Psychological health is an individual’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. This includes their ability to cope with life’s difficulties and to make a positive contribution to society. Psychological health is influenced by genes, brain chemistry, experiences and the environment. It is also increasingly being recognized that the way people think and feel can directly impact their physical health. For example, a person’s mood can influence their heart rate and blood pressure. It can also affect how healthy they are, as shown by studies that show a link between positive mental health and lower rates of disease and disability.
Psychiatric conditions include anxiety disorders (such as panic, obsessive-compulsive and generalized), depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and PTSD. These conditions can affect a person’s ability to work, study, and interact with other people. Many of these conditions are treated with psychotherapy. Psychotherapists use a variety of techniques including cognitive behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family and group therapy. Psychologists can also help patients manage symptoms of these conditions, such as through medication.
A doctor may diagnose a mental illness by looking at an individual’s medical history and doing a physical exam. They may also ask questions about the person’s feelings, thoughts and experiences. Mental illnesses have been linked to an imbalance in the levels of special chemicals in the brain called neuro transmitters, which help nerve cells communicate. If the balance of these chemicals is off, messages may not get through properly and this can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression or psychosis.
People with poor psychological health often have higher rates of a variety of diseases and disabilities. This is true for both children and adults. Several factors contribute to a person’s psychological health, including their genetics, the environment and experiences such as childhood trauma. There are also some evidence that a person’s socioeconomic status influences their mental health. People in poorer economic positions tend to have more psychological problems and are at greater risk of disease.
While much of the emphasis in current mental health practice is on intervening in people who have a mental illness, there is growing recognition that we need to focus more effort on promoting and maintaining good psychological health for everyone. This means not only helping those who have a disorder, but also trying to prevent mental illness in those at high risk.
This is known as preventive psychology. Preventive psychologists focus on reducing risks, building resilience and establishing supportive environments for good mental health. They can do this by working with other sectors, such as education, labour, justice, transport and housing to promote mental health, reduce vulnerability and support recovery from mental illness. They can also promote and implement prevention programmes for specific groups or whole populations.