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What Is the Difference Between Mental and Emotional Health?

Your mental health and emotional health are deeply intertwined, but typically refer to different aspects of your overall quality of life and wellness. Taking steps to ensure you look after both can dramatically improve your day-to-day life — and play an important role in helping you break free from a mental health disorder.

What Is Mental Health?

Broadly defined, your mental health is your ability to feel, think, and act to your full potential. While emotional health is a component of your overall mental health, it is far from the only factor. Instead, mental health includes your cognition and perception, as well as your social, psychological, and even spiritual wellness.

One way of understanding mental health is by examining how it can go awry. When people experience perpetual challenges with mental health, it can be referred to as a mental health disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

When a person has a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, they can experience chronic worry, fear, or apprehension. This experience of anxiety can further affect your ability to concentrate, make decisions, or go about daily life without interruption.

Depressive Disorders

Depression takes many forms but is generally characterised by chronic low mood and energy levels. People with depression often struggle with motivation, finding enjoyment, or socialising with others.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder associated with severe challenges in focus, productivity, and motivation. People with ADHD often have trouble staying organised, sticking to plans, completing their tasks, or remembering important events.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People living with obsessive-compulsive (OCD) experience frequent compulsions and recurring thoughts. This can severely impact their ability to go about their life without interference.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it shows how mental health can be disrupted by mental health challenges. Impairments in cognitive functioning, mood, or motivation are all indicators that a person’s mental health has fallen out of balance.

What Good Mental Health Looks Like

High-quality mental wellness is when you can function at your best on a regular basis. People with good mental health typically don’t experience significant challenges in day-to-day situations.

They can work productively, cope with life’s stressors successfully, and put their skills and talents into practice without disruption by mental health symptoms. But importantly, this doesn’t mean that everything always goes your way.

Instead, people with a high quality of mental wellbeing are resilient; they can take challenges and setbacks in stride, remain optimistic, and stick to their goals despite hardship.

People with good mental health tend to be more hopeful, confident, and satisfied with life. But each person’s definition of what it means to achieve mental wellness can be different.

What Is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is a subset of mental health, but it has important distinctions that make it a key target for people aiming to improve their holistic sense of wellbeing. Whereas mental health has several domains, emotional health typically revolves around your mood.

People who struggle with emotional health may experience frequent mood swings, difficulty feeling positive emotions, or trouble connecting with others. They may be prone to anger, spend excessive time feeling sad or worried, or struggle empathising with the emotions of others.

A number of different mental health conditions are characterised by challenges in regulating and managing emotions.

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder experience sudden shifts between depressive episodes and periods of elevated mood known as mania or hypomania. In a depressive state, they may feel tyred, unmotivated, or sad — whereas manic episodes lead to elation, motivation, and excessive energy.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

While there are a number of different symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), high emotion sensitivity and lack of emotional regulation strategies are two commonly observed phenomena.

Depressive Disorders

There are several types of depressive disorders, but all share the symptom of chronic low mood. While this leads to feeling sad for many people, it could also lead to irritability or anger.

But poor emotional health doesn’t always result in a formal mental health diagnosis. Some people may just struggle to control intense emotions, feel emotions disproportionately to what might be considered “normal,” or find that their level of emotionality leads to difficulties in personal relationships.

Conversely, some people go too far on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not feeling emotions at all, or feeling too little emotion in regard to severe circumstances, may be considered a sign of poor emotional health as well. After all, emotions are a core part of the human experience and can help guide you toward productive action in the future.

What Good Emotional Health Looks Like

There are several components to what might characterise good emotional health, including:

Emotion Differentiation

This refers to being able to distinguish between different emotions, and not defaulting to a single emotional state.

Empathy

Empathy is the capacity to feel the emotions of others and respond appropriately to different emotions in your friends, family, or loved ones.

Emotion Regulation

Being able to regulate your emotions is critical to emotional health. While it’s not always possible to choose what emotions you feel, people with true emotional wellbeing will be able to control excess emotionality when necessary to continue their daily lives without disruption.

Emotion Expression

Many people feel uncomfortable sharing emotions such as sadness, grief, or shame. Learning to be open about these emotions in appropriate settings can help you to move past them, rather than letting things bottle up.

People with good emotional health are generally able to navigate personal and social challenges with comfort and ease. They can readily understand their emotions, express them to others, and ultimately put negative emotions into perspective.

The Interplay Between Mental Health and Emotional Health

Both emotional health and mental health play an important role in your overall wellness. But they can directly affect one another as well, in either a positive or negative fashion.

For example, a person struggling with mental health challenges can start to feel a host of negative emotions as a result. Struggling to focus can lead to feelings of shame or guilt, which can in turn spiral into worsening emotional and mental health.

Similarly, those who struggle to control their emotions can find themselves having difficulties maintaining relationships or interacting successfully with others. This can ultimately lead to a mental health diagnosis such as depression or anxiety — and bring along a host of cognitive challenges.

But the direction of these relationships works the other way as well. Taking steps to improve your mental health can provide you with skills for emotion regulation and expression, and if you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, seeking out help for your emotional health can cause a cascade of positive mental changes.

So what are the steps you can take to bolster your emotional and mental functioning and start regaining control over your internal life?

How Can I Support My Emotional Wellness?

If you’re having trouble with emotional regulation, mental health symptoms, or even both, there are several evidence-based treatment options that can help you move forward toward recovery. Many people begin with traditional treatment options.

Traditional Treatment Options

In achieving emotional and mental wellbeing, treatment options have traditionally fallen into one of two categories: talk therapy and psychiatric medication management. These styles of treatment have been studied for decades and have substantial supporting evidence for their effectiveness.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy has long been a staple of mental health treatment. Multiple styles of talk therapy can help with emotional and mental health, including:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy

While each takes a slightly different approach, you can expect to learn more about how the ways you think influence your mood and behaviour — and to learn effective coping strategies and skills that help you regulate mental health symptoms or distressing emotions.

Psychiatric Medication Management

Medication management uses targeted psychotherapeutic drugs to help people regulate mental or emotional health symptoms. While these medications are typically developed to treat mental health disorders, people with severe emotional wellbeing challenges may benefit from this style of treatment as well.

But medication management isn’t just about getting a prescription. When you start medication management, you’ll meet with a psychiatrist to discuss your challenges, decide on which medication works best for you, and relay any concerns you may have about starting medication.

Your psychiatrist will then give you a prescription, monitor your progress, and follow up with you to make changes as needed. Since medications often take time to reach their full effectiveness, this strategy can help maximise the potential benefits you see.

What Can I Do if Therapy Isn’t Working for My Mental Health?

While therapy and medication work for many, others won’t see the results they were hoping for. But with several new and exciting treatment options being discovered in the last few years, even people with treatment-resistant mental health challenges can find substantial relief.

At APN London, our holistic mental health treatment options provide a comprehensive range of services to help you achieve a greater state of overall wellness. Here is how we go further to support your best mental and emotional health:

Ketamine Assisted Healing

Ketamine-assisted healing is an approach to talk therapy that integrates the use of the dissociative psychedelic ketamine. In effect, ketamine works as a therapy incubator, helping people to make breakthroughs and progress that could take months in conventional therapy alone – in just a single ketamine-assisted healing session.

The dissociative properties of ketamine create a feeling of disconnection from your sense of self, allowing you to look at your mental and emotional health from a more objective perspective. Without mental or emotional health symptoms interfering with the therapy process, people can make rapid progress and see lasting results.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) is a specialised approach for treating certain mental health conditions. For people experiencing depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress, certain regions of the brain are underactive compared to neurotypical controls.

But with dTMS, these regions can be directly stimulated through electromagnetic impulses. Using a non-invasive cap, electric signals can be sent deep within the brain, resulting in heightened activity that lasts well beyond the session alone.

While most people experience symptom improvement after just a single session, repeated dTMS sessions can further solidify your progress in recovery.

Holistic Healing at APN London

By combining both conventional and innovative mental health treatment options, APN London offers our clients the best of both worlds. Our holistic programme ensures that you have every tool available to help you achieve recovery from a wide variety of emotional and mental health concerns.

We can start you on the path to recovery to last a lifetime. To get started at APN London, reach out to our team by calling 0203 984 7699 or by filling out our confidential online contact form for more information.

References

  • “Mental Health.” NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/mental-health/. Accessed 27 Jan. 2024.
  • Qiu, Xiufu et al. “Transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation affect explicit but not implicit emotion regulation: a meta-analysis.” Behavioral and brain functions : BBF vol. 19,1 15. 19 Sep. 2023, doi:10.1186/s12993-023-00217-8