For far too long, mental health has been used as a euphemism for mental illness. I have many issues with this, but the one I’m writing about today is this: We all have some degree of mental health, as mental health lives along a continuum from serious mental distress and disease to excellent mental health and resilience. We all reside somewhere along that continuum, just as we all live somewhere along the continuum of physical health from physical distress and disease to excellent physical health and strength.
If you would like to move closer to the health and resilience end of the mental health continuum, you must first understand what causes mental distress:
- Educate yourself. You may be a victim of miseducation and deception by Big Pharma and psychiatry. A resounding myth of mental illness claims people who suffer from “mental illness” have chemical imbalances in their brains. The myth of chemical imbalances is something psychiatry hypothesized and Big Pharma magnified. Did you know, in over three decades of searching for this illusive chemical imbalance, no credible evidence exists to support that hypothesis?
- If it’s not chemical imbalances, then what is wrong? This is the wrong question. The question to ask is, “What’s happened to you?” Most people with serious disruptions to their mental health have suffered incredible, and sometimes, complex trauma. Trauma does not create chemical imbalances, but it creates relationship disruption, challenges to trust and severe depletion of self-protection, self-efficacy and self-esteem. As a result, people develop the amazing ability to protect themselves with behaviors that happen to be symptoms of mental illness, which I prefer to call “mental distress.” Something terrible has happened, and as a defense mechanism, people develop amazing compensatory behaviors to protect themselves.
- Trauma creates two injuries. The memory of the incident lives in the body, creating a physical incident with a physical genesis and a physical intervention. Then there is a mental and emotional injury, secondary to the physical one. You cannot successfully treat the physical trauma with cognitive interventions no more than you could successfully treat the psychological and emotional trauma with physical interventions. Seek a trauma-informed care professional who knows the difference.
If you are struggling with acute mental health challenges in the absence of trauma, it is time to examine your thinking—your values, beliefs and expectations. Consider the following 10 questions. Additionally, you can complete a Mental Health Self-Evaluation exam to see where you might need an intervention.
- Does your past, other people or external circumstances cause a lot of the problems in your life?
- Do you often take responsibility for other people’s negative actions while blaming yourself for them?
- Do you often compare yourself to others when evaluating your accomplishments?
- Do you spend a good bit of time thinking about and judging the actions of others?
- Do you put a lot of energy into getting the important people in your life to be different than they are?
- Do you spend more time thinking about what’s wrong with your life rather than what’s going well?
- Do you hold grudges and withhold forgiveness?
- Is it hard for you to connect with people in meaningful ways?
- Do you use anger, sadness and anxiety to try and control and change the people around you?
- Do you believe that it’s too hard to change how you are—that you are stuck as you are?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have identified an area worth some energy and attention. When you make improvements in these areas, you will find yourself moving along the mental health continuum. If you’d like some help doing that, wait for my next blog, “How to Improve Your Mental Health.” If you want a quick consult, book a 20-minute strategy session here.