Find help and online resources for:

Mental health problems


Mentalization is the ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling. It is to understand misunderstandings, and to see oneself from the outside and others from within. Poor mentalizing ability is linked to poor social functioning and mental illness.

 Image: Dreamstime (with licence)

The mentalizing ability

In the real world, we can't see each other's thought bubbles. We have to guess what others are feeling and thinking. The Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud says:

Mentalization is about the mind. It is about understanding and knowing the mind reasonably well. It's about being interested in the mind. It is about others, but also their own. One way of saying this is to try to understand others from within and also to be able to see oneself from the outside, and to understand relationships between people.

When mentalization fails, there are often misunderstandings, and in psychiatry there are many misunderstandings in the sense of strong symptoms. A lot of psychiatry can be understood as impaired mentalization.

Mostly we are pretty good, most of us, but some strive more. But we all lose good mentalization when there are strong emotions going on.


Weakened mentalization and mental problems

When we fail to imagine different reasons why they behave the way they do, we create many problems for ourselves - and for others.

People are different in terms of mentalizing ability. Most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves. Others struggle hard to understand themselves and others. Poor mentalizing ability is linked to poor social functioning and mental illness.

It characterizes many personality disorders.

Here we find dysfunctional thought patterns where thoughts are often confused with reality, or one has thoughts that are poorly connected to reality. And above all, emotions will often take control. And this is especially true for emotionally unstable personality disorder.


Mentalization and emotionally unstable personality disorder

People with emotionally unstable personality disorder have a low threshold for feeling rejected and at the same time a low threshold for aggression. They often have troubled lives where they and the people around them are in a lot of pain, and they do not tolerate being abandoned by people they care about. Often this leads to suicide attempt.

They are also quite confused as to their own identity: Who am I really?

Emotionally unstable personality disorders have been considered difficult to treat. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) can point to good treatment outcomes for emotionally unstable personality disorder.


Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT)

In the video, you can learn more about what characterizes this form of treatment, and how it works in practice. The key to treatment is to follow the manual and to maintain a mentalizing focus.

At Oslo University Hospital, Norway, they have their own MBT-lab which will be a support for therapists who use MBT as a treatment method, and which also forms the basis for a number of research projects.

MBT consists of both psychoeducation, group therapy and individual therapy.

We believe that through this tradition, professionals can meet and further develop what they are good at, Finn Skårderud concludes.



Also read