Mental illnesses can be difficult to diagnose, both because they can emulate other illnesses and because their symptoms can be intangible, emotional and/or hard to describe. But they are as real as physical illnesses and, even with medication and therapy, typically last a lifetime.

In truth, “mental illness” describes a spectrum of conditions that can affect each person differently, and that often have many overlapping traits between one illness and another. Currently, most can be managed with a combination of therapy and medication—and it is our great hope that, one day, advances in medicine will eradicate the worst symptoms of these diseases.

Types of mental illnesses include:

What is Alcoholism?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about half of people with a mental illness abuse alcohol or other substances. The Foundation of Hope funds research that seeks to better understand the causes of substance abuse, explore its relationships to other illnesses, and find novel treatments that could, for example, help turn the tide of America’s opioid crisis.

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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety—irrational feelings of dread that can range from jittery nerves to crippling panic—is the most prevalent mental health concern in the United States. Even moderate anxiety can inhibit our ability to work, maintain a healthy social life, or complete basic daily routines.

It can take a measurable toll on our bodies, leading to medical conditions like high blood pressure, cardiac irregularities, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The Foundation has invested over half a million dollars into finding ways to alleviate the toll anxiety takes on nearly 1 in 5 Americans.

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What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) describes a continuum of conditions affecting a person’s behavior and ability to communicate. Some of these may be severe, inhibiting an individual’s ability to speak or perform simple tasks; other, “high-functioning” forms of autism, may be so minor as to escape notice. Most people living with autism can, with treatment, have rich and fulfilling lives; there is a growing consensus that most forms of ASD are not disabilities at all. The Foundation supports research into developmental conditions like ASD and Down Syndrome not to “cure” them, but to find treatments that help manage the most disabling symptoms.

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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual and alternating periods of elation and depression, shifting mood, energy, and activity levels, and affects the ability of an individual to carry out day-to-day tasks.

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What is Depression?

16 million American adults live with major depression. Once thought of as simply “feeling blue,” it is now better understood that the word “depression” describes a family of very real mood disorders.

While the symptoms and contexts of these illnesses vary, they can include prolonged periods of sadness or despair, detachment, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, or thoughts of suicide. Depression represents the Foundation’s single greatest area of investment, in hopes of finding treatments—and maybe even cures—for these difficult, often lifelong conditions.

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What are Eating Disorders?

Often stigmatized as a sign of weakness or vanity, eating disorders have long been thought of as a character flaw of young women. In fact, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are clinical disorders affect as many as 30 million Americans—of all ages, races, and gender identities.

Dangerously, these diseases have the highest mortality of any mental illness: they kill one person every hour. It is absolutely vital that we invest in early diagnosis and treatment, and strive to identify the genetic markers that tell us who may be most vulnerable.

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What are Genetics?

Genetics is the study of heredity, and how genes influence health, behavior, and physical appearance. By studying genetics, we can explore the role genes play in behavioral outcomes and how they put us at risk for disorders such as anxiety and depression.

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What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t just a soldier’s disease. This psychiatric condition can develop in anyone who has survived or witnessed a traumatic event like a life-threatening accident, a natural disaster, or a violent assault—and the symptoms may not manifest until years later. Sufferers may experience severe anxiety or uncontrollable thoughts of reliving the event that terrified them; these symptoms can be ongoing, or triggered by something specific.

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What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that inhibits a person’s ability to think clearly, recognize reality, interact with others, and manage emotions. Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, hearing voices, flat emotional expression, and disorganized or obsessive thinking.

While the disease isn’t common, it still affects 3.2 million Americans, and can have devastating consequences for a sufferer’s ability to keep a job or maintain interpersonal relationships. Despite its relative lack of prevalence, its severity and high mortality rate makes schizophrenia the Foundation’s second most highly funded area of study, after depression.

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What are Women’s Mood Disorders?

Women’s Mood Disorders encompass perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and menstrual-related mood disorders. These disorders include Depression during Pregnancy, Postpartum Depression (PPD), Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), Perimenopausal Depression. In 2018 alone, 12.8% of U.S. mothers reported experiencing postpartum depression. That’s 1 in 8 mothers. But that statistic does not take into account undiagnosed PPD, which is estimated to put the number closer to 20% of moms, or 1 in 5.

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It may not be you, but it’s someone you know. Someone you love.

The Foundation of Hope was formed by a family who knew that even those who don’t live with a mental illness can still suffer because of one. We need to change the conversation about these illnesses – we must bust the stigma.

The cost to our relationships, our time and effort, is immeasurable.

If you or someone you know is suffering, these community and family resources can help.