Psychological health is a dynamic state of internal balance, which enables individuals to fully use their abilities and live in harmony with universal values. It includes basic cognitive and social skills; the ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions as well as empathize with others; flexibility and capacity to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind. It also includes the capacity to understand and deal with stress, depression, anxiety, grief and trauma (Murphy, 2002).
People who are mentally healthy have a positive outlook on life, are optimistic, happy, grateful, feel a sense of purpose and have a strong sense of well-being. Positive psychological characteristics are associated with beneficial health behaviors such as smoking cessation, regular physical activity, heart-healthy eating, increased adherence to medication and regular health screenings. People who have poor psychological health are more likely to engage in unhealthy health behaviors, such as unhealthy eating, unhealthy sleeping habits, lack of exercise, being overweight, not taking their medications and ignoring or missing their health screenings.
Psychiatry is the branch of psychology that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. It is an integral part of healthcare, and many mental health conditions are treated by a combination of psychotherapy or counseling and medication. The most common psychiatric disorders are mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse are also psychiatric disorders that often benefit from both psychotherapy and medication.
Some psychiatric disorders require a long-term commitment to therapy. A person may benefit from family or group therapy, individual counseling, psychoanalysis and hypnotherapy. These treatments can help people overcome or manage the effects of their disorders and lead meaningful, productive lives.
Psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatrists are licensed professionals who can diagnose a psychological disorder. These healthcare providers often have advanced degrees in their field and are knowledgeable about the different theories, practices and modalities of psychotherapy or counseling. In addition, they are familiar with the criteria and definitions that are used in diagnosing a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
A person with poor psychological health has a harder time coping with everyday activities and experiences. It can be difficult to work or study, maintain relationships, socialize and even eat or sleep. These difficulties can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, traumatic experience or other medical issues, such as a chronic illness like heart disease. Having a mental illness can be distressing and make it hard to get along with others, but it is possible to recover with early and consistent treatment—often a combination of psychotherapy or counseling and medications. It is important to stick with a treatment plan and keep your primary care physician updated on your symptoms and progress.