Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric illness, yet researchers know very little about factors linked to recovery.
In a new study, researchers examined three levels of recovery in a large, representative sample of more than 2,000 Canadians with a history of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
They found that 72% of Canadians with a history of GAD have been free of the mental health condition for at least one year.
Overall, 40% were in a state of excellent mental health, and almost 60% had no other mental illness or addiction issues, such as suicidal thoughts, substance dependence, a major depressive disorder or a bipolar disorder.
The definition of excellent mental health sets a very high bar. To be defined in excellent mental health, respondents had to achieve three things:
1) almost daily happiness or life satisfaction in the past month, 2) high levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month, and 3) freedom from generalized anxiety disorder and depressive disorders, suicidal thoughts and substance dependence for at least the preceding full year.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Toronto.
The team says they are glad to learn that even among those whose anxiety disorders had lasted a decade or longer, half had been in remission from GAD for the past year and one-quarter had achieved excellent mental health and well-being.
This research provides a very hopeful message for people struggling with anxiety, their families and health professionals.
The findings suggest that full recovery is possible, even among those who have suffered for many years with the disorder.
People who had at least one person in their lives who provided them with a sense of emotional security and wellbeing were three times more likely to be in excellent mental health than those without a confidant.
The team says for those with anxiety disorders, the social support that extends from a confidant can foster a sense of belonging and self-worth which may promote recovery.
In addition, those who turned to their religious or spiritual beliefs to cope with everyday difficulties had 36% higher odds of excellent mental health than those who did not use spiritual coping.
The researchers say that poor physical health, functional limitations, insomnia and a history of depression were impediments to excellent mental health in the sample.
The lead author of the study is Esme Fuller-Thomson.
The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
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