Prince Harry & Mental Healthby Dr Emma Gray - 18th May, 2017
Prince Harry Discloses Seeking Help with Mental Health
Prince Harry has revealed that he pursued counselling after he “shut down all his emotions” for nearly two decades as a result of struggling to cope with grief of his mother’s death. In his interview with The Telegraph Prince Harry shared, “my way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?”
Avoiding or blocking out negative emotions is a very common way of dealing with distress. In the short term is can bring relief but when used as a longer term coping strategy blocking out emotions can lead to more pervasive mood disorders like Anxiety and Depression.
Negative emotions serve an important function, they alert us to problems that need to be resolved or challenges that need to be tackled. Anxiety alerts us to potential danger or motivates us to prepare for challenges. Anger alerts us to mistreatment of ourselves or others. Sadness (as in the case of grief) draws our attention inwards so that we can reconfigure our lives and relationships and move forward in the face of a loss or changes.
Negative emotions are designed by nature to be strong so that we pay attention and respond to them, so it is often the case that avoiding them takes more than sheer will power. It is therefore common for people to use certain behaviours to help them distract themselves or block out negative emotions, for example, misuse of drugs and alcohol, self harm, bingeing, purging and food restriction (i.e. an eating disorder). Interestingly Princess Diana is thought to have struggled with an eating disorder and so maybe it is not surprising that her son ended up ‘shutting down’ his emotions.
Dealing with negative emotions is a skill that must be learned and if we are not taught it by our parents we may need some professional help in the form of therapy or counselling in order to obtain these skills and then deal with the inevitable Anxiety and Depression that will occur as a result of trying to avoid negative emotions. The most effective types of therapy for anxiety, depression and anger that result from the long term avoidance of emotions are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Both types of therapy will help you to understand why and how you currently manage your emotions and teach you healthier alternatives that will bring balance to your mood and enable you to use your emotions to effectively navigate through your life.