Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide variety of mental health conditions that affect your mood, thinking and cognition and behaviors
Mental health concerns becomes a mental illness when continual signs and symptoms cause frequent affect your ability to function in your day-to-day life.
A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships.
In most cases, symptoms can be managed with medications and talk therapy/psychotherapy.
Understand the difference between different mental health disorders.
Classes of Mental Illness and VA Ratings
These include disorders that affect how you feel emotionally, such as how sad or happy you are, and they can disrupt your day-to-day life.
TRAUMA AND STRESSOR RELATED DISORDERS
Adjustment disorders in which a person has trouble coping during or after a stressful life event.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) VA Ratings
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Benefits and Compensation
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Criteria, Symptoms and Treatment
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Anxiety is characterized by the anticipation of future dangers or problems and excessive worrying. It can include avoidance behaviors.
This class includes disorders with alternating episodes of mania (periods of excessive energy and excitement), and depression.
Psychotic disorders that cause detachment from reality, such as delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thinking and speech.
These disorders include disturbances related to eating and impact both nutrition and health.
These are disorders of sleep severe enough to require clinical attention.
SUBSTANCE AND ADDICTIVE DISORDERS
These include problems associated with the excessive use of drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and/or tobacco.
A personality disorder involves a lasting pattern of emotional instability and unhealthy behavior that causes day-to-day life concerns.
These disorders involve preoccupations or obsessions and repetitive thoughts and actions.
Symptoms & Causes
Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the disorder, circumstances and other factors. Mental illness symptoms can affect a variety of things including emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
Symptoms can include:
- Feeling sad and down
- Confused thoughts and reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Major changes in eating habits
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
When to see a doctor
If you have signs or symptoms of a mental illness, see your primary care provider or a mental health professional.
Most mental health problems don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.
If you have suicidal thoughts
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with some mental illnesses. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right away. Here’s some helpful suggestions:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Contact a suicide hotline, or text 988 (and press 1 for Veterans).
- Seek help from your primary care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Inherited traits – mental health is more common in people whose blood relatives also have mental illnesses.
- Environmental exposures before birth – environmental stressors, inflammatory conditions, toxins, alcohol or drugs in the womb can be linked to mental health issues.
- Brain chemistry – When neural networks involving these chemicals are impaired, the function and systems change, leads to emotional disorders.
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing a mental illness, including:
- A history of mental illness in the family
- Stressful life situations
- An ongoing (chronic) medical condition
- Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury)
- Traumatic experiences
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- A childhood history of abuse or neglect
- Few friends or few healthy relationships
- Previous mental illness
About 1 in 5 adults have a mental illness in any given year. Mental illness can begin at any age, from childhood through later adult years.
Can I Get Benefits for More Than One Mental Health Disability?
Pyramiding for VA disability compensation purposes means receiving separate ratings for the same disability or the same manifestation.
Any veteran who is trying to claim multiple disabilities needs to know about the VA’s rule against pyramiding.
A single symptom cannot be rated more than once, even if the cause comes from two different disabilities.
When a veteran has two different conditions that cause the same symptom, the highest-rated condition will only be considered.
This prevents a veteran from being overcompensated by the VA.