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 Blooming Stars

Vital Signs of Mental Health

            When a person is brought to the emergency room of a hospital, certain vital signs of physical health are taken. Essentially blood pressure, pulse rate, respirations, and temperature are checked. Then neural check may be done; reflexes may be checked; further tests related to the reason for admission may be ordered. These checks and tests if done aid in the proper diagnosis and formulation of a treatment plan. Similarly there are vital signs of mental and spiritual health. In these short article vital signs of emotional or mental health is explored.

            When an emotionally disordered or mentally deranged person is seen by a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist, a mental status examination is performed. Through this assessment a person’s reality testing is checked. What is looked for is a person’s ability to adjust, adapt, and live according to norms in a given society, function meaningfully, relate to others (family, friends, co-workers, persons in authority, subordinates, other members in society), work, dispense obligations, enjoy privileges, experience satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness in life. Typically a person’s orientation to the three spheres, (place, person, and time), insight and judgment (good or poor), affect (appropriate, inappropriate, flat, restricted), thought (rational, irrational, peculiar), intellectual ability, personality disorders, unusual experiences, irrational fears (phobias), obsessions and compulsions, traumatic or catastrophic experiences, losses, addictions, and substance abuse are evaluated. Through carefully formulated probing questions and clinical observations in a comprehensive psychological interview, one’s level of intellectual functioning, the kind of insight and judgment, the level and kind of personality and mental impairment, adjustment, and over-all reality testing can be obtained for a tentative diagnosis and treatment plan.

            In sum: an emotionally healthy person is oriented, has bright affect, good insight and judgment, is able to enjoy work and life, have fun, develop and maintain good (not exploitative) relationships, and problem-solve, has good decision-making skills and a good attitude toward life, has a high level of energy, and is flexible enough to adapt to new situations and to compromise without sacrificing one’s values, and has good coping skills in stressful situations.


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