Understanding & Diagnosis

A diagnosis of mental illness can be devastating.  At the same time, it can bring a sense of relief.  For many families, the months leading up to a mental health crisis are marked by chaos and uncertainty.  The resulting diagnosis can provide answers about troubling behavior and be an important first step on the path to treatment and recovery.

A diagnosis may not answer all your questions.  In fact, it will probably raise new ones about treatment options, cost, and what to expect over the long term.  In some cases, the diagnosis may remain an open question until a clear pattern of behavior emerges. But diagnosis is a useful starting point to understand what is happening with a loved one in trouble, so you can be your most supportive and treatment can begin.

What is mental illness?

Understanding DiagnosisThe term mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders affecting mood, thinking and behavior.  Many people experience symptoms of mental or emotional distress from time to time.  In mental illness, the persistence and severity of those symptoms cause frequent stress and impair daily functioning.  Examples of mental illness include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

There may be no known cures for mental illness, it can be managed with a combination of medical treatments, counseling and supportive services.  Many people with mental illness use the language of recovery to describe their ongoing efforts to manage their condition.  Although many people with serious mental illness were once institutionalized, resources now exist that can help a person live a productive and fulfilling life in the community.  Rtor can help you identify and access the best of these resources.

Mental Health or Mental Illness?

Doctors, therapists and social workers often seem to use these terms interchangeably, but there is a difference.  ‘Mental illness’ refers to a diagnosed condition, such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety.  ‘Mental health’ commonly refers to the treatment and care of mental illness.  Due to the prejudice and stigma associated with mental illness, many people use mental health instead, which has more positive connotations.  Mental health is closely related to the concept of wellness, which doesn’t only mean the absence of illness, but rather resilience and functioning for a positive quality of life.

Find out more about mental health and mental illness here.

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