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Wellness within illness: happiness in schizophrenia.

  • Author(s): Palmer, Barton W
  • Martin, Averria Sirkin
  • Depp, Colin A
  • Glorioso, Danielle K
  • Jeste, Dilip V
  • et al.

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Schizophrenia is typically a chronic disorder and among the most severe forms of serious mental illnesses in terms of adverse impact on quality of life. Yet, there have been suggestions that some people with schizophrenia can experience an overall sense of happiness in their lives. We investigated happiness among 72 outpatients with non-remitted chronic schizophrenia with a mean duration of illness of 24.4 years, and 64 healthy comparison subjects (HCs). Despite continued treatment with antipsychotic medications, the individuals with schizophrenia manifested a mild to moderate level of psychopathology. People with schizophrenia reported lower mean levels of happiness than HCs, but there was substantial heterogeneity within the schizophrenia group. Level of happiness in persons with schizophrenia was significantly correlated with higher mental health-related quality of life, and several positive psychosocial factors (lower perceived stress, and higher levels of resilience, optimism, and personal mastery). However, level of happiness was not related to sociodemographic characteristics, duration of illness, severity of positive or negative symptoms, physical function, medical comorbidity, or cognitive functioning. Except for an absence of an association with resilience, the pattern of correlations of happiness with other variables seen among HCs was similar to that in individuals with schizophrenia. Although happiness may be harder to achieve in the context of a serious mental illness, it nonetheless appears to be a viable treatment goal in schizophrenia. Psychotherapies targeting positive coping factors such as resilience, optimism, and personal mastery warrant further investigation.

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