Successful Recovery from Mental Illness Requires Emotional Support

Broader definitions of mental illness and a corresponding increase in number of diagnoses are causing patients with the most common disorders to receive less support and sympathy from family members and society as a whole, according to data published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Analyzing 165 interviews with persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and less severe disorders, researchers found that those with more common and socially-accepted conditions, like mild mood disorders or depression, were less likely to receive strong reactions from those with whom they came into contact, including family, friends, and co-workers. Because of this, the support networks that might otherwise provide care or forgiveness for socially unacceptable behavior may be less willing to do so.

The author of the study believes that this indifference stems from improved treatment protocols and willingness of society to discuss more common conditions. This means family members are less alarmed to learn of a depression diagnosis, for example, and likely to underestimate the effect such a diagnosis has on the patient. These patients are less likely to be seen as "sick", despite the disorders in question being clearly defined as medical conditions.

On the other side of the spectrum, patients with more outwardly apparent diseases, such as schizophrenia, are likely to receive stronger support from close friends and family, while facing greater discrimination and rejection from strangers and those with whom the patient has only a passing acquaintance.

Source: SAGE Publications

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