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Navigating The Balance: The Pros and Cons of Self Control in Mental Health

Self-control is often considered a respectable virtue that empowers individuals to manage their impulses and make rational decisions. In the realm of mental health, the interplay between self-control and well-being is surprisingly complicated. This blog explores the pros and cons of self-control in the context of mental health, shedding light on both its positive and potentially detrimental aspects. 

What are the cons of self-control in mental health?

Perfectionism: Excessive self-control may lead to perfectionism, where we set unrealistically high standards for ourselves. This can contribute to anxiety, stress, and a negative impact on mental health as individuals strive for unattainable goals.

Emotional Suppression: While self-control helps regulate emotions, there is a risk of suppressing emotions entirely. Suppressing emotions means purposely and consciously not acknowledging, accepting, or processing them. This can happen as a result of not having adequate, healthy coping mechanisms. Sometimes we learn to deny our true emotions and believe they will simply go away if ignored long enough. This emotional suppression can lead to a build-up of tension and may contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Strain on Mental Resources: Constantly exerting self-control can be mentally exhausting. Over time, we may experience cognitive fatigue, reducing our ability to cope with stressors and potentially leading to mental health challenges.

Social Isolation: Excessive self-control may contribute to social isolation as we fear expressing our true selves. Social connections are vital for emotional support, and without these connections we would experience loneliness and therefore, poor mental health.

What are the pros of self-control in mental health?

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Emotional Regulation

While emotions are a normal part of everyday life and we expect to feel them regularly, some of us experience emotions that are more volatile with higher highs and lower lows. They impact our lives and daily functioning. One of the key benefits of self-control is its role in emotional regulation. Individuals with a high degree of self-control can navigate challenging or strong emotions and choose a way to respond to that emotion that has the least negative consequences.

“The best fighter is never angry.” ― Lao Tzu.

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Goal Attainment

Self-control is instrumental in goal setting and attainment. It allows us to stay focused on long-term objectives, fostering a sense of accomplishment and purpose that contributes positively to mental well-being. We can work on setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals regardless of our mental health status.

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Stress Management

A strong sense of self-control enables individuals to cope with stress more effectively. By avoiding impulsive behaviors and maintaining composure in challenging situations, we can ‘bounce back’ from stressful situations. Albert Bandura explains that personal self-efficacy is the belief in one’s abilities to do something. If we believe that we have the power to overcome our stressors, we are more willing to attempt to overcome them.

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Improved Relationships

The ability to exercise self-control in communication and behavior is crucial for building and maintaining healthy relationships. This skill fosters understanding, patience, and empathy, creating a positive social environment that supports mental well-being. As we exercise self-control, we are more likely to be aware of our own as well as our partner’s unique needs and how we can work together to build a safe, and successful relationship.

To conclude, in the intricate dance between self-control and mental health, finding the right balance is crucial. While self-control brings numerous advantages such as emotional regulation and goal attainment, its potential downsides, including perfectionism and emotional suppression, emphasize the importance of a nuanced approach. Recognizing the pros and cons allows us to harness the benefits of self-control while safeguarding our mental well-being.

Meet The Author

Ahmarin Noor, Clinical Therapist at Sea Glass Mental Health in Arizona and Hawaii

AHMARIN NOOR

MC, LAC

Meet The Author

Ahmarin is a Clinical Counselor at Sea Glass Mental Health. She works with teens, adults, and couples. Ahmarin specializes in depression, anxiety, grief and loss, relationships, immigration related challenges, systemic oppression, and life changes.

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