Mental health is how we think,
feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine
how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.
Like physical health, mental health is important at every
stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Everyone feels worried, anxious, sad or stressed sometimes.
But with a mental illness, these feelings do not go away
and are severe enough to interfere with your daily life.
It can make it hard to meet and keep friends, hold a job
or enjoy your life.
Mental illnesses are common – they
affect about one in five families in the U.S. It is not your
fault if you have one. These disorders – depression,
phobias, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and many others
- are real diseases that you cannot will or wish away. Fortunately,
they are often treatable. Medicines and therapy can improve
the life of most people with mental illnesses.
Mental Disorders in America
Mental disorders are common
in the United States and internationally. An estimated
26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about
one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental
disorder in a given year.1 When applied to the 2004 U.S.
Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older,
this figure translates to 57.7 million people.2Even though
mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main
burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about
6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental
illness.1 In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause
of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44.3 Many
people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given
time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder
meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly
related to comorbidity.1
In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth
Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic
disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Approximately 20.9 million American
adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18
and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.1
age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.5
often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.5
Major Depressive Disorder is the
leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.3
depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American
adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18
and older in a given year.1
While major depressive disorder
can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.6
Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression)
must persist for at least two years in adults (one year in
children) to meet criteria for the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder
affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population
age 18 and older in a given year.1
This figure translates
to about 3.3 million American adults.2
The median age of onset
of dysthymic disorder is 31.1
Bipolar disorder affects approximately
5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the
U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1
age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.5
In 2004, 32,439 (approximately
11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S.7
90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable
mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a
substance abuse disorder.8
The highest suicide rates in the
U.S. are found in white men over age 85.9
Four times as many
men as women die by suicide9; however, women attempt suicide
two to three times as often as men.10
Approximately 2.4 million American
adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and
older in a given year,11 have schizophrenia.
affects men and women with equal frequency.12
often first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties.
In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties
or early thirties.12
Anxiety disorders include panic
disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social
phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).
million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1
percent of people in this age group in a given year, have
an anxiety disorder.1
Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur
with depressive disorders or substance abuse.1
with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder.
Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will
have their first episode by age 21.5 5
Approximately 6 million American
adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7 percent of people
in this age group in a given year, have panic disorder.1
disorder typically develops in early adulthood (median age
of onset is 24), but the age of onset extends throughout
About one in three people with
panic disorder develops agoraphobia, a condition in which
the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or situation
where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the
event of a panic attack.12
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Approximately 2.2 million American
adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of people in
this age group in a given year, have OCD.1
The first symptoms
of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence, however,
the median age of onset is 19.5
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Approximately 7.7 million American
adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in
this age group in a given year, have PTSD.1
PTSD can develop
at any age, including childhood, but research shows that
the median age of onset is 23 years.5
About 19 percent of
Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the
war.13 The disorder also frequently occurs after violent
personal assaults such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence;
terrorism; natural or human-caused disasters; and accidents.
Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Approximately 6.8 million American
adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, have
GAD in a given year.1
GAD can begin across the life cycle,
though the median age of onset is 31 years old.5
Approximately 15 million American
adults age 18 and over, or about 6.8 percent of people in
this age group in a given year, have social phobia.1
phobia begins in childhood or adolescence, typically around
13 years of age.5
involves intense fear and anxiety of any place or situation
where escape might be difficult, leading to avoidance of
situations such as being alone outside of the home; traveling
in a car, bus, or airplane; or being in a crowded area.5
Approximately 1.8 million American
adults age 18 and over, or about 0.8 percent of people in
this age group in a given year, have agoraphobia without
a history of panic disorder.1
The median age of onset of agoraphobia
is 20 years of age.5
Specific phobia involves marked and persistent fear and avoidance
of a specific object or situation.
Approximately 19.2 million American
adults age 18 and over, or about 8.7 percent of people in
this age group in a given year, have some type of specific
Specific phobia typically begins
in childhood; the median age of onset is seven years.5
The three main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa,
bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Females are much more likely than
males to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5
to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia14 and an
estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder15
In their lifetime, an estimated
0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia,
and an estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia.16
surveys have estimated that between 2 percent and 5 percent
of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month
The mortality rate among people
with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56 percent per year,
or approximately 5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12
times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes
of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population.18
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD, one of the most common mental
disorders in children and adolescents, also affects an estimated
4.1 percent of adults, ages 18-44, in a given year.1
usually becomes evident in preschool or early elementary
years. The median age of onset of ADHD is seven years, although
the disorder can persist into adolescence and occasionally
Autism is part of a group of disorders called autism spectrum
disorders (ASDs), also known as pervasive developmental disorders.
ASDs range in severity, with autism being the most debilitating
form while other disorders, such as Asperger syndrome, produce
Estimating the prevalence of autism
is difficult and controversial due to differences in the
ways that cases are identified and defined, differences in
study methods, and changes in diagnostic criteria. A recent
study reported the prevalence of autism in 3-10 year-olds
to be about 3.4 cases per 1000 children.19
Autism and other
ASDs develop in childhood and generally are diagnosed by
Autism is about four times more common in boys than girls.
Girls with the disorder, however, tend to have more severe
symptoms and greater cognitive impairment.19,20
AD affects an estimated 4.5 million
Americans. The number of Americans with AD has more than
doubled since 1980.21
AD is the most common cause of
dementia among people age 65 and older.22
Increasing age is
the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
In most people with AD, symptoms first appear after age 65.
One in 10 individuals over 65 and nearly half of those over
85 are affected.23 Rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s
disease can strike individuals as early as their 30s and
From the time of diagnosis, people
with AD survive about half as long as those of similar age
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severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders
in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives
of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
2. U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates by Demographic
Characteristics. Table 2: Annual Estimates of the Population
by Selected Age Groups and Sex for the United States: April
1, 2000 to July 1, 2004 (NC-EST2004-02) Source: Population
Division, U.S. Census Bureau Release Date: June 9, 2005.
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2004: Changing History, Annex Table 3: Burden of disease
in DALYs by cause, sex, and mortality stratum in WHO regions,
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DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1994.
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Center for Injury Prevention and Control (producer). Web-based
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online from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/default.htm
accessed December 2006.
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