List

Happiness: an often-overlooked goal of treatment

Even though most people would point to happiness as an ultimate goal in life, psychiatry tends to limit its focus to the relief of suffering.
Certainly, this has been the case with schizophrenia, where scientific and clinical attention has been directed toward trying to understand the nature of the illness and eliminating its symptoms.

Little work has focused on the extent to which happiness is present among people with this condition or the factors that may predict it.

Yet real mental health is more than just the absence of symptoms. Mental health should also consider positive mental states like purpose, satisfaction… and happiness.

A Happiness Study

In Wellness within illness: Happiness in schizophrenia, Barton W Palmer and colleagues administered a validated happiness questionnaire to 72 people with chronic schizophrenia who continued to experience symptoms of schizophrenia despite treatment with antipsychotic medications. A comparison group of age- and gender-matched 64 healthy subjects took the same tests.

Besides the happiness survey, study participants also completed questionnaires that looked at a variety of other happiness-related factors such as: severity of psychopathology; cognitive functioning; physical health; and psychosocial factors such as stress level, resilience, optimism, social support, attitude toward aging, and spirituality.

The Angel is in the Details

The average happiness score among the group with symptomatic schizophrenia was lower than the average happiness score of the healthy comparison group. This headline number might sound discouraging. However, the angel is in the details.

Even though the average happiness score in the schizophrenia groups was lower, the variation around that score was almost twice as great, suggesting a wide range of happiness states among those with the illness.

It turns out that over a third (37.5%) of the people in the schizophrenia group reported high levels of happiness. This despite having had the illness for a long time and still experiencing symptoms despite taking medication.

Factors Associated with Happiness in Schizophrenia

Health or Illness Status ≠ Happiness

Many things that one might imagine would predict happiness were actually unrelated to happiness in this study.
“There were no significant correlations of happiness with age, education, or duration of illness. In the schizophrenia group, there were no significant correlations between happiness and positive, negative, or anxiety symptoms, nor physical health, or cognitive functioning measures”

Strong Correlations with Psychosocial Factors

In contrast to the nonsignificant roles of physical, social or psychopathological factors in predicting happiness, there were significant associations between happiness and positive psychosocial factors.

Perceived stress, Resilience, Optimism, and Sense of Personal Mastery were strongly associated with higher levels of happiness among people with chronic schizophrenia.

Significance

This study shows that there are people with chronic, symptomatic schizophrenia who are happy. This finding is consistent with findings from Agid et al. (2012) that happiness levels among people with remitted first episode schizophrenia were equivalent to the happiness level of healthy comparison subjects. 

Clearly, happiness within schizophrenia is possible.

The big question then becomes: are there things we can recommend that will increase the likelihood of happiness for those with schizophrenia?

I should emphatically note here that this is a correlationalstudy. It shows a relationship between happiness and these psychosocial variables. It cannot say if these are causally related. So, we don’t know for example if being more resilient causes greater happiness, or whether being happier leads one to have higher resilience skills.

On the other hand…
Optimism can be learned.
Resilience skills can be taught.
Stressors can often be managed,
and one’s responses to stress can be modified.

So, this study’s findings certainly suggest the possibility that helping people improve their sense of personal mastery, seeking ways to reduce perceived stress, and fostering optimism and resilience might directly improve happiness among people with schizophrenia. Learning and practicing these skills is worthwhile for anyone. It stands to reason that they may be especially worthwhile for people with illness.

  Posts

1 2
April 20th, 2019

Cannabis Probably Does Cause Schizophrenia

Psychosis is one of the oldest and best-documented risks of cannabis use.  Associations between cannabis use and psychosis appeared in […]

April 16th, 2019

Paucity of studies showing an ability of CBD to reduce biomarkers of inflammation in man

Below is a complete list of titles from a search of the medical literature for studies looking at the ability […]

April 15th, 2019

Paucity of studies documenting the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis in man

There is a lot of talk about how cannabis can reduce inflammation. I decided to see how many studies have […]

April 1st, 2019

Cannabis and Anxiety

Free Download: Printable Infographic In this post, I offer you a free, downloadable infographic that you may freely share, print, […]

April 1st, 2019

An Over-The-Counter Solution For Self-Injurious Behavior?

N-acetylcysteine shows promise in the treatment of recurrent self-injury, according to initial clinical reports An over-the-counter pharmaceutical Clinical reports suggest […]

March 13th, 2019

Recovery From Schizophrenia

What does recovery from schizophrenia look like? How about graduating from college and running a nonprofit organization? That’s what recovery […]

March 8th, 2019

Medical Marijuana: 19th Century-Style

Everyone knew that cannabis was medicinal in 1880. They also knew that all medicines have side effects Cannabis feels like the […]

March 6th, 2019

Eskatamine is approved for depression, but this psychiatrist is sad

Depression is a serious illness… and lethal. About 10% of people with depression will commit suicide. The FDA just approved […]

November 8th, 2018

Natural cures for schizophrenia?

Complementary, alternative, and dietary or nutritional treatments are popular because they suggest the possibility of cure illness without the side […]

November 1st, 2018

Keto diet for schizophrenia

A dietary solution for symptoms of psychosis? This week, I’m preparing a short lecture with the title “Complementary, alternative, and […]