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What Is the Connection between Mental and Emotional Health?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2018
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Mental and emotional health are inextricably connected. Good emotional health is implied in any definition of good mental health, and is absent or impaired in definitions of mental illness. Minimal emotional health may also make people more likely to develop mental illness. There are many ways these two states of being can be connected.

Classic definitions of mental and emotional health are attributed to groups like the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, mental health is the absence of untreated mental illness. Those who are mentally healthy must also have the ability to cope with ordinary life stressors and the resilience to handle new and challenging life events. These last two qualities define emotional health.

Unaddressed mental illness often wreaks havoc on emotional health. It significantly impairs the ability to cope or be resilient. Attempts to address illness through methods like therapy and medications are vital in restoring emotional health.

Stress is often another link between mental and emotional health. Emotional health problems that cause insufficient resiliency or coping skills can lead to high stress levels, which may result in some mental illnesses. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and bipolar disorders can develop at least in part from high stress levels.

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It’s also the case that while the average person develops resiliency, he or she doesn’t necessarily have the coping skills for each new challenge. When something exceptionally difficult occurs, a person is likely to feel emotionally and mentally distressed as she tries to figure out how to cope. In some ways, emotional health is analogous to physical health because it fluctuates. A very bad day where a person yells at her spouse might be comparable to a headache, while the year or more of grieving a lost loved one could be similar to developing a chronic disease.

The body has its own connections to mental and emotional health. Many mental conditions have a biological component. Also, poor physical health can impact coping, resiliency, and mental health. Physical, mental and emotional health are in dynamic and constant interplay.

Many people are interested in the connection between mental and emotional health so they can tell whether a condition is a mental disorder or represents poor emotional health. Generally, poor emotional health is thought of as the cause of emotional distress in absence of clear signs of a mental disorder. People suffering in this way are classically termed neurotics. In contrast, when there is clear evidence of a mental disorder, poor emotional health is typically viewed as a secondary, though important, symptom.

What this indicates for treatment is that the first object in evaluating poor mental and emotional health is to determine if a mental disorder exists. If so, it should be prioritized for treatment. Since people with mental disorders almost always have emotional health issues, ongoing care should address this. As recovery or management of the disorder is achieved, attention usually needs to shift to coping and resiliency issues. Otherwise, mental health recovery may not be complete.

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