What are mental health theories?

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In this article we will briefly explore some of the widely known theories of mental health.

What are mental health theories?

Mental health theories, very simply put, are propositions that have been formulated and confirmed through research and observation that seeks to explain what human psychology entails. 

These mental health theories strive to explain human behaviour, cognitive processes of human beings, social and interpersonal behaviour, as well as mental illnesses and disorders in human beings. 

The present theories that explain mental health or mental illnesses include the following:

  • Psychoanalytic theory
  • Behavioural theories
  • Cognitive theories
  • Humanistic theories
  • Reality theories
  • Wellbeing theories

Psychoanalytic theories

According to this theory of human psychology, human beings are influenced by psychic energy and early experiences of one’s life. 

It is a deterministic theory which means that an indidvdiaul is driven by irrational forces related to sexual and agresve impusles whcih lead to conflicts and this conlifct is what ipacts one’s mental health. 

According to this theory, only when an individual successfully resolves all conflicts in all stages of life can their mental well-being be ensured. If not, the individual will develop faulty personality as in anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

Behavioural theories

According to this theory of mental health, human beings are a product of learning from their environment as well as we influence our environment. According to the school of thought, our behaviour makes us and it is a result of our experiences.

According to this theory, mental illnesses are a result of faulting learning and that individual can be treated by correcting these behaviours, 

Cognitive theories

According to these theories, psychological disturbances and mental illnesses are emotional and behavioural disturbances that are caused by faulting thinking. 

This faulty thinking is a result of how we perceive events that have happened to us which is often influenced by irrational and faulty schemas and assumptions that we developed from our early experiences which are reinforced by present ways of thinking. 

This theoretical school of mental health focuses on the idea that changing one’s ways of thinking, patterns, and schemas and changing these misconceptions with more helpful and effective ones can help improve mental health. 

Humanistic theories

These theories involve an optimistic outlook towards human beings in general and push the idea that human beings have an innate ability to grow towards positive states of mental well-being. 

These theories include:

  • Person centred approach where the focus is not on what went wrong but what can go right and the focus is to help individuals view the positive assets that they have within them to help attain mental wealth by tapping into their potential to become self-aware and resolve their own problems. This theory pushes the idea that illnesses and challenges occur when the real and the ideal self of an individual does not match up and believes that only one accepts who they truly are and work towards what they want to be, can they resolve their problems. 
  • Gestalt theory which emphasises the what and how of their experiences in the present and focuses on helping individuals accept all parts of themselves. This particular theory of mental health pushes the idea that mental health issues are caused by a lack of integration between self and others,lack of awareness, and issues related to choice and responsibility. 
  • Existential theory is another theory that focuses on the present and believes that mental health problems are related to existential issues related to meaning, authenticity, self awareness, cpice, and death. 

Positive psychology theories

These theories are a result of integrated theories that have developed over the entire theoretical history of psychology and mental health. This particular theory is very recent compared to other theories of psychology. 

It pushes on the idea of humanistic theories of psychology and the idea that human beings are innately acceptable of resilience, it pushes the idea of self-exploration, especially related to developing strengths.

One of the major theories of positive psychology is that of the PERMA Theory of well-being  by martin seligman. 

This particular theory pushes the idea that mental health is influenced by five elements:

  • Positive emotion 
  • Engagement 
  • Relationships 
  • Meaning 
  • Achievement 

What is the history and development of theories in psychology?

The historical development of Psychology and the theories in psychology had its first systematic approach during the late 19th and early 20th century. 

Prior to this psychology had more mystical and spiritual explanations to mental illnesses and the focus was on the suffering of individuals rather than mental health. 

Earlier, simplistic views on mental illnesses toyed with the idea that mental disorders were caused by unique disease entities or spirits and possessions. 

It was only during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the work of two independent researchers Freud and Watson who pushed the theories of psychoanalytic theories of psychology and behavioural theories of psychology that the potential explanations of mental illness and human psychology began to take shape. 

It is their modern approach to psychology that used research approaches  of observation, interviewing, and testing that the understanding of psychopathology began to take shape and the idea that human suffering could be studied, theorised, and treated emerged in the form of psychopathology and theories of human psychology. 

