What Mental Illness is not

There are some mental illness myths floating around out there so we felt it important to clarify things for you. Please, always feel free to reach out to us directly with your questions as well!

  • Mental illness is NOT your fault, but a medical condition and a product of your biology and, therefore, not the result of one or multiple life events (although major life events can trigger them; read more information here).
  • Seeking help is NOT a sign of weakness, but strength.
  • Those living with mental illness are NOT dangerous any more than someone living with cancer.
  • You are NOT alone. Nor are you expected to treat your illness on your own.
  • People with mental illness are NOT crazy. Words matter and treatment is key.
  • People with mental illness are NOT inept to function in the normal world. Most live productive, active lives while quietly bearing their symptoms.

There are some common signs of mental illness in adults, young adults, and children. But, because there is no simple test to confirm it, it can be very hard to differentiate between expected behaviors and the common signs of mental illness listed above. Mental health professionals can help identify the warning signs and we do encourage you to seek a diagnosis so that you can get the proper treatment. We hope you find comfort in knowing treatment is available and you are not alone!


Sometimes, what qualifies as a mental health condition may be confusing or unclear. For example, autism and elderly dementia do not qualify as mental illnesses. But those with autism and dementia can develop mental health conditions. Medical conditions (such as heart disease) can also lead to the development or onset of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Please see the items below to understand what falls under this category.

  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Emotional Disorder
  • Mood Disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance Abuse/Substance Use Disorder


Anxiety Disorders

Everyone can experience anxiety, but when symptoms are overwhelming and constant — often impacting everyday living — it may be an anxiety disorder.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a developmental disorder defined by inattention (trouble staying on task, listening); disorganization (losing materials); and hyperactivity-impulsivity (fidgeting, difficulty staying seated or waiting).

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, energy and ability to think clearly. Individuals with this disorder experience extreme high and low moods, known as mania and depression. Some people can be symptom-free for many years between episodes.

Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD is characterized by a pattern of instability in emotions (commonly referred to as dysregulation), interpersonal relationships and self-image. Individuals with BPD can also struggle with impulsivity and self-harm.


Depression involves recurrent, severe periods of clear-cut changes in mood, thought processes and motivation lasting for a minimum of two weeks. Changes in thought processes typically include negative thoughts and hopelessness. Depression also affects sleep/energy, appetite or weight.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders, which are frequently associated with trauma, disrupt every area of psychological functioning: consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, motor control and behavior.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are characterized by the intentional changing of food consumption to the point where physical health or social behaviors are affected.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

OCD involves persistent, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors that a person feels driven to perform (compulsions) in response to those thoughts.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD involves a set of physiological and psychological responses. It can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, rape, war/combat or something similar.


Psychosis is characterized as disruptions to a person’s thoughts and perceptions that make it difficult for them to recognize what is real and what isn’t.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder involves symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as depressive or manic episodes.


Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It also causes people to lose touch with reality, often in the form of hallucinations and delusions.

NAMI Quad Cities

We are the local Quad Cities affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a grassroots organization dedicated to educating everyone – from young people to mature adults – that mental health conditions are treatable and recovery is possible. Early detection, treatment and recovery aren’t just for cancer patients. They are for us, too.

Again, we cannot provide a diagnosis of a mental health illness, but we can point you in the right direction. What we offer is a safe and confidential space to know you’re not alone. We accomplish this with support groups and educational programs. Our instructors have experienced firsthand what mental health conditions are like either personally or with family members.