One of the lesser explored matters on the topic of mental health is maintaining strong emotional health, which is vital to one's overall well-being. Although "emotional disorder" or "emotional disturbance" isn't an official diagnosis, but more of a general classification of multiple diagnoses, it is a topic frequently discussed in the mental health world.
Emotions are often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. Emotional health is complex; and according to some theories, it is a state of "feeling" that results in physical and psychological changes, thus influencing one's behavior.
The following is a closer look at emotional health, being emotionally "unhealthy," as well as as well as some examples of which disorders qualify, according to authorities.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health involves being well-rounded, centered, and able to adapt to diversity. Those who are emotionally healthy take ownership of actions and behaviors rather than blaming everything on an outside force. This means, that rather than being someone who is perpetually happy or positive, those with strong emotional health readily embrace the challenges of life and simply make the best of everything.
People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and behavior. Emotional wellness can lead to success in school, work, and relationships. Researchers believed that success made people happy; however, new research shows that it’s the other way around. Emotionally healthy people are more likely to work toward goals, find the resources they need, and attract others with their energy, optimism, and healthy attitude.
Although there are some similarities, emotional health is not the same as emotional intelligence (or emotional quotient). So, what is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is an individual's capacity to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide one's thinking and behavior.
There have been studies that indicate people with high emotional intelligence have greater mental health, job performance, and leadership skills; although the relationships between the two have not been solidified. Such findings are likely attributable to one's "general intelligence" and specific personality traits rather than emotional intelligence as a construct. Read more about emotional intelligence here.
Examples of Emotional Disorders
Unfortunately, not everybody experiences consistent emotional wellness. Identifying emotional instability or emotional disorders is difficult for many reasons. For instance, it cannot be stated with certainty that something “goes wrong” in the brain, causing one to act in a particular way. As unique individuals, we process information and interactions different from another. Research on the cause of emotional disorders has shown that the way the brain receives and processes information is different for individuals with some type of disorder than it is for individuals who do not have those issues. What is an emotional disorder?
Below is a list of common emotional disorders or emotional disturbances:
Adjustment disorders: emotional or behavioral symptoms exhibited when unable to appropriately adapt to stressful events or changes in life.
Anxiety disorders: a large family of disorders including school phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, avoidant disorder, panic disorder, etc.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): is the recurrent and persistent obsessions or compulsions that cause marked distress or significant impairment.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): this develops following exposure to an extremely traumatic event or series of events (example; witnessing or learning about a death).
Selective mutism: when an individual persistently fails to speak in social situations (at school or with playmates) where speaking is expected.
Conduct disorder: is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate social norms or rules are violated.
Eating disorders: are characterized by episodes of “binge and purge” behaviors or the individual refuses to maintain a normal body weight for a fear of gaining weight.
Major depressive disorder: is when a person has a series of two or more major depressive episodes within a two-to-three month period.
The primary difference between a person who has emotional health versus one who is emotionally unhealthy is the ability to "bounce back" from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. However, being resilient is often easier said than done.
Below are common causes for a lack of emotional health:
- Side effects of medication
- Experiencing illness or poor physical health
- Not getting enough rest
- Not practicing good nutrition and eating habits
- Overindulgence of alcohol use and/or substance abuse
- Poor connection/attachment to a primary caretaker (especially early in life)
- Not having a strong support network (family or peers)
- Having little or no social interaction
signs & symptoms
Signs of Poor Emotional Health
Poor emotional health can often bee seen by those close to the sufferer if the signs and symptoms are known. If you or someone you know exhibits one or more of the following characteristics (over a duration of time), it may be a indicator of one or multiple emotional disorders that could require professional help:
- Learning difficulties that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
- Difficulty with maintaining a satisfactory interpersonal relationship with peers or teachers.
- Inappropriate behaviors (acting out) or feelings (expressing need to harm self or others).
- The development of physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.
- Inability to sleep on a consistent basis.
- Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time.
- Concentration problems that are interfering with work or home life.
- Uncontrollable negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears.
- Thoughts of self-harm, death or suicide.
On the Subject of Emotional Wellness
Different professionals view emotional instability and emotional disorders in different ways. Their outlook, and their treatment plan is usually shaped by their training, their experience, and their philosophy about the origins of an individuals problems. Overall, the subject of emotional wellness is clearly in need of further funding and research. Still in the fairly early stages, by making this information known, the world at large can finally begin to find suitable treatments for sufferers.
Below are some common types of treatments and therapies commonly used to treat those suffering from poor emotional health or emotional disturbances:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): a form of psychotherapy originally designed to treat depression, but is now used for a number of mental disorders. In a nutshell, CBT works to solve current problems by changing unhelpful thinking and behavior. CBT is effective for a variety of conditions, including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, addiction, dependence, tic, and psychotic disorders.
Cognitive emotional behavioral therapy (CEBT): used primarily with individuals suffering from eating disorders, as it offers an alternative when standard CBT is unsuccessful in relieving symptoms. As an extended version of cognitive behavioral therapy, CEBT is aimed at helping individuals to evaluate the basis of their emotional distress and thus reduce the need for problematic coping behaviors (e.g., eating behaviors including binging, purging, restriction of food intake, and substance misuse). Read more about cognitive emotional behavioral therapy here.
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT): previously called rational therapy, REBT is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and is a comprehensive, active-directive, and empirically based psychotherapy focusing on resolving emotional and behavioral problems, thus enabling sufferers to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. Read more about rational emotive behavior therapy here.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): a psychological therapy (derived from Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) designed to aid in preventing the relapse of depression, specifically in individuals with major depressive disorder and challenges with addiction. In addition, MBCT has been extremely effective at liberating and empowering individuals with various medical ailments, including hypertension, chronic pain, and cancer. Read more about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy here.
Emotionally focused therapy (EFT): also known as emotion-focused therapy and process-experiential therapy, EFT asserts that humans are hardwired for strong emotional bonds with others. EFT is typically a short-term (10–20 sessions) structured psychotherapy approach to working with individuals, couples, or families. Read more about emotionally focused therapy here.
How To Find a Therapist In My Area
What is a mental health professional? A mental health professional is a health care practitioner or community services provider providing services and therapeutics for the purpose of improving an individual's mental health or to treat mental illness. If you are wondering how to find a therapist in your area, there are many types of mental health professionals that each have unique specialties; and finding the right one for you may require some research.
Below is a list of common types of mental health treatment professionals:
- Licensed Professional Counselor: A licensed professional counselor with a masters degree in psychology, counseling or a related field. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
- Mental Health Counselor: A counselor with a masters degree and several years of supervised clinical work experience. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
- Clinical Psychologist: Psychologists are usually doctoral-degree professionals (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) trained to provide professional counseling on psychological and emotional issues.
- Psychiatrist (can prescribe medication): Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of mental, emotional, or behavioral problems.
- Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage & Family Therapists are counselors with a masters degree, with special education and training in marital and family therapy.
- Psychoanalyst: Psychoanalysts follow Sigmund Freud's theories that painful childhood memories contained in the unconscious are the cause of emotional disturbances.
- Clinical Social Worker: Clinical social workers have a master’s degree in social work and are trained to make diagnoses and provide individual and group counseling, case management and advocacy.
- Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor: Counselor with specific clinical training in alcohol and drug abuse. Trained to diagnose and provide individual and group counseling.
Mental health professionals near me? Below, you can find a list of local professionals to help you. Choosing the right doctor and/or therapist for your mental health needs may seem like a daunting task. But, finding the right doctor is an important step towards getting proper treatment.