UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center

What is Mental Illness?

NAMI2017Team xMental illness comes in a variety of forms accompanied by a variety of symptoms. To help you learn more about some of these illnesses, the staff at Harris County Psychiatric Center created this alphabetized list. Scroll down and click on the appropriate illness for a description.

The descriptions included here are for information purposes only. For a qualified, professional diagnosis, please contact the Department of Psychiatry Outpatient Services at 713-486-2700, HCPC Inpatient Admissions at 713-741-3883 or your private physician.


Alzheimer's Disease
One of the most disabling afflictions among older people is Alzheimer's disease. It is estimated that one in 20 adults over 65 and one in five adults over 80 suffer from the disease today.

Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses, and they are also the most treatable. Unfortunately, only about one quarter of the victims ever seek treatment.

Bipolar Disorder (manic depression)
Bipolar disorder, also known as Manic-depressive disorder, is a serious, chronic mental disorder. It is estimated that one in 100 people suffer from manic-depression and it generally strikes before 35 years of age.

Childhood Disorders
When children develop mental or emotional disorders, parents often blame themselves, but childhood disorders are likely caused by a combination of many factors. Often these conditions can be treated effectively, allowing our children to grow into happy, productive adults.

Depression is one of the most common of all mental illnesses. It can appear at any age, and one in five women and one in 10 men will experience depression sometime in their lives. Almost 90 percent of those who suffer from depression can be effectively treated.

Depression, Late-Life
Depression is common among the elderly. In fact, more than 20 percent of those over the age of 65 suffer from some degree of depression. An additional 10 percent of the elderly diagnosed with dementia may actually be suffering from depression.

Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are psychological illnesses born from the desire to achieve the "ideal figure." The majority of those afflicted with eating disorders are adolescent and young adult women.

Manic-depressive Disorder
see Bipolar Disorder

Mental Illnesses
Mental illnesses are some of the most misunderstood afflictions in today's society. Too many people think of mental illness as a "weakness." Nothing could be further from the truth. These are true illnesses and brain diseases.

Mental Health, Late-Life
Having sound mental health as an adult does not make a person immune from psychiatric problems later in life. Elderly individuals can also suffer from mental illness, but proper treatment and care can reduce or eliminate the symptoms, returning people to functioning, happier lives.

Mood Disorders
Feelings of sadness and discouragement are normal emotional reactions to difficult situations. But when these feelings last more than a few weeks, or get so bad that they take control of a person's life, it could be a sign of a mood disorder.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder afflicts millions of Americans and can strike at any age. Treatment is available, and advances in medications and therapies have successfully returned many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder to productive, satisfying lives.

Panic Disorder
Panic disorder, one in the family of anxiety disorders, is different from normal anxiety. While other anxiety disorders cause ongoing feelings of fear of impending doom, panic disorder is marked by sudden, unexpected attacks of intense terror.

Fear is a natural reaction to danger. But when your fears are so great that they disrupt your daily life, you probably suffer from a phobia. Phobias are among the most common of all mental illnesses, and they are usually the most successfully treated.

Physical Fitness & Mental Health
Physical fitness involves much more than having the body of a fashion model. True physical fitness is a state of overall well-being and a measure of one's ability to perform normal physical activity. When you're physically healthy, you are more likely to be mentally healthy as well.

Much less common than other chronic diseases, schizophrenia occurs in around 150 of every 100,000 people, or about one to one and a half percent of the population, and usually appears during adolescence or young adulthood.

Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is the misuse of a mood-altering substance and is one of the most common and costly problems in society today. Just about everyone has or will be faced with making decisions about substance use or abuse, however it touches our lives. Education is the first and most critical step toward making the right decision.

Suicide, Late Life
For many people, senior years are a time to enjoy life, to travel, to do things they weren't able to before retirement. They look back on their lives with satisfaction. But for some others, growing older is a painful, difficult process.

Teen Suicide
For many, teen years are some of the most difficult in life. Our bodies go through changes; relationships become complex; we begin to learn social roles; and more than ever we're expected to grow up earlier. These changes and demands may leave a teenager feeling helpless, confused and pessimistic about the future.