The human brain is complex, fascinating, and in many ways, still a mystery. Psychology, which is the study of the mind and behaviour, helps us to understand why people do what they do. Our understanding of psychology affects many areas of life, from how companies market products to how we treat mental illness.
Mental health care is one of the most important applications of psychology. Our mental health is affected by both genetic and environmental factors, and an in-depth understanding of psychology can help mental professionals understand what forces are impacting a person’s mental health and what can be done to help.
What is mental health?
Physical health describes the health and wellness of the body. Mental health describes a person’s emotional and psychological health. Just as physical health has its ups and downs, so does mental health.
People whose mental health is in a positive state are generally able to enjoy their lives and reach their full potential. Those who struggle with mental illness or have major stressors in their lives affecting their mental health might have trouble performing daily tasks or struggle to thrive. It is extremely important for people to get mental health support when they need it.
Those with mental illness are often stigmatized. However, lots of people struggle with their mental health at some point during their lives and need help from a psychologist or psychiatrist to provide therapy and/or medication.
Mental illnesses range from mild anxiety to debilitating schizophrenia, OCD, and other disorders. Some of these mental illnesses have a genetic component, while others occur due to experiences and environment. Psychology helps us better understand mental illnesses, how they affect the mind and human behaviour, and how best to treat them.
The study of abnormal psychology
Although it gets a lot of attention, the study of psychology is not just about abnormal psychology – which refers to people whose minds drive them to behave differently than most of the population – but about how psychology affects our behaviour as a whole.
People exhibiting behaviour that indicates abnormal psychology are relatively rare, so although it is important to understand how abnormal psychology impacts mental health and behaviour, it’s also valuable to learn more about how the mind drives us in our daily lives.
Areas of study for psychology majors
People who get into the field of psychology have lots of career options. They can become mental health professionals and assist people in dealing with trauma and mental illness. They can become researchers and work toward getting even more answers about human psychology. There are also roles for psychologists in areas as diverse as forensics and marketing.
Psychology majors will eventually gravitate toward specific areas of interest within the field of psychology. Some options include:
- Clinical psychology: the treatment of mental health disorders
- Cognitive psychology: the study of mental processes and the treatment of cognitive disorders
- Behaviour psychology: the study of behaviour and the treatment of behavioural disorders
- Developmental psychology: the study of how psychology changes during human development and the treatment of developmental disorders
- Abnormal psychology: the study of abnormal psychology and related disorders
During overview courses, students can identify which specialities interest them and dive into more specific coursework as they advance in their degree programs. A background in psychology is helpful for many different career paths, even if graduates do not choose to work directly in the field.
The ongoing role of psychology in mental health treatment
In the last hundred years or so, our understanding of psychology has increased immensely. This has led to incredible advances in our understanding of mental health and which factors that affect our well-being, behaviour, and our ability to recover from trauma or setbacks.
By enhancing our ability to understand how the mind works, mental health professionals can use that information to create new treatments and work more proactively toward better mental health for their patients. Researchers have already come a long way, but there’s still so much we can learn about psychology and how it impacts our mental health.
Alicia Saxon did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.