Definitions: Mental Health and Mental Disorder

Categories of Mental Disorders

Causes of Mental Disorders

Myths and Stereotypes about those with Mental Disorders

Prejudice against people with Mental Disorders – Consequences and Strategies

The Recovery Model

Dimensions to Recovery from Mental Disorders

Therapies for Treating Mental Disorders

A Combination of Treatment Strategies Is Often Better than Just One

Definitions: Mental Health and Mental Disorder

Mental Health is the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.

Mental Disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

A Mental Disorder is a psychological behavioral syndrome occurring in a person that results in clinically significant impairment or distress, not an expected response to a particular event and not a manifestation of cultural norms

Every phrase of this definition is significant:

  • psychological behavioral: A diagnosis of a mental disorder occurs where the psychological or behavioral symptoms are the most prominent symptoms
  • syndrome: A pattern or cluster of symptoms that tend to occur together occurring in a person: An individual, not societal problem.
  • clinically significant impairment or distress: There is a difference between unconventional behavior and a mental disorder. People shouldn’t be diagnosed with a mental disorder just because they’re ‘different’. It is acknowledged that in some cases there is a blurred line between normality and abnormality, and that diagnosis has a subjective component. Care should be taken not to over-pathologize behavior.
  • not an expectable response to a particular event and not a manifestation of cultural norms

Mental Health and Mental Disorder are Points on a Continuum

  • Everyone experiences emotional distress during difficult times, whether or not they are diagnosed with a mental disorder.
  • People will move back a forth along a continuum between mental health and mental disorder in living their lives.
  • Understanding how to cope with mental disorders will help all people cope with the difficult times in their lives.


  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
  • American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition