What Is the Difference Between Psychological & Mental Problems?

By Brooke Nichols

Psychological and mental are terms that are used interchangeably to describe similar issues. Both types of problems interfere with the levels at which a person functions. However, these terms are often perceived in different ways and may affect how an individual with such problems is treated.

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Psychological and mental are terms that are used interchangeably to describe similar issues. Both types of problems interfere with the levels at which a person functions. However, these terms are often perceived in different ways and may affect how an individual with such problems is treated.

Significance

Distinguishing between psychological and mental problems is significant in that the two adjectives carry different meanings and levels of stigma in society.

Identification

Mental problems are identified based on experience and observation of a variety of symptoms that culminate in a psychiatric diagnosis. With psychological problems, the clinician formulates a hypothesis based on symptoms in addition to social and environmental factors affecting the patient.

Psychological Problems

Suffering from psychological problems is perceived to be a result of environmental factors or social circumstances. This perception places responsibility on external factors that are beyond the person's control.

Mental Problems

Mental problems are perceived to be caused by individual weakness or genetic faults. This perception places the blame for the problem on internal factors that the patient should be responsible for controlling.

Considerations

Describing an individual's problem as "psychological" allows respect for spiritual, religious and cultural practices that are outside the norm. Describing the problem as "mental" causes stigma that is sometimes associated with incompetence, crime or violence.

References

About the Author

Brooke Nichols is a licensed professional counselor in Kansas and Missouri who has been writing since April 2009. She provides mental health services to consumers needing consultation for emotional and behavioral needs. Nichols educates families on these needs with a practice specializing in trauma and acute psychiatric care for children. She holds a master's degree in psychology from Antioch University Seattle.

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