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 this 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 one’s obligations, enjoy one’s privileges, and 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 use are evaluated.
Let us look at a few examples. To a question: In what way an orange and a banana alike? One might answer: both are fruits, another might answer: both have peels, and a third might answer: one is round and the other is long. These three answers indicate three distinct reasoning levels of a person. To a question: Would you jump into a lake to save a drowning person knowing that you cannot swim? if the answer is yes, it indicates poor judgment. If one answers yes to a question, Do you see things that are not there? We know that person has visual hallucinations. A comprehensive interview consisting of detailed and probing questions as well as clinical observations during the interview can elicit an accurate diagnosis in view of an adequate 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.