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Mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s moods, thoughts and behavior. It has been recognized for thousands of years, although great strides have been made in understanding it in recent years. Despite these advances, mental illness is greatly misunderstood and feared by many people, creating a stigma that is still widespread. It’s difficult to define mental illness as it encompasses many different conditions. Mental illness includes anxiety disorders, clinical depression, personality disorders and bipolar disorder. Severe mental illness includes psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. Cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, are also classified as mental illness, as are dissociative disorders such as hypochondriasis. Several factors are linked to the cause of mental illness, including genetic components combined with environmental stressors. In most cases, there is no one single cause, but instead a combination of factors that contribute to the mental illness. Help is widely available today for those suffering from mental illness. More people seek professional help than in any other time in history and newer, better medications are available to treat mental illness. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment.

Mental retardation is a disorder that is characterized by below-average intellectual functioning. It is usually diagnosed before age eighteen. Today, the term “mental retardation” is often replaced with other terms such as “mentally challenged,” and “intellectual disability.” Mental retardation is one of 13 categories of disability under which children may be identified for special education services per Public Law 108-446. Children with mental retardation can learn to do lots of things for themselves - it just takes longer and more effort than the average child. Mental retardation is classified as mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms of mild mental retardation may not be obvious in early childhood and once these individuals reach adulthood, they may learn to live independently. People with moderate to severe mental retardation are usually diagnosed early in life and will require a lot of support throughout their lives. The causes of mental retardation include genetic factors, prenatal problems, childhood illnesses and environmental factors. Many people diagnosed with mental retardation live their entire lives with their parents or other family members, or in a group home.


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