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Introduction

How can we make good decisions about mental health?

Chamique Holdsclaw shared her mental health journey in this week’s video.

All of us feel sad now and then, but about 10 percent of Americans suffer from a mood disorder such as depression, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (2008, based on Kessler et al., 2005). We all fear certain things, but about 16 percent of Americans struggle with a debilitating phobia or social anxiety, and an additional 3 percent suffer from generalized anxiety, meaning they cannot identify a reason for their sense of dread. With a quarter of Americans having a psychological disorder, it is important to distinguish between disorders and normal fluctuations in mood, thought, or behavior.

In this week’s Story, we heard Chamique Holdsclaw share her mental health journey. Chamique explained how mental illness is a lifelong challenge, something that cannot be “cured.” Initially, she hid her battle with bipolar disorder, but as we will read this week, psychological disorders are life altering. With the disorder clouding her decisions, Chamique attempted suicide and was arrested for criminal assault with a firearm—incidents that ended her storied basketball career. Fortunately, she decided to get help and then chose to share her story and talk about the importance of therapy. Chamique’s experience demonstrates that a psychological disorder does not have to control and decide the course of one’s life.

Chapter 5 introduces how psychologists define and diagnose mental disorders and provides an overview of the most common disorders. Specifically, we will read about:

  • The process of diagnosis. We will examine the tools and questions psychologists use to make decisions about mental health diagnoses.

  • Genetic and environmental influences on mental health. We will look at the biological underpinnings of psychological disorders and how difficult situations influence their development.

  • Two of the most common psychological disorders. We will explore anxiety and depression—their symptoms and explanations for their causes.

  • Three additional disorders. We will read about the characteristics of substance use disorders, sleep disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • Treatment options. We will learn about the different types of therapies and therapists.