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What feeling well actually means

In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Giovanni fava (Italy) and Per Bech (Denmark) analyze the clinical meaning of feeling well, which is indicated by the Greek word of euthymia. In clinical settings, when a patient no longer meets the threshold of a disorder such as depression or mania, he or she is often labeled as euthymic. However, considerable fluctuations in psychological distress, often subsumed under the rubric of subclinical or residual symptomatology, have been recorded in studies with longitudinal designs, suggesting that the illness is always active, even though its intensity may vary.

The term euthymia encompasses four different meanings: life energy; feelings and passions; will, desire and inclination; thought and intelligence. It can be represented as a psychological state of quiet satisfaction, a balance of emotions that defeats fears, linked psychological well-being as a learning process.

To achieve such state of psychological balance another characteristic is however essential: psychological flexibility. Jahoda outlining the characteristics that was very much related to the concept of euthymia defined the importance of the individual’s balance of psychic forces (flexibility), a unifying outlook on life which guides actions and feelings to shape the future accordingly, and resistance to stress (resilience and anxiety or frustration tolerance). Kashdan and Rottenberg view psychological flexibility as the ability to recognize and adapt to various situational demands; to change one’s paradigms when these strategies compromise personal or social functioning; to maintain balance among important life domains, and to display consistency in one’s behavior and deeply held values. The absence of flexibility may thus yield depression, anxiety and the general tendency to experience negative emotions more frequently, intensely, and readily, for more enduring periods of time, in what has been subsumed under the rubric of neuroticism. Conversely, as pointed out by the Authors, the presence of psychological balance through cognitive flexibility can help individuals not only to recover from psychiatric disorders but also to deal with traumatic experience and chronic medical condition.