What is Mental Health?

Mental health can be defined as our psychological, social, and emotional well-being and is a huge part of how we define our quality of life. For a long time prioritizing mental health was seen as something of a taboo subject in the United States, and therapy was only associated with mental illness. In more recent years taking care of your mental health has become a well-accepted and encouraged practice. This is especially true in light of COVID-19, and the global lockdown.

This guide will help you understand mental health, the factors that affect it and how to improve it.

Differences Between Mental Health and Mental Illnesses

Mental health as an umbrella term— means your social, emotional and psychological well-being. Mental illness, which is directly related to mental health but not interchangeable, is a set of conditions involving changes (typically negative) in emotion, thinking, or behavior. While it’s difficult to define and categorize certain mental illnesses, it’s important to understand the difference between mental health and mental illness.

The definition of mental health

Mental health is the state of well-being in which people find themselves when there is a balance between emotional, psychological and social aspects. To find that sense of well-being, it’s often necessary to consult a health professional to help you strike a balance between all the elements. 

Having a mental health disturbance is not the same as having a mental illness. You might find yourself in a stressful situation for a specific reason that causes your mental health to be temporarily out of balance, but you can regain that equilibrium by resolving it.

The definition of mental illness

Mental illnesses are mental health alterations that negatively impact people. This affects not only the personal aspects of their daily lives, but also hinders the performance of their daily tasks. A mental illness that affects mental health for an extended period of time must be monitored and properly treated by health professionals.

Diseases related to mental health manifest differently, so a diagnosis must be made by a licensed physician or psychotherapist in order to provide the appropriate treatment. The following are the most common mental illnesses in the world: 

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Keep in mind: In the United States, mental illness accounts for the highest percentage of health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 25% increase in mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression worldwide, largely due to the large amount of negative information seen on social media and television.

Factors That Can Cause Mental Health Problems

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Mental health is much more openly discussed nowadays. There’s much more information available to prevent the onset of mental illnesses and a lot more ways to provide resources and effective solutions to those affected. Some factors that can cause mental health problems are:

  • Hereditary factors
  • Trauma
  • High stress situations
  • Mental health pathologies

Signs and Symptoms That May Indicate Problems

There are a number of signs that may indicate signs of mental illness. Among the main symptoms you should watch out for are: 

Frequent mood swings

Mood swings are often a sign of possible mental illness. This could be in the form of irritability, restlessness, or sadness that comes on suddenly, causing unstable thoughts. 

Mood swings affect a person's social functioning, making them unable to go to crowded places or engage in activities with groups of friends for no apparent reason. Depression and generalized anxiety disorder are characterized by these types of symptoms. 

Feeling low in energy or weak

People affected by a mental illness can experience a general sense of fatigue and apathy, which can affect bodily function (e.g. fainting spells). 

This symptom can have serious life consequences. It can impact things like a person’s ability to fulfill important obligations, and cause job insecurity. This, in turn, can affect a person’s financial health and lead to greater feelings of stress and negativity. 

Alcohol and drug use

Drug and alcohol use is a clear symptom of mental health problems. It’s one of the most important signs to consider since this type of substance abuse can cause counterproductive reactions and can also put someone’s well-being at risk. 

Loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable

This is a clear sign of a mental imbalance. It happens when you or the person you’re trying to help shows a tendency to suddenly abandon activities that used to be pleasurable or visit places they used to frequent. Not enjoying situations that you once did is one of the most common symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health

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In order to maintain a balanced mental health, try the following activities and routines that can decrease the stress that you experience on a daily basis:

Playing sports

Physical activity is one of the best tools you have to maintain your mental health and improve your emotional stability. By playing sports, you interact with people socially, while the physical aspect helps release serotonin, a hormone that helps you feel calmer, sleep better, relieve stress. 

Meditation and self-care

Meditation can help you find a sense of calm and rethink the situations that may be affecting you. This space to pause and find yourself can help you find better ways of dealing with daily stressors. Meditation is a type of self-care that doesn’t cost anything, all you’ll need is to find a quiet space and 20 minutes of free time.

Go to a specialized center

Going to a specialized health center and seeking advice from a professional is always the best way to manage mental illnesses. This type of center will give you the necessary resources so you can balance your mental health and manage any negative feelings.

Keep in mind: Consider visiting the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website to find information on a variety of mental health topics.

Mental Health Comes First! 

We hope that this guide has helped you see that taking care of your mental health is very important. Using the methods we’ve shared above will help you preserve your mental well-being and therein many facets of your life. 

In addition to working on your mental health, you should also try to prioritize a healthy physique; as they say "a healthy mind in a healthy body.” We recommend taking a look at the PODERsalud membership as it offers great discounts on medications, unlimited online medical appointments, and much more!