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Mental Illness - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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Q. What is mental illness?

A. Mental illnesses are biologically based brain disorders that can profoundly disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, moods, ability to relate to others, and capacity for coping with the demands of life. Mental illnesses include disorders such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, and bi-polar disorder.

Q. Are mental illnesses common?

A. According to the U. S. Surgeon General’s Report published in 1999, 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. In Alabama the Division of Mental Illness Services serves over 100,000 people per year. Ninety-five percent of these consumers receive services through our certified community providers. Approximately five percent receive services through state operated facilities.

Q. What is schizophrenia?

A. Schizophrenia is a biological brain disease that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. Many people with schizophrenia have hallucinations and delusions, meaning they hear and see things that are not there and believe things that are not real to be true. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not “split personality”. Currently, one to two percent of the world’s population, including one to two million American adults, has schizophrenia. Men and women are at equal risk; however, most males become ill between the ages of 16 and 25, while females develop symptoms between ages 25 and 30. Treatment success rates for schizophrenia are significantly higher than those for other physical illnesses such as heart disease.

Q. What is bipolar disorder?

A. Bipolar disorder is a biological brain disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans. It is characterized by episodes of mood swings ranging from periods of deep depression to times of extreme elation. Between episodes most people with bipolar disorder have periods of relatively normal moods and activity. This brain disorder often begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. Bipolar disorder is highly treatable through a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Q. What are anxiety disorders?

A. Anxiety disorders are the nation’s most common form of mental illness, affecting over 20 million people per year. Types of anxiety disorders include: phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and general anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety disorders, like most types of mental illnesses, respond exceptionally well to treatment.

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