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    Mental Illness Basics

    How Common Is Mental Illness?

    It's more common than cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 5 U.S. adults had a mental health issue in 2014, and 1 in 25 lived with someone who had a serious condition, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

    These conditions can affect people of any age, income, educational level, race, and cultural background.

    What’s the Treatment?

    The treatment depends on the condition. In many cases, people get one or more of these treatments:

    Medication. Prescription drugs help manage the symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis.

    Psychotherapy. This may be one-on-one with a counselor. Or it may happen with a group. It may include learning different ways to respond to challenging situations.

    Lifestyle change. In some cases, changing your habits makes a difference. For instance, exercise is one of the treatments for mild depression.

    In some cases, treatment may also include creative therapies (such as art therapy, music therapy, or play therapy), mindfulness and meditation, and brain stimulation therapies, such as:

    Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). You’re “asleep” under general anesthesia while doctors put electrodes on specific points on your head to stimulate your brain. It’s usually used for major depression, but doctors may consider it for other conditions, especially in severe cases. Most people get it several times a week for a few weeks, and usually only if other treatments haven’t worked. 

    Vagus nerve stimulation, in which doctors implant a device that stimulates the vagus nerve, which relays messages to areas in the brain that are thought to affect mood and thinking. It’s approved to treat severe cases of depression that don’t respond to two or more antidepressant treatments.

    Transcranial magnetic stimulation, which uses magnets (outside the body) to stimulate the brain. It’s approved to treat major depression if other treatments haven’t worked. The research on how well it works is mixed.

    Some people may need day treatment or hospitalization, at least for a time, for more severe conditions.

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