What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health, also known as a person's well-being, is defined as the quality (or lack thereof) of a person's emotional state. Emotional health is also considered to be an extension of mental health which in itself includes a person’s thoughts, feelings, and personal behaviors.
Unbeknownst to the majority of Americans, emotional health is equally critical to our physical health and should be treated as such. This notion is especially true for troubled teens 70% of whom suffer from some form of mental health issue. What's worse, if a teenage boy or girl’s mental health issues go left unchecked, it dramatically increases the chances of radically destroying said teen boy or girl's emotional health, which, in turn, will most likely cause further damage to their overall mental and physical health - damage that can have lifelong or even fatal consequences.
DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL HEALTH
The literal translation of emotional health is a state of positive psychological functioning. Of course, it is also considered to be an extension of mental health. According to the mental health foundation, emotional health is a positive state of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life.
When people talk about mental health, they are generally referring to one’s emotional health or wellbeing. But while these two clinical buzzwords are similar, there is, in fact, a difference between the two.
Firstly, mental health encompasses things like thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as well as where a person’s psychological state falls on the spectrum that ranges from optimal mental health to severe mental illness.
Emotional wellness, however, generally refers to a person’s wellbeing, their personal outlook on life, and their state of positive emotional health.
Mental Illnesses and Mood Disorders: How They Negatively Affect a Teen's Emotional Health
When a person's emotional health is lacking it is usually due to an undiagnosed mental illness or an emotional/behavioral disorder.
Of course, as we all know, mental illnesses are a neurological condition that negatively affects millions of people's thinking, feelings, and moods. Without receiving proper psychiatric care, mentally ill people - and in particular, troubled teens - are at risk of developing life-long behavioral, emotional, and mental issues that make it difficult, or even near-impossible, to live a happy or even normal lifestyle.
The Social Implications of Emotional, Mental, and Mood Disorders
Such conditions also have a proclivity to damage those affected's ability to relate to others or even function socially, thus isolating said afflicted-person from the rest of their peers. This isolating behavior creates a cyclical feedback loop of increasingly damaging emotional and mental implications. Consequently, this puts an intense strain on the afflicted person's emotional health, and by extension, their mental health as well.
Like most emotional health issues, each mentally ill person will have different vastly different experiences, even when suffering from similar or identical clinical-diagnoses.
Like that of mental illnesses, Mood disorders are also known to negatively affect a person's emotional health. Mood disorders are any psychological disorder that elevates and lowers a person's mood. The most common types of these disorders are depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
How a Teen's Emotions Affect Their Overall Health
There is a strong connection between a young person's emotional perspective and her body's condition. This connection used to be something therapists and health practitioners surmised upon but now after many years of research and thousands of studies, the facts are in regarding this link: Your Emotional State Affects Your Physical Health.
Our physical condition consists of several key items that we can influence. We can choose whether or not to exercise on a regular basis or not. Many of us believe that there is not enough time in the day to fit in a half hour of exercise but the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle are well known to scientists that study the human form and health and the answer is loud and clear: the more you exercise the healthier you become - both physically and (especially) emotionally.
Eating a Healthy Diet Drastically Improves Emotional and Mental Health
A large - and rather widely ignored - component of optimal emotional health comes from the kinds of foods we eat. The quality of our diet has a significant impact on our brain's health. The brain is constantly dealing with our thoughts, movements, the five senses, breathing and other critical physical aspects. To manage all of this complexity the brain needs a constant supply of the proper quantity and quality food sources. So effectively what you ingest corresponds 1-for-1 to how healthy and how well your brain functions, and this includes your emotional functionality.
Lastly, the item that is most controversial is how an upbeat attitude or optimistic outlook can aid in having a healthy physical body as well as keeping the emotions in a functioning state. Scientists have found that those who consistently stay positive avoid an overload of negative emotions such as sadness, stress, and anxiousness.
Common Mental Illnesses and Other Emotional/Psychological Disorders That Plague Teenage Emotional Health
There are many types of mental illnesses and several types of emotional disorders. However, the most common types of mental illnesses and emotional disorders affecting teens today are as follows:
Anxiety and Panic Disorders - As its title suggests, anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause various forms of intense feelings of anxiousness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are several forms of anxiety disorder including:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) symptoms: restlessness, being on edge, easily fatigued, difficulty controlling unwarranted worry.
- Panic Disorder: repeated attacks of intense fear, experiencing frequent panic attacks, feelings of intense worry about the future),
- Social Anxiety disorder: feelings of excessive anxiousness when socializing with others and extreme self-consciousness when in front of any number of people; being afraid of being judged by others).
Bipolar Disorder - Also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a brain disorder that is characterized by an unusual and often extreme shift in mood patterns, energy, and the ability to live a normal, healthy lifestyle. According to the NIMH, there are four types of bipolar disorders. They are as follows:
- Bipolar I Disorder: Characterized as manic episodes that last a week or more. Sometimes, these intense waves of mania are enough to send an afflicted individual to the hospital or psychiatric treatment center in order to treat their intense manic episodes. Depressive episodes are just as common in bipolar I-afflicted peoples as mania. Depressive episodes typically last longer than manic episodes - usually lasting two weeks or longer.
