It’s simple for us to slip into all-or-nothing mindsets. An example would be: a person has some psychological difficulties so their life must be miserable. But that’s a mistaken assumption. So argue a group of Dutch positive psychologists, who’ve studied over seven thousand individuals over a three year period. Yes, individuals participants with a psychological disorder had been much less content than those without having, but the majority (68.4 per cent) of the mentally troubled mentioned they “typically felt happy” during the preceding four weeks (this compares with 89.1 per cent of people with no a psychological difficulty). “The possibility of coexisting joy and mental problems is of clinical relevance,” publish Ad Bergsma and his group. “A narrow focus on what goes wrong in the lives of the client and forgetting what goes well, might restrict therapeutic outcomes.”
The researchers recruited their sample, representative of the common population, from across the country. Trained interviewers questioned volunteers in individual or over the phone to set up indicators of psychological disorder in the past month, with 16.5 per cent of the sample currently being judged to have a disorder primarily based on psychiatric diagnostic criteria. Joy was measured with a single question about frequency of satisfied moods over the preceding four weeks, on a scale from “in no way” to “always”. Relying on people’s reports of their personal joy, making use of this one question, is an apparent weakness of the study.
Not remarkably, amongst those with a psychological issue, happiness was lowest in individuals with anxiousness and depression (even though still a significant minority of these people reported regular satisfied moods). By contrast, happiness was highest in these with an alcohol abuse disorder, getting nearly as regular as in the healthful participants. There weren’t enough situations of consuming issues and psychosis to examine these situations separately.
By following their sample up over time, the researchers established that much more happiness at the study commence was associated with far better outcomes later on on, in terms of recovery from psychological disorder. Further evaluation suggested this was because higher happiness was a proxy for possessing fewer mental problems, being younger, and possessing greater “emotional role working” (as indicated by managing to commit time on work and other actions). The truth that joy was associated with later outcomes supplies some support for the validity of the way that joy was measured.
“Our understanding of mental problems is incomplete if we only look at the negative side of the spectrum,” the researchers said. “This study aims to broaden the view on positive functioning and human strengths in the context of mental disorders.”
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To coincide with the Mental Health Month Blog Party organised by the APA, I’ve collated some highlights from our coverage of mental health issues here at the BPS Research Digest. Be happy. There’s reason for hope. Sometimes mental health problems can have an upside, for example this post suggested that anxiety has benefits.