What is a mental illness?

Date Updated
8/21/2015

"Mental illness" refers to the collection of all diagnosable mental disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling, relating, and/or functional behaviors. It can result in a substantially diminished capacity to cope with daily life demands.

A mental illness is a hidden disability; it is rarely apparent to others. However, students with mental illness may experience symptoms that interfere with their educational goals and that create a "psychiatric disability." These symptoms may include yet are not limited to the following:

  • Heightened anxieties, fears, suspicions, or blaming others
  • Marked personality change over time
  • Confused or disorganized thinking; strange or grandiose ideas
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
  • Extreme highs and/or lows in mood
  • Denial of obvious problems and/or a strong resistance to offers of help
  • Thinking or talking about suicide

For more information on mental illness and typical accommodations for students with mental illness, consult Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities.