Defining physical and emotional health

Defining physical and emotional health

Perhaps there are few things more controversial in psychology than defining the normal, not so the physical and emotional health. Long ago, there was a more psychopathological vision of the discipline. However, today, with the advance of positive psychology, it is about offering a vision from the health and not exclusively from the disease.


  • 1 A new concept of health
  • 2 Final Comments
  • 3 References

A new health concept

The World Health Organization (WHO), conceptualize health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Not feeling unwell is not synonymous with health, it is much more complex than that, since there is a subclinical stage in the pathologies in which the disease is not yet manifested.

There are also pathologies that do not present clinical manifestations until later stages, as in cancer. That said, and according to Apreda (2010), health would not be the absence of disease but the balance in the set of factors: biological, economic, social, political and environmental that allow personal development.

The opposite side to health would be the disease, a physical or psychological alteration of our inner balance, which can present morphological, biochemical and functional phenomena that hinder or incapacitate the habitual development of the individual.

What is understood by health and disease in psychopathology?

Mental health is the ability to interact satisfactorily with the environment, which allows the subject to resolve any adversity that occurs on a day-to-day basis.

Despite the difficulty of the task, a mentally healthy person has the ability to deal with problems satisfactorily.

For a person to be considered mentally healthy, they must meet the following requirements

  1. Subjective feeling of biopsychosocial well-being: It is important that there is a positive balance between the I internal and external of the person, since all this influences their well-being
  2. Perception of physical, emotional, social integrity, etc.: vision that the person has towards himself. There is health if you do not perceive that there are threats to your integrity
  3. Resistance and good coping mechanisms to stress and tolerance to frustration
  4. Consistent, positive and realistic perception of himself, of the world around him and of others
  5. The subject is adjusted to your psychosocial environment and it is perceived as autonomous and competent: It can communicate and function correctly according to the environment in which it is located.

"From the social point of view, a person has mental health if he is able to perform in society the function that concerns him. That is, if he is able to participate in the process of economic production of that society. Instead, from the individual point of view, health or normality is the optimum of development and happiness of the individual "- Erich Fromm

Mental health is subjective because it develops differently in each person. In fact, it varies depending on personality, aspirations, moral values ​​and family and cultural environment.

Health and normality

According to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), normality is that which by its nature, form or magnitude, conforms to certain standards set in advance. So it is in its natural state and serves as a rule.

Criteria of normal in psychosocial functioning

  • It is normal the socially and culturally accepted: Although human behavior is very varied and is influenced by many factors such as family or culture, regularly there are certain patterns that are repeated internationally and are the ones used to define normality standard.
  • You can, with great caution, define the normality based on statistical criteriaWhat is in the average is what is considered normal.
    • For example: Gauss's bell. Height, weight, IQ can be evaluated under this criterion. In this case, as statistical results are also influenced by culture. In psychology there are scales
    • These are numerical tables that are used in psychometrics to record the results obtained in a test and be compared in relation to the cultural group to which the person belongs
    • Normality is important here because the results are good / bad or high / low only when the context is taken into account social status of the person being studied
  • Normal doesn't hurt: According to some researchers, it is considered normal what does not harm and abnormal or pathological harmful or dysfunctional.

Final comments

At present, still prevailing (although less and less) the vision of a psychology as a duck-psychology. Perhaps this is so because from the beginning psychology was dedicated to the evaluation, diagnosis and psychological treatment of the various mental pathologies.

Further, it is much easier to define the abnormality and disease than health, because this (as well as happiness) is a tremendously subjective and difficult to define concept.

Although the goal of psychology is not to define what it is normal, since any deviation, therefore, would be considered dangerous and pathological, nowadays if we are getting closer and closer to a broader and more comprehensive definition of health. Once again, the influence of psychological and environmental variables is again more than determining.


Apreda, G. A. (2010).Psychopathology, psychiatry and mental health. Editorial of the National University of La Plata (EDULP).

Peña-Herrera, B. (2018) General Psychopathology. Samborondón: Espiritu Santo University - Ecuador.