While it's normal to feel a little overwhelmed by stress every now and then, being mentally healthy isn't always within our ability to control.

When these concerns cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function, it may become a mental illness. A mental illness is a common, but treatable, health condition that can interfere with your daily life.

Examples of signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Changes in eating habits or sex drive
  • Loss of interest or detachment from things you once enjoyed
  • Hearing voices
  • Experiencing paranoia, delusions or hallucinations
  • Mood changes of highs and lows
  • Difficulties concentrating or thinking
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • Substance abuse

Mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. They may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

Examples of mental illnesses include:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Mental Health and Substance Use

Medical research suggests there is a substantial link between mental illness and the use of addictive substances like drugs or alcohol. It can be a cyclical relationship: some people may develop a mental health condition as a result of excessive drug use. On the other hand, some people with a mental illness may take drugs to cope with or alleviate the symptoms.

People with mental illnesses are especially vulnerable to the effects of drugs and alcohol, and consumption of these substances can complicate the symptoms of a mental illness and create new problems. Individuals who suffer from a mental illness and substance use are known to have a ‘Dual Diagnosis.’ To effectively treat both problems, a comprehensive treatment plan that considers both issues to be interconnected is required.

Treating Mental Illness and Substance Use

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) promotes and administers comprehensive, recovery-oriented services in the areas of mental health and substance use treatment.

While prevention services apply to all Connecticut residents, DMHAS’s mandate is to serve adults 18 years of age and older with psychiatric or substance use disorders, or both, who lack the financial means to obtain such services on their own.

DMHAS is responsible for providing a wide range of treatment services to adults. This includes such services as:

  • Inpatient hospitalization and outpatient care
  • 24-hour emergency care
  • Day treatment
  • Rehabilitation and restoration to competency
  • Outreach services for people with serious mental illness who are homeless

They are also the operating agency for the Mental Health Waiver, which helps individuals with serious and persistent mental illness avoid living in a nursing home. It also helps others living in an institutional setting transition back to the community.

Learn more: Visit the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services website for more information.

Additional Resources

Go to the Network of Care for Mental/Behavioral Health an online information portal for individuals, families and social service agencies concerned with community mental health services, substance use treatment programs.

Visit the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Connecticut (NAMI) for additional educational programs, crisis resources, a list of support groups, and more, or call 800-950-NAMI.