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Understanding mental health and substance use conditions will help you help others or yourself.

Mental health and substance use conditions are manageable, just like any other disease. The more you understand what's happening, the earlier you can seek treatment or talk to a loved one about getting help. The condition will get worse the longer you wait to seek treatment.



Depression happens when chemicals in your brain are out of balance. Depression can be triggered by a combination of stress or trauma and a family history of depression. Some common symptoms are: Sadness, grief, low energy, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide.

Depression + Getting older: 
Can be caused by losing a spouse, leaving a home, a chronic illness, lack of social interaction and activity, certain medications, or drinking too much alcohol. Some common symptoms are: Feeling confused or forgetful, not wanting to spend time with people, lack of appetite, and trouble sleeping.

Depression + Disability:
Can be caused by injury or illness, grief, major life change, lack of support, lack of activity, isolation, frustration, embarassment, or stress about employment.  Some common symptoms are: Withdrawing from people, mood swings, changes in sleep and appetite, feelings of hopelessness, and thoughts of death or suicide. 

Depression + Chronic Illness or Pain:
Can be caused by certain medication, lack of activity, worry, fear, or isolation. 

Postpartum Depression:
Can be caused by changing hormones after pregnancy, lack of support, a sick or colicky baby, and a history of postpartum depression. Can happen after childbirth, miscarriage or stillbirth. Some common symptoms are: Trouble bonding with your baby, and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.


Anxiety is when you worry more than a situation calls for. It's different from normal worry when it interferes with your life. Anxiety can happen to men, women, and kids. Anxiety causes physical and emotional symptoms.

Some symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling doomed
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder can be caused by a combination of family history, brain chemicals being out of balance, and a stressful living situation. It causes extreme mood swings between mania and depression.

Some symptoms of mania are:

  • Very high energy 
  • Not needing to sleep 
  • Edginess
  • Risky behavior
  • Extreme self-confidence

Some symptoms of depression are:

  • Trouble making decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Thoughts of suicide

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

If you experience a traumatic or life-threatening event, you could develop PTSD. PTSD may make you feel scared, panicked, angry, or jumpy. You may have nightmares or flashbacks to your trauma. PTSD can lead to drug or alcohol abuse, depression, isolation, and thoughts of suicide.


Schizophrenia may be caused by different brain structures, and is more likely if your family members have had schizophrenia. If you have schizophrenia, you will usually start to have symptoms in your late teens to early twenties.

Early symptoms may look a lot like depression and include:

  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Troubling expressing your thoughts and feelings
  • Getting angry at strangers for no reason

Later symptoms include:

  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there
  • Believing things that aren't real
  • Thinking someone is trying to hurt you

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

May be caused by not enough of certain brain chemicals or problems with how your brain sends information. It causes repeated unwanted thoughts. People with OCD think that by repeating certain behaviors, they can keep bad things from happening. 

Symptoms include:

  • Extreme worry
  • Repeated thoughts of bad things 
  • Hoarding 
  • Counting the number of times you repeat something 
  • Washing over and over 
  • Constant praying

Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Most adults with ADHD have had it since they were kids. It may cause you to have trouble maintaining relationships or jobs, lose your temper easily, take risks, and have trouble concentrating.

Other symptoms include:

  • Constant fidgeting
  • Talking excessively
  • Difficulty focusing on or completing tasks you don't find interesting
  • Hyper-focusing on things you do find interesting
  • An inability to relax until you are exhausted

Substance Use Issues

This is when you use alcohol, chemicals, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or tobacco in a way that harms you or your friends and family. All of these substances are addictive, and you could get to a point where you need to use the substance, even if you don't want to. Problems with substances can make you sick, cause you to do things you regret, have problems with your relationships, job, school, or the law, and could lead to accidentally overdosing.

Quiz: Do I have a problem with drinking?