Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health | BrainsWay

The Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health

When considering emotional intelligence, mental health issues do not immediately come to mind. Rather, the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) is often contrasted with that of intelligence quotient (IQ), with the ramifications of one’s emotions left to be discussed in therapy or curtailed. However, the relationship between emotional intelligence and mental health has been empirically shown to be central to one’s overall wellbeing and is often a deciding factor in their ability to experience life in a deep and beneficial way.

Read on to find out more about the link between emotional intelligence and mental illness, its connection to one’s perception, and the importance of emotional intelligence in mental health as a whole.

emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: History of Conceptualization

The mental health field’s understanding and definition of emotional intelligence has evolved and changed over the last several decades, before reaching a generally agreed-upon conceptualization.

During the 1950s, humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow had initially spoken of “emotional strength,” when discussing one’s ability to manage their emotions.

In the 1990s, research psychologists Peter Salvoy and John D. Mayer gained professional recognition due to their theory on “emotional intelligence.” The two argued that individuals in possession of high emotional intelligence were not only able to better understand, identify, and cultivate their own emotional landscape through introspection, self-awareness, and self-regulation, but are also able to better understand the emotions of others through empathy.

Salvoy and Mayer further stated that access to this type of knowledge allowed those gifted with emotional intelligence to pivot their attention to the most crucial piece of present information, thereby making them better at progressing through murky, challenging situations.

Additionally, those with good emotional intelligence can influence those around them by utilizing what they are able to glean of other individuals’ emotions and adapting their own response in light of this information through efficient communication and social skills.

Finally, having the capacity to better understand emotions can contribute to an overall more efficient thinking process, as well as to the ability to think creatively in a more original manner.

Women talking with old man

Emotional Intelligence: Acknowledging the Importance of Feelings

These days, emotional intelligence (measured with emotional quotient, or EQ) is commonly referred to as a complementary facet to the more standardized and widely accepted intellectual abilities (measured through the intelligence quotient, or IQ). But while one’s IQ attests to abilities such as problem-solving abilities, understanding abstract concepts, and strategizing, EQ compels researchers, educators, and society at large to acknowledge just how central emotions are, not just to an individual’s ability to successfully navigate a particular challenge, but to how they experience life.

Emotions are no longer defined as an unruly element that must be tamed and scrutinized by one’s cognitive faculties. Instead, they are seen as an integral part of how inner life, external experiences, worldview, and concepts of right and wrong are understood. Emotions add depth and inspiration to how all things are perceived, and in doing so, provides key markings of a larger roadmap to better comprehend human existence.

Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health Conditions

Research has discovered a clear link between emotional intelligence and mental health disorders, the chief among them being anxiety and depression. Specifically, good emotional intelligence was found to protect against these disorders.

The inoculating effect emotional intelligence has against mental health disorders stands to reason, as it helps the individual better grasp potential stressors. In the case of anxiety, this can make the world a less threatening place, assuaging feelings of aversive hyperarousal, and helping them more easily return to a calmer state of being.

In the case of depression, being more adept at acknowledging one’s emotions can sustain their ability to fully process painful experiences or losses. This, in turn, can promote a greater capacity to mourn over abilities, dreams, or relationships that had been lost along one’s life, and to truly be able to move forward from their past.

Emotional Intelligence and Beneficial Mental Health

The association between emotional intelligence and advantageous, favorable mental health has been found to be less strong, compared to EQ’s above-mentioned ability to fortify against detrimental mental health disorders. Yet greater well-being has nevertheless been somewhat linked to certain aspects of emotional intelligence.

More specifically, the three EQs of attention to emotions, emotional clarity, and repair of detrimental emotions were found to be mediated by belongingness. In other words, participants who felt a greater sense of belonging to their current surroundings scored higher on the three EQ scales. Alternately, feelings of rejection were found to be related to lower scores on the above EQ scales.

Building Up One’s Emotional Intelligence

While some amount of EQ is innate, studies have found that emotional intelligence can be developed and enhanced. Referring to the above findings, for example, research has highlighted the important role that promoting a greater sense of belonging can have on an individual’s ability to understand their own emotions, manage and contain them, relate what they are feeling to others, and as a result, feel more at ease and accepted.