Mental illness and recovery

Mental illness and recovery

Mental illness and recovery 1200 902 Team Mindsum
Listen to this article (04:48)
Last updated: 4 January 2021

This article covers:

– What is recovery?

– Goals for recovery

– Types of recovery

The process of recovery

What helps the recovery process?

What is recovery?

For mental health, recovery has a different meaning compared to when we talk about recovery from a physical illness. Recovering from a mental illness does not always mean that the person experiences complete recovery in the way that they would from a physical illness.

In mental health, recovery is referred to as an ongoing process that involves learning new ways to cope with life and regaining control in certain areas such as mood, thoughts, emotions, behaviours and relationships. 

For many people, recovery is about fulfilling the goals that support a positive and meaningful life. You could say that you are recovered at any stage, as long as you feel better than when you first had the problem.

Goals of recovery

The goals of recovery are different for each person. This is something that you are usually asked to think about at the start of therapy. Here is a list of common goals that a person might want to work towards for their recovery:

  • Thinking more positively

  • Gaining control over emotions

  • To be completely free from negative symptoms

  • To have a better social life

  • To build healthy relationships

  • To do something that seems impossible

  • To discover more about the self

  • To look forward to the future

Types of recovery

Clinical recovery: This is the type of recovery that your doctor/therapist will find as they keep track of your symptoms during treatment. For example, you might fill out questionnaires on anxiety and find that your symptoms are not as strong and frequent anymore.  

Personal recovery: This is the type of recovery that is unique to you. You might notice changes in yourself and in your personal life. For example, you might generally feel happier and more satisfied in your relationships with loved ones.

The process of recovery

The process of recovering from a mental illness can also be very different for each person. Although, this can sometimes move between two extremes. This includes:

Making progress: This is when you are improving clinically and/or personally and getting closer to your goals of recovery. Each person makes progress at their own pace. Some individuals can make progress very rapidly compared to others.

Having setbacks: This is the opposite of making progress, where things may not work out as expected. This can be a normal part of the recovery process. This is also an opportunity to find new ways to move forward.

What helps the process of recovery?

Aside from the obvious things such as therapy, medication and self-help. There are some more general factors that can make a difference when it comes to recovering from a mental illness. These can include:

Research shows that support from family and friends is perhaps one of the most important keys to recovery. Loved ones provide an excellent support network that can encourage you to continue to make changes in your life. Loved ones are often a good source of emotional and practical support during difficult times in the recovery process.

Our attitude and behaviour towards our recovery also matters. Below are some examples of different attitudes that can be helpful for recovery when it comes to mental illness. These can include:

  • Acceptance: This might be the starting point of your recovery. Accepting that you are struggling can be hard, but it is important in order for you to work towards your goals in a realistic way.

  • Patience: This is an important attitude to have, especially when you experience setbacks in your recovery. We can be quite hard on ourselves, especially when progress does not happen as fast as we would like. Being patient will be helpful because recovery is a process and a journey that requires time and effort.

  • Persistence: When setbacks happen or something does not work out, you can easily feel discouraged or tempted to give up. Not giving up and being open to trying again is a good way to be persistent towards your recovery.

  • Discipline: This is where you are intentional about your recovery. This might mean that you make sure to set the time aside to focus on getting better by being on time to therapy, completing therapy homework, taking your medication and making effort to do what is necessary for you to get better.

Above all, it is good to remember that recovery from a mental illness is a journey and not a destination.

Josie’s Story
Josie has suffered from depression for a few months. Even though she has had therapy and no longer suffers from severe episodes, she sometimes still has some days where she struggles with her mood. She knows that doing morning exercises will help her mood during the day. So a few times a week, she makes sure to set some time aside for a morning walk. She hopes that one day she will be completely free from depression, but she also realizes that she still has much more to learn about other new ways to cope.”

List of useful resources

Mental Health Foundation
To read their information on recovery, you can click here to access the link.

Rethink Mental Illness 
To read their information on recovery, you can click here to access the link.

To read their information on recovery, you can click here to access the link.

Click here to get free advice from our experts

Photo by Loly Galina

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