Mental Health Terms
Mental Disorders in America
Mental disorders are common in the United States and
internationally. An estimated 22.1 percent of Americans
ages 18 and olderabout 1 in 5 adultssuffer
from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
When applied to the 1998 U.S. Census residential
population estimate, this figure translates to 44.3
million people. In addition, 4 of the 10 leading
causes of disability in the U.S. and other developed
countries are mental disorders-major depression, bipolar
disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Many people suffer from
more than one mental disorder at a given time.
In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
fourth edition (DSM-IV).
Depressive disorders encompass major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is included because people with this illness have depressive episodes as well as manic episodes.
- Approximately 18.8 million American adults, or about
9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older
in a given year, have a depressive disorder.
- Nearly twice as many women (12.0 percent) as men
(6.6 percent) are affected by a depressive disorder
each year. These figures translate to 12.4 million
women and 6.4 million men in the U.S.
- Depressive disorders may be appearing earlier in
life in people born in recent decades compared to
- Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety
disorders and substance abuse.
Major Depressive Disorder
- Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and
established market economies worldwide.
- Major depressive disorder affects approximately
9.9 million American adults or about 5.0 percent
of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given
- Nearly twice as many women (6.5 percent) as men (3.3 percent) suffer from
major depressive disorder each year. These figures
translate to 6.7 million women and 3.2 million men.
- While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the average age at
onset is the mid-20s.
- Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild
depression) must persist for at least 2 years in
adults (1 year in children) to meet criteria for
the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately
5.4 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older
during their lifetime. This figure translates
to about 10.9 million American adults.
- About 40 percent of adults with dysthymic disorder
also meet criteria for major depressive disorder
or bipolar disorder in a given year.
- Dysthymic disorder often begins in childhood,
adolescence, or early adulthood.
- Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2.3 million
American adults, or about 1.2 percent of the U.S.
population age 18 and older in a given year.
- Men and women are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.
- The average age at onset for a first manic episode
is the early 20s.
- In 2000, 29,350 people died by suicide in the U.S.
- More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves
have a diagnosable mental disorder, commonly a depressive
disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
- The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found
in white men over age 85.
- In 2000, suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death
among 15 to 24 year olds.
- Four times as many men as women die by suicide;
however, women attempt suicide 2-3 times as often
- Approximately 2.2 million American adults, or about
1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in
a given year, have schizophrenia.
- Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency.
- Schizophrenia often first appears earlier in men,
usually in their late teens or early 20s, than in
women, who are generally affected in their 20s or
Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).
- Approximately 19.1 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 13.3 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.
- Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive
disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse.
- Many people have more than one anxiety disorder.
- Women are more likely than men to have an anxiety
disorder. Approximately twice as many women as men
suffer from panic disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia,
and specific phobia, though about equal numbers of
women and men have obsessive-compulsive disorder and
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Approximately 2.4 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 1.7 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have panic disorder.
- Panic disorder typically develops in late adolescence
or early adulthood.
- About 1 in 3 people with panic disorder develop
agoraphobia, a condition in which
they become afraid of being in any place or situation
where escape might be difficult or help unavailable
in the event of a panic attack.
- Approximately 3.3 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 2.3 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have OCD.
- The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood
Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Approximately 5.2 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 3.6 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have PTSD.
- PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood.
- About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced
PTSD at some point after the war. The disorder also
frequently occurs after violent personal assaults
such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence; terrorism;
natural or human-caused disasters; and accidents.
Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Approximately 4.0 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 2.8 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have GAD.
- GAD can begin across the life cycle, though the
risk is highest between childhood and middle age.Social
- Approximately 5.3 million American adults ages
18 to 54, or about 3.7 percent of people in this
age group in a given year, have social phobia.
- Social phobia typically begins in childhood or
and Specific Phobia
- Agoraphobia involves intense fear and avoidance
of any place or situation where escape might be
difficult or help unavailable in the event of developing
sudden panic-like symptoms. Approximately 3.2 million
American adults ages 18 to 54, or about 2.2 percent
of people in this age group in a given year, have
- Specific phobia involves marked and persistent
fear and avoidance of a specific object or situation.
Approximately 6.3 million American adults ages 18
to 54, or about 4.4 percent of people in this age
group in a given year, have some type of specific
The 3 main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa,
nd binge-eating disorder.
- Females are much more likely than males to develop
an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent
of people with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated
35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder are
- In their lifetime, an estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7
percent of females suffer from anorexia and an estimated
1.1 percent to 4.2 percent suffer from bulimia
- Community surveys have estimated that between 2
percent and 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating
disorder in a 6-month period
- The mortality rate among people with anorexia has
been estimated at 0.56 percent per year, or approximately
5.6 percent per decade, which is about 12 times higher
than the annual death rate due to all causes of death
among females ages 15-24 in the general population.
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- ADHD, one of the most common mental disorders in
children and adolescents, affects an estimated 4.1
percent of youths ages 9 to 17 in a 6-month period.
- About 2-3 times more boys than girls are affected.
- ADHD usually becomes evident in preschool or early
elementary years. The disorder frequently persists
into adolescence and occasionally into adulthood.
- Autism affects an estimated 1 to 2 per 1,000 people.
- Autism and related disorders (also called autism spectrum disorders or pervasive
developmental disorders) develop in childhood and
generally are apparent by age 3.
- Autism is about 4 times more common in boys than girls. Girls with the disorder,
however, tend to have more severe symptoms and greater
- Alzheimer's disease, the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older, affects an estimated 4 million Americans.
- As more and more Americans live longer, the number affected by Alzheimer's disease will continue to grow unless a cure or effective prevention is discovered.
- The duration of illness, from onset of symptoms to death, averages 8 to 10 years.