Mental health: definition and characteristics according to psychology

Recently, specifically on October 10, World Mental Health Day was celebrated internationally. If for a large part of the population this fact has gone unnoticed, the truth is that this celebration allows to speak and to make visible in relation to many aspects of the psyche, often related to the presence of disorders such as schizophrenia, OCD, Bipolar disorder, phobias, substance abuse or anxiety problems.

It is important to talk about these facts, given that mental health issues are highly invisible and even today many of them still carry significant social stigma.

It should also be noted that while most people can come to identify or at least define above what a mental disorder is, oddly enough, the same is not true with the seemingly opposite concept. And did … What exactly is mental health called? We will discuss this throughout this article.

    Mental health: definition of the concept

    The term mental health may sound simple, but the truth is that it is essentially an extremely complex concept for which there is no single, comprehensive definition. And it depends on who does it and the discipline and the biological and cultural perspective from which to start what is meant by mental health can be very different.

    In general, it is possible to define mental health as state of subjective well-being in which the person is able to cope with the psychosocial demands of daily lifeHe is aware of his abilities and can thanks to them adapt and integrate effectively into the world around him.

    We would be faced with a state of balance between the person and the world both cognitive and emotional and behavioral, in which the former feels and is able to function well, and can not only meet his needs, but feel good. and efficient. It should also be borne in mind that health is not seen as an end in itself, but as something that it’s part of our daily life and it allows us to achieve our aspirations. The concept of mental health also includes the ability to adopt the behaviors necessary to maintain and promote one’s own health, both physical and mental.

    It is important to keep in mind that mental health and mental disorders are not opposites, because it is not enough to have no pathology to be able to consider being in good health.

    It is therefore not a question of not having physical or mental illnesses or disorders., But also to take advantage of a biopsychosocial balance that allows us to stay in good condition, to be able to adapt to the environment and to enjoy our daily life. In other words, one must be in a good state of psychological well-being in order to be able to envisage good mental health.

    Criticisms of this concept

    Not everyone in psychology sees the concept of mental health as useful. This occurs in particular in the paradigm of behavior analysis, in which the tendency to view psychological problems as health problems is viewed critically. Therefore, from this point of view, the goal of applied psychology to well-being is not so much to promote what is called mental health, but to focus on the inappropriate behaviors in themselves and to promote more adaptive behaviors.

    Psychological well-being: what does it imply?

    As we have seen, mental health involves a state of well-being, not only on the physical level but also on the psychological level. In this sense, by psychological well-being is meant the set of positive sensations derived from mental functioning in which self-realization prevails and the ability to face or adapt to environmental situations and demands.

    Subjective well-being is primarily shaped, according to the Carol Ryff model, by the presence of a strong self-acceptance or an ability to validate both the good and the bad of oneself in order to be satisfied. of oneself., Seeking for and maintaining positive and deep relationships with the environment, the ability to influence the environment and the perception of this ability, the existence of the ability to independently choose and make our own decisions based on our own beliefs, the ability to grow and develop personally in such a way that we can optimize as much as possible and, last but not least, the existence of vital goals or objectives to be achieved.

    To all this is added the day-to-day existence of a high proportion of positive affection and low of negative ones, satisfaction and a feeling of coherence, integration, social acceptance. outraged it also influences the perception of being useful and generating a little in the community.

    main Features

    There are many aspects to consider when assessing mental health. In this regard, it may be interesting to point out and underline different characteristics to be taken into account with regard to the implications of the existence of mental health. Among them we can find the following.

    1. It’s not just the absence of clutter

    As we have seen, when we talk about mental health, we are not talking about the simple absence of mental disorders or problems but of a general state of well-being that allows good functioning and participation in the world and a correct relationship with oneself.

      2. Understands cognition, emotion and behavior

      Often times when we talk about mental health we usually imagine someone with some sort of problem related to the existence of cognitive issues. However, in mental health we also find emotional and motivational and even behavioral elements: mental health involves not only having a concrete way of thinking, but also feeling and acting.

      3. It develops throughout life

      Everyone’s state of mental health doesn’t appear out of nowhere, but it is the product of a long process of development in which biological, environmental and biographical factors (The experiences and learning that we do throughout life) will have a great influence.

      The experience of a state of well-being or lack of well-being can vary widely from person to person, and two different people or even the same at two different vital times may come to have a consideration. different in relation to their state of mental health.

      4. Cultural influence

      As we have seen above, the concept of mental health can be complex to define universally because different cultures have different conceptions of what is healthy and what is not. Likewise, the comparison with the reference group is generally used to assess one’s own state of mental health: something is considered healthy if it conforms to what society considers to be such. Thus, the same subject can be considered mentally healthy in one context and not in another.

      To give an example, in an individualistic country the focus will be more on autonomy and self-determination, while in a collectivist country it will be seen as the healthiest and able to think more about the group or community. . Another example is in the management and taking into account of emotions: Some cultures or countries tend to seek to hide or suppress negative aspects, while others seek greater acceptance and validation of these.

      5. Mental health as something dynamic and achievable

      As with physical health, mental health can vary throughout life depending on the different pathogens and experiences we have throughout our lives. In this sense, it is possible to work to improve mental health: mental health problems can be solved, and the situation of each individual can be greatly improved. Likewise, we can establish strategies and actions that help improve our mental health and prevent potential problems.

      On the other hand, it is also possible that in certain situations a person with a good level of mental health may suffer from a certain type of problem or pathology.

      6. Body-mind interrelation

      Another idea to keep in mind when we talk about mental health is the fact that it is not possible to fully understand how the mind works without the body or the body without the mind.

      The presence of illnesses and medical conditions is a factor to consider in explaining the state of mental health, and vice versa. It is easily visible if we think about the effects that can cause serious diseases in our psyche, chronic or very dangerous: stress, fear and suffering that can lead to problems as big as cancer, Heart attack, diabetes or HIV infection.

      In this sense, it is necessary to take into account both the possible impact of the disease on the state of mental health (for example, intoxication can lead to mental disorders) and that which generates the perception of disease. This does not mean that mental health cannot be maintained despite illness, but it can be a handicap or a difficulty in maintaining a state of mental well-being.

      Likewise, playing sports and maintaining a healthy lifestyle promotes mental health, balance and well-being. Likewise, mental health has an effect on physical health: good mental health keeps the body healthy, while if there are problems, it is easier for fatigue, discomfort, fatigue. physical pain, the body decline to occur. and it can lead to diseases.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
      • Clariana, SM and Dels Rius, P. (2012). Health psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 04. CEDE: Madrid.
      • National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). The treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). National Clinical Practice Guideline No. 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.
      • Öhman A (2000). “Fear and Anxiety: Evolutionary, Cognitive and Clinical Perspectives”. To Lewis M, Haviland-Jones JM (eds). Handbook of emotions. New York: The Guilford Press. pages 573 to 593.
      • World Health Organization (2013). Mental health: a state of well-being. [Online]. Available at:
      • Ryff, C. (1989). Happiness is everything, isn’t it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069-1081.
      • Sylvers, P .; Lilienfeld, SO; LaPrairie, JL (2011). Differences between trait fear and trait anxiety: implications for psychopathology. Journal of clinical psychology. 31 (1): 122-137.

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