any other solution to ...