What is the difference between mental health and mental illness?

← All Topics

Mental health concerns a person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. Mental illness is a term that refers to specific disorders or issues that affect a person’s mental health. 

Mental health addresses our overall emotional, psychological and social well being. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, mental health include:

  • How we feel, think, and act
  • How we handle stress
  • How we relate to others 
  • How we make choices

Mental illness focuses on the disorders that affect how we think, feel, and act. They can impact how you live your day-to-day life, your relationships, and your mood. This includes:

  • Alcohol and substance use disorders — e.g., Opioid Use Disorder
  • Anxiety disorders — e.g., Social Anxiety Disorder 
  • Depression — e.g., Postpartum Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) 
  • Eating disorders — e.g., Bulimia and Anorexia
  • Personality disorders — e.g., Borderline Personality Disorder 
  • Mood disorders — e.g., Bipolar Disorder 
  • Psychotic disorders — e.g., Schizophrenia
  • Trauma-related disorders — e.g., Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This list and the examples are just samples of possible mental illnesses and mental health problems. You typically get diagnosed with a mental illness or condition by a psychiatrist or a psychologist.