Mental health

Mental illness may be a common life experience

girl depression
girl depression

Abnormal is the new normal — at least for mental health. Only a small share of the population stays mentally healthy from age 11 to 38. Everyone else experiences a mental illness at some point, a new study finds.

“For many, an episode of mental disorder is like influenza, bronchitis, kidney stones, a broken bone or other [common] conditions,” says Jonathan Schaefer. He is a psychologist at Duke University. A coauthor of the study, he notes that “Sufferers experience impaired functioning. Many seek medical care, but most recover.”

The study looked at 988 people who lived in New Zealand. Only 171 — or about one in six people —experienced no anxiety disorders, depression or other mental ailments from late childhood to middle age. Of the rest, half experienced a mental disorder that lasted a short time. This was typically just a bout of depression, anxiety or substance abuse. The person then recovered.

The remaining 408 people — roughly two out of every five — experienced one or more mental disorders that lasted at least several years. Their diagnoses included more severe conditions. These may have included bipolar and psychotic disorders.

Schaefer and his colleagues shared their findings in the February Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

By the numbers…

The researchers analyzed data on people born between April 1972 and March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand. Each person’s general health and behavior was assessed 13 times from birth to age 38. Mental health was assessed eight times from age 11 onward.

Previous studies had linked several traits with a lower chance of developing mental disorders. These included growing up in an unusually well-off family and enjoying really good physical health. Scoring very high on intelligence tests also has been linked to good mental health. Surprisingly, however, the New Zealanders who stayed mentally healthy scored…

This How Talk Therapy Changes Our Brains for the Better

Talk therapy is often considered the soft option when it comes to mental health treatment. Yet millions of patients and numerous studies testify to its long-term effectiveness, and now researchers say one type of talk therapy can produce visible changes in patients’ brains. They published their research in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

One of the best-known and most successful techniques is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. People in CBT learn skills that allow them to challenge and disrupt unpleasant and negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT is especially useful for people experiencing psychosis, a state of mind in which it becomes hard—if not impossible—to tell what’s real and what’s not. CBT for psychosis (CBTp) gives patients the tools to reframe their troubling thoughts and help calm themselves down.

For the study, researchers recruited 22 people who were already on medication to help with…