What is mental health or emotional health?
Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:
- A sense of contentment.
- A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
- The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
- A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
- The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.
- A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
- The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
- Self-confidence and high self-esteem.
These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.
Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:
- Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life. Feeling lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young child.
- Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life. Death of a parent or other traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
- Learned helplessness. Negative experiences that lead to a belief that you’re helpless and that you have little control over the situations in your life.
- Illness, especially when it’s chronic, disabling, or isolates you from others.
- Side effects of medications, especially in older people who may be taking a variety of medications.
- Substance abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.
Red flag feelings and behaviors that require immediate attention
- Inability to sleep.
- Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time.
- Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life.
- Using smoking, overeating, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions.
- Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.