Adulthood is a time for achieving productive vocations and for sustaining close relationships at home and in the community. These aspirations are readily attainable for adults who are mentally healthy. And they are within reach for adults who have mental disorders, thanks to major strides in diagnosis, treatment, and service delivery.
Untreated, mental disorders can lead to lost productivity, unsuccessful relationships, and significant distress and dysfunction. Mental illnesses in adults can have a significant and continuing effect on children in their care. Severe or life-threatening trauma experienced either in childhood or adulthood can further provoke emotional and behavioral reactions that jeopardize mental health. The social consequences of serious mental disorders—family disruption, loss of employment and housing—can be calamitous.
Comprehensive treatment, which includes services that exist outside the formal treatment system, is crucial to ameliorate symptoms, assist recovery, and, to the extent that these efforts are successful, redress stigma. Consumer self-help programs, family self-help, advocacy, and services for housing and vocational assistance complement and supplement the formal treatment system. Many of these services are operated by consumers, that is, people who use mental health services themselves. The logic behind their leadership in delivery of these services is that consumers are thought to be capable of engaging others with mental disorders, serving as role models, and increasing the sensitivity of service systems to the needs of people with mental disorders.
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders in adults. The anxiety disorders affect twice as many women as men. Mood disorders take a monumental toll in human suffering, lost productivity, and suicide. Moreover, when unrecognized, they can result in unnecessary health care use. Mood disorders rank among the top 10 causes of worldwide disability. Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the population, yet its severity and persistence reverberate throughout the mental health service system. Schizophrenia is marked by profound alterations in cognition and emotion.
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