What Are the Most Common Mental Disorders in California?

The most common mental disorders in California are Anxiety Disorder, Depressive Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder. Accessible care makes a significant difference in the lives and recovery of people with these conditions. One Los Angeles resident describes how she masked her depression in high school until a suicide attempt. While she was initially embarrassed that others learned about her experience, the resources shared with her in the hospital led to her finding a therapist who supported her for the next decade. Now in her 20s, she’s stable and thriving. She often shares her story to remind others that there is hope for recovery, they aren’t alone, and professional care facilities in Irvine are waiting to support them.

How Can We Help?

Providing a Compassionate and Safe Environment for Healing.

Overview of Mental Health in California

Currently, one in six adults in California has a mental health disorder. One in 24 is impacted to the point that daily functioning is difficult. One in 14 children has a mental health condition that limits their ability to function at home and school. Compared to other states, California’s adults have slightly higher mental illness rates than its mental health resources, and its youth moderately higher rates.

Especially since the pandemic, youth have reported higher rates of symptoms of anxiety and depression than adults. Since symptoms of Anxiety, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder often first surface in one’s teens, this may partially reflect that they haven’t yet received mental health treatment to help them stabilize due to their age.

Initiatives in federal and state laws have improved accessibility to mental health care for many. Medi-Cal expanded eligibility and mental health services provided under the Affordable Care Act, and public and private organizations have funded numerous public awareness programs and increased access to care. In San Francisco, 3.5% of the population manages serious mental illness, compared with 4.5% of Los Angeles’ population and 4.2% of San Diego’s. The prevalence of serious mental illness varies by income, with much higher mental illness rates for children and adults in families with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level.

Prevalence of Depression in California

The prevalence of depression in California varies widely by county. Santa Clara County has the lowest ratio of adults diagnosed with depression, at 12.6 percent, while Humboldt and Lake counties report the highest prevalence at 20 percent, according to the report. There is still a stigma around seeking mental health care and obstacles to accessing services in some areas. Close to two-thirds of adults and two-thirds of adolescents don’t receive treatment after major depressive episodes. Efforts to widely share information and expand access are vital because the sooner depression is treated, the higher the chance of long-term recovery.

Depression in California: Digging Deeper

The increased rate of depression in many states, including California, has been attributed to the impact of COVID-19 changes, including:

  • Fear of infection
  • Social isolation
  • Heightened substance use
  • Disruption in regular routines and services
  • The widespread exhaustion and exit of many healthcare workers

The groups most impacted by pandemic changes are those who already faced the most challenges, including:

  • People with physical and mental health conditions
  • Families living in poverty
  • Youth
  • Single parents
  • Historically underrepresented populations

While the mental health system in California is relatively well funded, until recently, it wasn’t cohesive enough to be effective. The state and other organizations are making major efforts to collaborate better and increase public awareness of available resources.

Anxiety Disorders: A Growing Concern

About 19% of adults in the US have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and around 45% of adults in California report having anxiety symptoms. For the reasons named above, anxiety disorders have increased due to COVID-19. Public health campaigns to educate California residents about anxiety disorder treatment have focused on increasing awareness of symptoms, sharing when and where to seek help, and normalizing mental health struggles and treatment.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder in California

Bipolar Disorder is characterized by recurring cycles of intense mania and depression that last between one day and several months, varying by type. Sometimes, people with Bipolar Disorder are misdiagnosed for years before they receive correct information and treatment, so it can be a great relief to receive a diagnosis and hope for recovery. There are many resources for Californians in need of treatment for their symptoms.

California mental health resources

Bipolar Disorder Rates in California

Around 2.8% of adults in the US have Bipolar Disorder. Its intensity means that 83% of cases are considered to be severe. Impacting men and women at equal rates, over half of the time, its onset begins between ages 15 and 25, whether diagnosed at that time or not.


How Can We Help?

Providing a Compassionate and Safe Environment for Healing.


Bipolar Disability in California: The Implications

There are several evidence-based treatment methods for Bipolar Disorder, and they often work best in combination:

  • Psychotherapy techniques including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and family therapy
  • Medications, including mood stabilizers and antipsychotics
  • Support groups

Expanding treatment accessibility for this population in California is a worthy effort since they have been historically misunderstood and under-resourced.

Resources and Assistance

The sooner you access mental health treatment, the more likely you will recover and thrive as you deserve. There are public and private organizations in California with resources to support you no matter what symptoms you’re experiencing. State and private health insurance at least partially cover treatment options, including therapy and medication. NAMI, DBAS, community health clinics, social service agencies, and private practitioners and agencies host frequent support groups for those managing a mental health condition.

California Mental Health Resources

Organizations, hotlines, and community health services with mental health resources available to residents of California:

  • The general mental health hotline at 988 or text 741-741 for 24/7 crisis counseling and resources.
  • CalHope at 833.317.4673 by phone or text for 24/7 crisis counseling and resources.
  • The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).
  • Website 988 Help Yourself has mental health resources and safety plans.
  • California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)’s Each Mind Matters for Black Communities.
  • CalMHSA’sTake Action for Mental Health shares mental health resource planning.
  • Together for Wellness provides mental wellness digital resources by population.
  • Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provides resources, support groups, and advocacy.
  • NAMI California hosts mental health support groups where members share community and resources.

Impact of Substance Use in California

Those with a mental health condition are more likely than others to also have Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Nine percent of Californians met the criteria for an SUD in the past year. While healthcare systems have increased coverage for the care of SUD symptoms and treatment, substance abuse has historically been treated more like a matter of choice than a chronic illness. The partial result is that only about ten percent of those with an SUD in the last year received treatment. As in other parts of the US, deaths from overdose of opioids and psychostimulants have risen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Most Common Mental Disorders in California

Why are mental disorders on the rise in California?

Finding care and access to services was complicated by a disjointed system, and COVID-19 increased distress. Concerted efforts are now being made to connect people and resources across agencies and organizations.

How does California’s mental health situation compare to other states?

California’s prevalence of mental health disorders compared to the accessibility of mental health treatment is slightly below average for adults and well below average for youth.

Are certain age groups or demographics more prone to specific mental disorders?

Yes, many factors increase the likelihood of people of certain ages and populations having each mental disorder.

How can residents access mental health care in California?

There are many options for mental health treatment in California. Contact Alter Behavioral Health to discover what treatment can help you recover.

Are there any state-funded programs for mental health awareness?

There are many state-funded programs for mental health awareness.

What’s the link between substance use and mental disorders in California?

California’s high rate of people with untreated mental health disorders who have low access to care has resulted in a rise in attempted self-medication and substance abuse in California.

Are there any community support groups available for individuals and families affected?

There are various community support groups for individuals and families impacted by mental health issues through the state, organizations such as NAMI and DBSA, and local mental health community resources.

How Can We Help?

Providing a Compassionate and Safe Environment for Healing.