What is mental illness?
What is anxiety? Is anxiety bad?
Anxiety is a natural response to uncertainty, perceived danger, or important events. In fact, the Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that a certain degree of arousal is necessary for optimal performance. Increased arousal improves your performance, but only to a certain point. After that point, the degree of arousal, or anxiety, becomes debilitating and diminishes performance. For example, if you weren’t nervous for an important presentation, then you might not invest enough time practicing and preparing beforehand. But, if you’re too nervous, then you won’t be able to carry out the presentation. Arousal, or anxiety, is natural and not inherently bad. Instead, it’s an excess of anxiety that causes concern.
Anxiety disorders involve experiencing a disproportionate amount or intensity of anxiety relative to your context, and it can create significant disruptions in your life. Anxiety Canada recognizes that although anxiety protects you from danger, it becomes a problem when it:
- Goes off when there is no real or immediate danger
- Happens a lot
- Feels pretty intense
- Is upsetting and causes you distress
- Stops you from doing fun and important things (ex. school, work, social life, setting goals)
There are eleven different types of anxiety disorders:
Each disorder is associated with a list of commonly experienced physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. Briefly, these disorders include:
For more information about any of these disorders, visit the Anxiety Canada website.
What are Mood Disorders?
Mood describes a temporary state of mind and feeling. It’s common to experience fluctuations in mood (i.e. mood swings) and many people describe their day-to-day life as a “roller coaster” of emotions. These fluctuations may be the result of internal changes (ex. thoughts, worries, physical symptoms) or external changes (ex. work, school, relationships). In general, Mood Disorders describe a class of mental disorders that involve emotional disturbances consisting of prolonged periods of excessive sadness, excessive joyousness, or both. If you have a mood disorder, you might feel “stuck” in a low mood, “stuck” in a high mood, or unnaturally cycle between the two extremes. The emotional state or mood of a person with a Mood Disorder is generally inconsistent with their circumstances and interferes with their ability to think, feel, or function in everyday life.
There are two major classes of mood disorders:
What are Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are complex disorders characterized by severe disturbances in eating behaviours as well as thoughts and emotions related to eating. People with eating disorders are typically preoccupied with food and body weight or shape, have low self-esteem, distorted body image, and tend to be perfectionistic. Without proper treatment of the psychological and physical symptoms of eating disorders, these disorders can result in malnutrition, heart problems, and other fatal physical conditions.
There are three major types of eating disorders:
What are other mental disorders?
Other common mental disorders include:
Why is it important to talk about mental illness?
As an option, watch Wendy Smith’s TEDx Talk, “Mental health literacy can be taught in grade school”, to get a deeper understanding of why it’s important to talk about mental health and mental illness from a young age.
Where can I learn more?
What will students learn?
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…
- Recognize that mental illness is no different than physical illness with regards to the presence of symptoms, as well as the availability of professional support, treatment, and recovery
- Identify and describe common mental illnesses, their symptoms, and treatment options
- Respect and understand the challenges associated with experiencing mental illness
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Fuller, K. (2018, September 6). 5 Common Myths About Suicide Debunked. National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Ghaemi, N. (2013, July 18). Requiem for DSM. Psychiatric Times.
Government of Canada. (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Griffiths K. M., Gulliver, A., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 10(1), 113.
Parekh, R. (2018, August). What Is Mental Illness?. American Psychiatric Association.
Phillips, M., & Kupfer, D. (2013). Bipolar disorder diagnosis: challenges and future directions. The Lancet, 381(9878), 1663–1671.
Ratnayake, P., & Hyde, C. (2019). Mental Health Literacy, Help-Seeking Behaviour and Wellbeing in Young People: Implications for Practice. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 36(1), 16–21.
Smith, W. (2017, May 3). Mental health literacy can be taught in grade school [Video]. TEDxLincolnSquare.