The ABC’s of Mental Health

If there is anything that therapists all agree on, it’s this simple truth…people are complicated. People are complicated, and “mental health” is a blanket term that covers a whole lot of factors, ranging from the physical to the spiritual, and everything else in between. The treatment of mental health concerns draws from physiology, psychology, culture…all the things that make us human.

Navigating the complexities of mental health can be daunting. That’s why adopting a mindset conducive to growth and positive change is essential. Enter the ABC’s of mental health—a simple yet powerful framework to guide therapy.

The ABC’s of Mental Health: Always Be Curious

Curiosity, simply put, is the desire to better understand something. Let’s explore how cultivating a curious attitude can effectively address three prevalent mental health concerns: anxiety, anger, and addiction.


We’ve all felt the rush of anxiety—a racing heart and surging nervous energy as we anticipate future challenges. When normal pressure morphs into debilitating anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) offers a valuable set of tools. CBT identifies cognitive distortions, unhelpful automatic thoughts that intensify emotional responses. Some common distortions might look something like this:

All or nothing thinking – “If my presentation doesn’t go perfectly, then I’m a failure and my career is doomed…”
Mind reading – “Everyone thinks that I’m terrible at this…”
Should statements – “I should be better at this by now…”

These distortions stem from our assumptions about reality based on our daily experiences, and prompt us to act as if our assumptions are facts. Maintaining a curious attitude can help unravel these distortions. Curiosity motivates us to test assumptions, understand others’ perspectives, and challenge rigid thinking patterns that are often driven by emotions.


Addressing anger issues often involves identifying triggers—things that consistently provoke our temper. Similar to cognitive distortions, anger triggers usually revolve around the perception of danger. You can see how curiosity can be a big help here. First, a curious attitude can motivate a desire to recognize your unique triggers. Beyond that, curiosity can help provide you with the ability to figure out why those triggers cause you to feel threatened.

For example, it’s good to understand that, say, when someone speaks to you in a snarky tone of voice it triggers your anger. It’s even more helpful to engage in curious self-reflection to better understand what part of you feels threatened by snark, and why you have an unhelpful anger response to an otherwise harmless tone of voice. In short, curiosity helps us to move beyond simple recognition to self-reflection.


Addiction presents a set of especially complex challenges. On one hand, addiction causes chaotic and unpredictable outcomes. On the other, the course addiction follows a predictable pattern—initial relief, increased need, preoccupation, and dependence.

The first stage of addiction comes when you indulge in a drug or behavior because it makes you feel better. This reaction, initially a relief, becomes a dangerous cycle. Over time, you need to take more of the drug to get the desired effect. You then become preoccupied – the drug or behavior becomes the focus of your life. Eventually, you need to take the drug simply to avoid feeling terrible, and the addiction becomes the focus of your life. In other words, an addiction not only ruins physical health and threatens relationships, it crushes our innate curiosity about the world and our place in it.

Recognizing the life-consuming nature of addiction is a crucial step toward overcoming it. Shifting focus from the addiction to rekindling curiosity about oneself and others is a vital part of the recovery process. A healthy curiosity becomes the antidote to the toxic predictability of addiction, fostering a renewed connection with the world and the people in our lives, countering the negative stress reactions that addiction fosters.

The ABC’s of mental health—Always Be Curious—serve as a mental health compass, guiding us toward understanding, growth, and positive change in our complex journey toward well-being.



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