Mental Health A-Z What Does the Term 'Mentally Unstable' Mean? By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." Learn about our editorial process Published on April 15, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Rawpixel / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Signs Diagnosis Impact How to Help Someone Treatment Coping While the terms "mental instability" or "mentally unstable" may still be used, neither is an official diagnosis and each is highly stigmatizing and offensive. More appropriate terms include "mental health condition" and "mental health disorder." Mental instability, while not an official diagnosis, is a very broad term that people use to refer to a wide range of mental health conditions. It's important to note that the terms "mental instability" or "mentally unstable" carry negative and stigmatizing connotations. Preferred terms include "mental health condition" or "mental health disorder." Some common examples of mental health conditions include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Signs of a Mental Health Condition There are a variety of signs that may indicate someone is dealing with a mental health disorder. It is important to remember that not all of these signs will be present in every case and that symptoms look different from person to person. However, some common signs of a mental health disorder include: Sudden mood changes Extreme anxiety or paranoia Delusions or hallucinations Exhibiting aggressive or violent behavior Self-harm or suicidal thoughts Withdrawing from friends and family Difficulty concentrating or focusing If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Common Mental Health Diagnoses Some common examples of mental health conditions may include: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD. Anxiety: Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Symptoms of anxiety can include excessive worry, racing thoughts, sweating, and difficulty sleeping. Depression: Depression is a common mental health condition that can cause a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. Other symptoms of depression can include fatigue, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating. Bipolar disorder: Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings, from periods of mania to periods of depression. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include sleep problems, irritability, and changes in energy levels. Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that causes people to experience delusions and hallucinations. Symptoms of schizophrenia can include social withdrawal, disorganized thinking, and unusual behavior. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of people or places associated with the trauma. If you are concerned that you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health condition, a mental health professional can assess the situation and provide a diagnosis, if necessary. Impact of Mental Health Disorder Symptoms Below are some of the potential impacts of symptoms caused by a mental health disorder: Difficulty functioning at work or school: Symptoms can make it difficult to concentrate, focus, and complete tasks. This can lead to problems at work or school.Difficulty maintaining relationships: Symptoms can make it difficult to interact with others, leading to social isolation.Increased risk of self-harm or suicide: Symptoms can increase the risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviors.Poor physical health: Symptoms can lead to poor self-care, which can impact physical health.Financial difficulties: Symptoms can make it difficult to maintain employment, leading to financial problems.Homelessness: Symptoms can make it difficult to maintain stable housing, which can lead to homelessness.Substance abuse: Symptoms can lead to substance abuse as a way of self-medicating. How to Help Someone With a Mental Disorder If you are worried about someone you know, there are a few things you can do to help. First, it is important to talk to the person about your concerns. This can be a difficult conversation, but it is important to express your support and let the person know that you are there for them. It is also important to encourage the person to seek professional help. Mental health professionals can provide the necessary support and treatment. How Are Mental Health Disorders Treated? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating mental health conditions, as the best course of treatment will vary depending on the underlying factors. However, some common treatments include therapy, medication, and self-care. Coping With a Mental Health Disorder It is important to take care of yourself. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Below is a list of specific steps that you can take: Seek professional help: It is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess the situation and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Avoid self-medicating: It is important to avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. As doing so may lead to addiction. Find healthy coping mechanisms: It is also important to find healthy ways to cope with stress. This can include talking to a friend or family member, writing in a journal, or listening to music. New Law Establishes 988 As National Suicide Hotline A Word From Verywell If you are dealing with a mental health condition, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess the situation and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Coping and healing are possible with the proper course of treatment. 12 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Stubbe DE. Alleviating Anxiety: Optimizing Communication With the Anxious Patient. Focus (Am Psychiatr Publ). 2017;15(2):182-184. doi:10.1176/appi.focus.20170001 National Institute of Mental Health. Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Sheffield JM, Karcher NR, Barch DM. Cognitive Deficits in Psychotic Disorders: A Lifespan Perspective. Neuropsychol Rev. 2018;28(4):509-533. doi:10.1007/s11065-018-9388-2 Tough H, Siegrist J, Fekete C. Social relationships, mental health and wellbeing in physical disability: a systematic review [published correction appears in BMC Public Health. 2017 Jun 16;17 (1):580]. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):414. Published 2017 May 8. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4308-6 Brådvik L. Suicide Risk and Mental Disorders. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(9):2028. Published 2018 Sep 17. doi:10.3390/ijerph15092028 Viron MJ, Stern TA. The impact of serious mental illness on health and healthcare. Psychosomatics. 2010;51(6):458-465. doi:10.1176/appi.psy.51.6.458 Kiely KM, Leach LS, Olesen SC, Butterworth P. How financial hardship is associated with the onset of mental health problems over time. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015;50(6):909-918. doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1027-0 Padgett DK. Homelessness, housing instability and mental health: making the connections. BJPsych Bull. 2020;44(5):197-201. doi:10.1192/bjb.2020.49 National Institute of Mental Health. Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders. By Arlin Cuncic Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.