The terms mental health and mental illness are used as if they are the same thing; however, these refer to separate concepts and have different definitions.

What is the difference?

Mental health refers to overall health and well-being. This can include the following:

Everyone has a certain level of mental health. The level of mental health can also vary amongst individuals.

Mental illness refers to a diagnosable condition that causes extreme distress or makes it difficult for an individual to function in major areas of their life, such as work, school, relationships, or how well the individual takes care of themselves. Some examples of mental illnesses are:

Although common, some more so than others, not everyone experiences mental illness.

Both mental health and mental illness can be worked on and improved upon. Therapy can address both mental health and mental illness, which is why individuals come to therapy for either, or both.

What does this look like in therapy?

Individuals who come to therapy to improve upon mental health might want to:

Individuals who come to therapy due to mental illness might want to:

Whether you are living with mental illness, or wanting to work on your mental health, therapy can help. You don’t have to be in crisis to receive therapy; noticing that something has been on your mind and bothering you in some way is reason enough to meet with a therapist.  If you feel it, then it matters. These indications are your body and mind sending you an alert to reach out for help.

Don’t wait to get the help you need.  If you would like to take the next step towards finding a therapist, contact Ethera to get matched with a provider or browse their directory.

About the Author:  Robyn Tamanaha is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, writer, and podcaster. She has a private practice in Orange County, CA and is the host of the podcast Books Between Sessions.

Written by Robyn Tamanaha, LMFT

December 1, 2020