Mental health issues affect more than 40 million people in the US per year. Many are on some kind of medication for their particular issue as well.
However, it would seem to be the case in many instances, and in my own personal experience, that mental and emotional health are not fully understood by the mental health field as a whole. Many times, or close to all the time, emotional health is considered to be a part of mental health.
But is there a difference between the two that is often overlooked?
What is Mental Health?
Mental health includes everything that has to do with your mind’s state of health and well-being, to give an obvious explanation. But usually when someone uses this phrase, they are talking about a number of mental health issues that plague many of us.
Although the DSM or diagnostic and statistical manual for mental health is the size of a dictionary, there are a number of common issues that are attributed to mental health. Those are:
- Anxiety disorders: general anxiety, social phobias, and panic attacks
- Psychotic disorders: things like schizophrenia, having delusions and hallucinations
- Eating disorders: binge eating, bulimia
- Mood disorders: depression and bipolar disorder are example of mood disorders
- Post traumatic stress disorder
- Impulse control and addiction disorders
- Personality disorders
These are some primary mental health issues that people face. Many of them require things like medication to deal with, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for example.
But many times people are misdiagnosed and given medications when they don’t really need them. Although things like personality disorders are considered to be mental health issues, when taking a closer look is it possible that these issues are actually a form of emotional health issues rather than being mental health disorders?
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health on the other hand seems to be something that is even less understood than mental health issues are.
In my experience, emotional health is how we treat ourselves on a regular basis internally, and that includes how tolerant we are of having abusive people in our lives.
Things like low self-esteem, a harsh inner critic, self abandonment, toxic shame and emotional flashbacks are examples of emotional health issues. It’s really all about how we see ourselves and feel about ourselves on a regular basis, along with how we allow others to treat us.
If you think about it, when we have internalized toxic shame or we fundamentally feel bad about who we are, and we have things like intense low self-esteem, codependent tendencies, and a harsh inner critic, are we not sort of attacking ourselves on the inside?
Granted of course if we are attacking ourselves mentally and verbally on a regular basis causing us to feel bad, insecure, and ashamed, these are simply programs in the mind that were put there and conditioned into us by our parents and those around us growing up.
Looking at it this way, emotional health could be said to be how well we are able to have compassion, understanding, and emotional care for ourselves and in getting our own internal needs met.
Emotional health, rather than simply taking medication which could serve to numb the emotional self, is really all about identifying our inner self-destructive tendencies and replacing damaging and negative thought processes with healthy and loving ones. It’s also about ridding ourselves of our toxic shame about ourselves and being able to be fully self expressive of our thoughts and feelings in a genuine way.
Of course being able to have full self-expression of one’s self requires being able to trust those around us to not reject or judge us harshly. This is something that can take time but is fully doable should one suffer from things like extreme low self-esteem and toxic shame, or even something like complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Are the Effects of Emotional Abuse a Mental Health Disorder?
If one has been subjected to a significant degree of emotional abuse in their lives and perhaps did not get the love and care they needed from their parents growing up, it could very well lead one to become what they call ‘crazy’.
If one has a low emotional threshold for stresses coming in at them from the world around them, if one is an underachiever or something like this, if they have trouble in relationships and with trusting people, or even if they suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of living in an abusive and emotionally malnourishing environment, are these symptoms really ‘mental health disorders’, or are they the results of emotional abuse?
In other words, are emotional and psychological symptoms from prolonged and conditioned abuse ‘disorders’, or are the people experiencing these things simply in pain?
Of course mental health issues do exist and as mentioned medication for various illnesses becomes necessary here and there, but in many cases are not people simply in a great deal of emotional pain? And if people are in a significant amount of emotional pain, do they really need to be diagnosed or labeled with some affliction, or do they simply need to be healed?
Maintaining Mental Health is Important But So is Emotional Health
Certainly as I’m sure you may be surmising, it is very possible and is probably the case many times that those who suffer from mental health disorders have emotional issues right along with them.
It would seem to me that the primary issue for many people is one of trauma stemming primarily from childhood for many people, and this should be the core criteria for what is focused on in healing. Again, there are times when there are legitimate mental health issues that may require medication of some kind, but this should not be the core focus for mental health and emotional well-being.
Our emotional selves should be acknowledged, validated, and we should be taught how to heal ourselves right along with any form of treatment for mental health issues. I would argue that emotional health and well-being and being able to truly heal from any past trauma is more important than mental health, and may even be the core cause for things like depression, anxiety, and so called ‘personality disorders’ in the first place.
It’s Time to Heal the Mind, the Heart, and the Soul as One
It’s time to seriously consider putting emotional trauma at the forefront of the healing of mental health issues. We can’t keep chocking everything up to a simple chemical imbalance.
We really do need to make what’s called the emotional self known to all mental health professionals, how it works and how to heal it in people. It’s important that we take care of ourselves not just physically and mentally, but take care of ourselves in regards to who we are and how we treat ourselves.
On top of this, when it comes to eradicating things like depression, anxiety and unhappiness, the subject and reality of spirituality must come into play. Why is it that spirituality and taking a look at ones spiritual life isn’t generally something done in the mental health field? Maybe being somewhat dissociated from the spirit within is the core reason for our emotional pain and mental disorders in the first place. Wouldn’t that be crazy?