People can recover and thrive after mental illness and substance use disorders

Newswise – Past research on mental illness has primarily focused on chronic and recurring mood, anxiety and substance use disorders that prevent people from thriving and enjoying life. New research published in the journal Clinical Psychological Scienceshowever, reports that many people who have suffered from mental illness are able to thrive and lead high-level lives.

“Our research tells us how many people can recover from mental illness and go on to live lives with high levels of well-being and functioning,” said Andrew Devendorf, a researcher at the University of South Florida and main author of the article. . “Contrary to traditional clinical wisdom, we have found that mental illness and substance use disorders can reduce but do not prevent the possibility of thriving.”

Researchers have also found that having longer episodes of mental illness or suffering from multiple mental illnesses over the course of one’s life reduces, but does not eliminate, the chances of thriving.

Data for this research come from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey—Mental Health, a nationally representative survey that included more than 25,000 Canadian participants aged 15 to 80 and older. The survey collected information on participants’ lifetime and 12-month mental health status, their access to and perceived need for formal and informal services and supports, functioning and disabilities, and other factors that affect mental health.

Devendorf and colleagues compared the mental health issues tracked in the survey and other data associated with each participant’s quality of life, including their social relationships, positive emotions, perceived quality of life, and functioning ( ability to fulfill life roles). The researchers then calculated how many people with a lifetime history of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or substance use disorders, met the criteria for ‘thriving’. at the time of the study.

To be considered thriving after depression, a person not only had to be free from core symptoms of depression, but they also had to report better well-being than 75% of non-depressed adults surveyed in the United States. “We set the bar very high to thrive,” Devendorf said.

The results of the comparison showed that about 10% of Canadians with a history of mental illness met the criteria for thriving, compared to about 24% of Canadians who had no history of mental illness. People with a history of substance use disorder (10%), depression (7%) and anxiety (6%) were more likely to thrive than people with a history of bipolar disorder (3% ).

“These results show that mental illnesses reduce, but do not prevent, the possibility of meeting prosperity criteria,” Devendorf said. “While thriving after mental illness was not necessarily common, it should be noted that diagnostic recoveries from mental illness were much more common.”

The study found that about two-thirds (67%) of people with a mental illness during their lifetime experienced symptomatic recovery, meaning they no longer met the diagnostic criteria for a mental illness. particular disease. The speed at which people recover from mental illness and reach moderate to good, rather than optimal, levels of well-being is likely much higher, the researchers speculate.

“While we know that traditional mental health treatments, such as therapy and medication, can reduce symptoms of mental illness, there is a lack of research on how treatments affect outcomes like well-being. being and functioning,” Devendorf said. “Now that we know it is possible to thrive after mental illness, we hope researchers will begin to study how existing treatments can increase the chances of thriving after mental illness.”


For more information, see the APS Mental Health Research Topic.

Media can request a copy of this article from: [email protected].

Reference: Devendorf, A., Rum, R., Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, T. (2022). Optimal well-being after psychopathology: prevalence and correlates. Clinical Psychological Sciences. Early online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/21677026221078872

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