Mental Wellness: a Great Destination to Spend the rest of Your Life

February 13, 2013

an excerpt from:

Medicalizing Mental Health:

A Rational Approach to an Emotional Topic


Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD


The starting point of our journey is at the left side of the mental health spectrum, mental wellness. The fact is, this is not the place on the spectrum at which most people are currently living, yet it is a destination that all people can get closer to than they are now. Mental wellness is the point on the spectrum where a person lives his or her life unencumbered by mental health symptoms while at the same time maintains the full repertoire of human emotional responses. Mentally well people have good days, great days and horrible days. However, their emotional responses remain adaptive and do not impair their ability to function, behave or perform optimally. Mental wellness serves as a reminder that sadness, excitement, fear or worry are not inherently negative emotional states. Rather, these are all facets of normal, adaptive emotional responses to events (stimuli) that occur in everyday human existence. It is when these emotional responses occur unprovoked by any overt stimuli or occur in an exaggerated way that they become maladaptive and impair a person’s ability to function, behave or perform optimally.

This conception of mental wellness is thus synonymous with a person’s ability to perform optimally and begs for clarification of the commonly used term, wellness and how its meaning is fundamentally different from the term, healthy. While obviously health and wellness are related to some degree, having health problems does not prevent a person from being well just as the absence of health problems is not the same as being well. For example, a person may have health issues such as high blood pressure, asthma or even cancer yet it is still possible for them to be well. However, if a person does not feel well, regardless of their blood pressure or whether they have or do not have asthma or cancer, they are not healthy. While differentiating health from wellness may seem a matter of semantics, it is actually a matter of numbers; health can be measured while wellness cannot. I am expounding upon this point due to its relevance to the hundreds of people I have had the honor and pleasure of helping get well over the past twenty-five years. Every day since I have been in practice I have seen patients who may have had their health problems “successfully” treated, yet in spite of their blood pressures and blood sugars being normalized, their kidney, thyroid or liver functions being corrected and even their tumors shrunk by chemotherapy or entirely removed surgically, they simply may not feel well and  are not yet healthy according to my standards, leaving work to be done. Within the context of Medicalizing Mental Health, mental wellness is in fact wellness itself and is what every person should strive for, regardless of their health.



2 Responses to “Mental Wellness: a Great Destination to Spend the rest of Your Life”

  1. Ron F. said

    Other than the “it’s meaning” that ought to be “its meaning,” the article is well-meaning and provides a well of information. lol

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