Anxiety study shows common factors in feeling better

Chris Burns - Jan 8, 2020, 1:46pm CST
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Anxiety study shows common factors in feeling better

A group of researchers led by Esme Fuller-Thomson of the University of Toronto showed some good news on anxiety and GAD. GAD is generalized anxiety disorder, the subject of Fuller-Thomson’s mental health study that worked with a sample of more than 2,000 people. Each of these study subjects had a history of GAD.

Anxiety in remission

Esme Fuller-Thomson is a Professor at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Department of Family & Community Medicine and also Director of the University of Toronto’s Institute for Life Course and Aging. She’s been a part of a wide variety of studies on mental health, depression, and anxiety over the past several decades.

The study investigated three levels of recovery from GAD, and found that a whopping 72% of their study pool of GAD sufferers were free of the mental health condition for at least one year (at latest check). “We were so encouraged 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,” said Fuller-Thomson.

a release on the research quoted Fuller-Thomson, who said, “This research provides a very hopeful message for individuals struggling with anxiety, their families and health professionals.” Fuller-Thomson continued, saying that “even among those who have suffered for many years with the disorder,” full recovery is possible – or at least that’s what the study seems to suggest.

Higher odds of excellent mental health

According to the requirements used by the study, a person had to achieve three things in order to be defined “in excellent mental health.” They needed…

• High levels of social and psychological well-being in the past month
• “Almost daily” happiness or life satisfaction in the past month
• An absence of GAD and other depressive disorders, substance dependence, and suicidal thoughts for “at least” the full last year

The research suggests that “many with a history of anxiety disorders can achieve CMH” [CMH: Complete Mental Health] A set of factors that “appear to facilitate this process” was shown in the research, and is as follows:

• female gender
• older age
• being married
• reporting good to excellent physical health
• being free of chronic insomnia
• being able to manage household activities without difficulties
• using religion to cope
• using spirituality to cope
• having a confidant
• never having had a major depressive disorder nor substance dependence

Per the study, “Presence of a confidant and lack of disability have the greatest impact on the anxiety-complete mental health relationship both in the general population and among a subsample of those with a previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.”

NOTE: The full sample of study subjects was over 21,000 individuals. From that, just 2128 were determined to have had a history of GAD. The study noted above worked with data drawn from Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

For more information on this study, see the paper “Achieving complete mental health despite a history of generalized anxiety disorders: Findings from a large, nationally representative Canadian survey” with DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.12.004 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the official journal of the International Society for Affective Disorders (at publish time, this paper was available online soon). This research was authored by Esme Fuller-Thomson and Kandace Ryckman.


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