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Updated by K-Psyche on Dec 25, 2017
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K-Psyche K-Psyche
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What is mental health?

Describes basic facts about mental health

1

Thinking about mental health

Thinking about mental health

Often, when people think about mental health, they end up thinking about mental illness. Disorders such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and a host of other disorders come to mind.

2

Mental health is applicable to everyone

Mental health is applicable to everyone

Thinking only about mental illness gives the impression that mental health is only applicable to a select group of people who are in a separate category than everyone else. The fact is, just as everyone has varying degrees of physical health, everyone has varying degrees of mental health.

3

Definition of Mental Health

So exactly what is mental health? The World Health Organization (WHO notes that "health is more than the absence of illness." The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

4

Mental health exists on a continuum

Mental health exists on a continuum

One way of conceptualizing mental health as to see it as existing on a continuum.

5

Psychological Well-Being

Psychological Well-Being

On one end of the continuum is psychological well-being. The person who is psychologically well is not free of problems. Rather, the person is able to adapt and cope with the normal ups and downs which life presents.

6

Psychological Distress

Psychological Distress

Further along the continuum is psychological distress. There are  times in everyone’s life where they experience psychological distress. Many different factors may contribute to such distress. It can include such things as extended periods of sadness, excessive worrying, or any other emotions which may cause distress. This distress is not so significant it fits the definition of a psychological disorder. For some, such periods are time limited and they return to their previous state of psychological functioning. For others, it may move them along the continuum and become a more serious psychological disorder.

7

Psychological Disorder

Psychological Disorder

On the far end of the continuum is a range of problems which constitute psychological disorders. Psychological disorders, consist of  a constellation of symptoms, which create a significant impairment in an individual’s functioning (such as in their relationships, their work or school behavior, or their community engagement). Some individuals will suffer from a psychological disorder for a limited time and maybe even on a one time basis. Others may have more chronic conditions that never fully remit or they may have symptoms which wax and wane over time with frequent episodes of disorder.

8

Clear Boundaries between health and illness are illusory

Clear Boundaries between health and illness are illusory

Although for diagnostic purposes, there is a clearly defined set of symptoms which constitute a mental health disorder, in reality, the line between  distress and disorder is fuzzy and it is sometimes hard to draw an absolute point where distress becomes disorder.