What Is Psychological Health?

B. Miller

Psychologists generally agree that there are few set standards to define psychological health, since it can vary from person to person. There are some common factors across those individuals who may be considered psychologically healthy, however. At its most basic, the absence of mental illness is an important starting place for determining psychological health. The most frequent other considerations include an individual's common emotional state, such as whether he or she is generally happy, as well as if he has a healthy social life with a few close connections in addition to coping mechanisms for dealing with stress or challenging events in everyday life.

Every person has a different state of contentment.
Every person has a different state of contentment.

Psychological health is certainly not the absence of any negative moods. Certainly, psychologically healthy people will have days when they are angry, depressed, or anxious, in response to negative or stressful events. It is only if these mental states persist over a period of time, or if they become the state of equilibrium that the individual always returns to, that it might indicate a problem. In general, a psychologically healthy individual will have a fairly positive outlook on life, and might feel happy or at least reasonably content much of the time. Since this state of contentment can vary for each person, it is difficult to set specific parameters for psychological health in this way.

A psychologically healthy person will generally have a positive outlook on life.
A psychologically healthy person will generally have a positive outlook on life.

Two other things that psychologists have determined are very important for psychological health are interpersonal relationships and coping skills. Individuals should have at least a few people in their lives with whom they feel comfortable sharing and being open, as these positive relationships can have a very positive impact on mental health. Coping mechanisms allow individuals to deal with stressful, challenging, or even traumatic situations without developing a mental illness such as depression or severe anxiety, or attempting to use unhealthy methods of coping, such as drug or alcohol use. Many people who attend psychological therapy will learn how to change their behaviors and habits to develop better coping mechanisms.

The absence of mental illness is also an important aspect of psychological health. Individuals who have undergone therapy, or who are on medication to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain, and are no longer experiencing symptoms, may be considered otherwise psychologically healthy. There are a number of different mental illnesses for which effective treatments are available, so it is important for anyone suffering from an illness to seek treatment, and not just try to overcome it with sheer willpower.

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