- Bipolar II: Characterized by a pattern of major depressive episodes and intense hypomanic episodes. However, people with bipolar II do not experience bonafide manic episodes like that of those who suffer from bipolar I.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)
Depression - Depression, or as it also known as, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States. As of 2018, nearly 20% of American teens experience depression before reaching adulthood - only 30% of whom actually receive much-needed psychiatric treatment. Unbeknownst to most, there are actually multiple forms of depression. they are as follows:
- Persistent depressive disorder: Also referred to as dysthymia, PDD is a depression that is defined by experiencing major episodes of depression that typically last at least two years.
- Postpartum depression: Millions of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth. This particular depressive illness is defined by feeling intense sadness and dread after giving birth.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder: This depressive illness is characterized by experiencing depression during the colder months of the year. Those who experience this type of depression typically withdraw from friends and family, spend more time in isolation, gain or lose weight, and sleep more than regularly.
Mental Illnesses and Emotional Disorders Continued...
Eating Disorders - Eating disorders are made up of a group of potentially fatal, behavioral disorders. Unfortunately, eating disorders are quite common and most commonly affect teenage girls - although, that isn't to say that boys are immune to the emotionally-scarring and life-endangering eating disorders. Eating disorders affect up to 7% of American girls and 3% of boys. respectively. Like all complex and psychologically damaging illnesses, eating disorders come in several different forms. The most common among American teens are as follows:
- Binge eating - As the name suggests, binge eating disorder is defined as an illness that causes those afflicted to continuously bing-eat. Unlike anorexia or bulimia, however, binge-eaters do not attempt to lose the weight they gain by drastic measures (or otherwise). It is typical for those afflicted to struggle with excessive weight gain.
- Bulimia Nervosa - Most commonly referred to as simply, bulimia, bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging (or self-induced vomiting). This particular eating disorder is one of the most dangerous as continuous vomiting is heavily damaging to the human body. Unfortunately, it is also difficult to detect. Unlike that of anorexia, an illness that typically results in unhealthy weight loss, those who suffer from bulimia appear to be of normal, or near-normal, weight.
- Anorexia nervosa - is characterized by a significant and persistent reduction in food intake leading to extremely low body weight in the context of age, sex, and physical health; a relentless pursuit of thinness; a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight; and extremely disturbed eating behavior. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are starved or severely malnourished.
The Importance of Maintaining a Postive State of Emotional Health
Of equal importance to physical health, emotional health is a critical element of maintaining a positive, joyful, and all-around fulfilling lifestyle. Unfortunately, teens have a proclivity to struggle emotionally and behaviorally. Making matters all the more complicating, many teens (most you might say) have an inherent aversion to talking to parents about their mental or emotional health issues.
And, while it is quite common for teens to struggle (somewhat) with emotional issues occasionally, there is still a large demographic of teens whose problems surpass that of normal, teenage-maladies. For example, as of 2018, there are approximately 8 million depressed teenagers at any given time. What's worse, only roughly 2 million of depressed teens receive any type of treatment for their critical illness. Considering that suicide is currently the third-leading cause of death among teens, the importance of helping a child maintain a positive state of emotional health becomes even more pressing.
Making matters all the more complicating, many teens (most you might say) have an inherent aversion to talking to parents about their mental or emotional health issues. Consequently, this aversion to talking about their feelings is why, as a parent, it is critically necessary to become familiar with the tell-tale signs of a potential emotional or psychological disorders.
Frankly, it is up to the parents to do whatever it takes to help their child maintain an as optimal state of emotional health as possible. While this may sound like a lot of work, it actually is quite simple. Rather than intervene, overprotect, or helicopter parent your child's everyday life, simply paying closer attention and learning how to recognize the signs of a lacking state of emotional health is all takes.
Signs of Emotional Issues/Mental Illness
If an otherwise happy, energetic, and outgoing teen begins to isolate, appears lethargic, suffers from irregular sleeping habits, or becomes uncharacteristically defiant or increasingly difficult to talk to, these could be signs and symptoms of a mental health issue. If this sounds like your child, it might very well be time to seek professional help for your teenage son or daughter as this rather dramatic attitude/behavioral about-face is most likely caused by underlying issues that may, in fact, be symptoms of undiagnosed mental illness.
Not sure if this sounds like your child? Below is a list of red flags, or tell-tale signs that may also indicate some type of mental illness, personality disorder, and/or drug usage.
“Red Flags” That Do Not Classify as “Normal Teenage Behavior” That Potentially Could Indicate Mental Illness:
- Loss of Self-Esteem
- Loss of appetite or dramatic weight loss
- Loss of interest in favorite pastimes
- A dramatic drop in academic performance
- Personality changes – aggressiveness, excess anger, etc. (this could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual issues.)
- Changes in Sleep Patterns
- Excessive mood swings (Such as happy to sad, or sad to happy)
- Weight gain
- Paranoid feelings and increasing secrecy
- Increased need to isolate from everyone
- Self-mutilation, or suicidal ideation
- Obsessive/unrealistic bodily issue concerns/goals
- Abandonment of friends or other social groups
- Experimentation or addiction to illicit or pharmaceutical drugs/alcohol
For miore information about options for parents of troubled teens, click here.