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What is “good mental health?”

What is Good Mental Health?Good mental health.

As a therapist, I’m often asked by clients, friends, and general questioners about their personal mental health.  These questions come in many forms, mainly along the lines of, “am I crazy for thinking (or doing) this?”  Of course not, in most cases.

However, there are many good reasons for asking this question.  All of us, at times, wonder about our own mental state.  There is a wide range of good mental health, and most of us fall within this range.   In fact, there is a guide book, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatry, Version V (DSM-V), that details abnormal psychology – thoughts, emotional states, and behaviors that fall out of the wide range of normalcy.

So, what is good mental health?

Good mental health is feeling and behaving appropriately to your current situation in life.  It IS NOT about feeling good all the time (this is called addiction).   For example, if you lose someone close to you, then feeling sad and grieving is appropriate and considered good mental health – even though you do not “feel good” at this time.  It is the right set of feelings appropriate to your current situation.

Conversely, someone who is chronically depressed or anxious – without a here-and-now event that invokes these feelings, is not exhibiting good mental health.  It is not to say one is in “poor mental health.”  However, there is a list of criteria and diagnosis in the DSM-V indicating chronic depression or anxiety is a clinical issue requiring treatment (anti-depressants are the number one prescribed medicines).

I recommend checking in with yourself, meaning at some point every day focus inward and conduct a general inventory of how you are feeling and behaving.  If you are not sure, ask another person whom you trust for their observation and opinion.  See if you are generally aligned with mood, thinking, and behaviors with current situations you are facing.

If you have an extraordinary situation you are experiencing (death of loved one, physical trauma or discomfort, loss or change of career or relationship, etc.), expect to be “off of your game.”  Prepare yourself and others you care about that you are not “going to be yourself” for a few days or weeks.  As always, give yourself a break and allow the not-so-comfortable feelings to run their course while you act appropriately.

In other words, exhibit good mental health.

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