By the mid 20th century, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published based on the World Health Organisation’s sixth edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-6) to identify and classify mental illnesses after the world wars. 

With a new classification system and newer theoretical approaches emerging,the study and treatment of mental illness began to expand, and picked up steam in the mid-20th century and well into the 21st century that shifted focus from mental illness towards mental health. 

Now, the more recent theories of mental health no longer only focus on what went wrong but also pushes the idea of strengthening what goes right in the human psyche to maintain and preserve mental health of human beings.

What is mental health?

In very simple words, mental health refers to our overall cognitive, emotional, and behavioural wellbeing that is concerned with what we think, feel, and behave. 

Mental health is a crucial part of a person’s life as any disruption in their mental well-being can impact their daily lives, their relationships with other people, and also their occupational progress as well. 

Interestingly, this relationship between mental health and the various factors such as relationships, jobs, day to day activities is bi-directional meaning that such factors can be affected by our mental health and at the same time, these factors can affect our mental health. 

For example, stress at our jobs can impact mental health well-being and this negative state of mental health can impact our ability to handle work responsibilities thus adding more stress. 

Mental health is an important part of our overall health condition. It is a fundamental part of the way we think, feel, interact with each other, the way we live and enjoy life and it is more than just the absence of mental health illnesses. 

Here are some official definitions of Mental Health:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Mental health is a “state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

The WHO stresses on the fact that mental health is a fundamental aspect of our lives and no person can have complete health without a positive state of mental health. 

The WHO also acknowledges that mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders and the state of one’s mental health is influenced by the socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors that they live and interact with. \

There is also an importance of community effort that WHO puts forward regarding mental health promotion and regards this as a community effort and an important aspect of policy making in terms of health and welfare. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines Mental health as,

“…a state of mind characterised by emotional well-being, good behavioural adjustment, relative freedom from anxiety and disabling symptoms, and a capacity to establish constructive relationships and cope with the ordinary demands and stresses of life.

According to this definition of mental health, there is emphasis on the fact that mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness.

Rather, positive mental health is characterised by the ability of a person to establish positive and constructive relationships, and also meet the demands of their daily lives as well as stress. 

According to the APA, mental health of a person can also be identified by their level of emotional and behavioural adjustment and the presence and absence of disability. 

Conclusion

In this article we will briefly explore some of the widely known theories of mental health.

What are the theories of mental health?

The present theories that explain mental health or mental illnesses include the following:

  • Psychoanalytic theory
  • Behavioural theories
  • Cognitive theories
  • Humanistic theories
  • Reality theories
  • Wellbeing theories

What are mental theories?

Mental health theories, very simply put, are propositions that have been formulated and confirmed through research and observation that seeks to explain what human psychology entails. 

These mental health theories strive to explain human behaviour, cognitive processes of human beings, social and interpersonal behaviour, as well as mental illnesses and disorders in human beings. 

What is cognitive theory in mental health?

According to these theories, psychological disturbances and mental illnesses are emotional and behavioural disturbances that are caused by faulting thinking. 

This faulty thinking is a result of how we perceive events that have happened to us which is often influenced by irrational and faulty schemas and assumptions that we developed from our early experiences which are reinforced by present ways of thinking. 

This theoretical school of mental health focuses on the idea that changing one’s ways of thinking, patterns, and schemas and changing these misconceptions with more helpful and effective ones can help improve mental health. 

What is the medical model in mental health?

The medical model of health is a a biopsychosocial model that focuses on assessing a patient’s health problems and matching them to a diagnosis based on recognizing and identifying clinical criterias and features. 

What are the 3 models of health?

The Three well known approaches  to health include:

  • Medical model
  • Holistic model 
  • Wellness model

References

Miller.K. What are Mental Health Theories? (Incl. List). Positive psychology. Retrieved on 11th feb 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/mental-health-theories/

About Mental Health. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 28th June, 2021. Retrieved on 11th feb 2022. . https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

Mental health: strengthening our response. WHO. 30th March 2018. Retrieved on 11th feb 2022. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

Marc Jutras (2017). Historical perspectives on the theories, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 2, March, 2017, Page(s) 86-88 – MDs To Be.

Mental Health. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved on 11th feb 2022. https://dictionary.apa.org/mental-health

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