Mental Health Self-Management Skills Have Short Life Span

When people receive therapeutic treatment for mental health issues, they usually do so for a finite period of time. Regardless of how long someone is in therapy, he or she will often learn self-management techniques that can be applied outside of the clinical setting. One of the primary goals of treatment, especially for mood issues, is to teach clients how to regulate and self-manage their emotions in the face of real-life challenges.

But how well do these strategies work? And although the impact of these strategies may be pronounced at first, does it eventually weaken and become less influential on mood? Understanding how the impact of these skills decays over time and how this decay affects symptoms could be important in the creation of booster treatments designed to reinforce and sustain therapeutic benefits gained during treatment.

To ascertain the timing of decay of impact, M.J. Park of the Department of Health Communication at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Medicine led a study involving 369 individuals with depression and anxiety. The participants were assessed four times in one year to determine how quickly decay of impact set in and what effects that decay had.

Park found that 19% of the subjects had decay on self-management skills pertaining to anxiety-related symptoms, while nearly 25% had decay on depression-related self-management skills. For one third of the participants, the decay began approximately 12 weeks after the self-management program concluded. The effect of the decay caused many who first moved from clinical to nonclinical status after the initial program to later experience subclinical and clinical levels of symptoms.

For people living with chronic issues like some types of depression and anxiety, quality of life depends on symptom management. If the effectiveness of treatment is short-lived, new and more persistent self-management skills programs need to be developed and implemented. Park added, “These findings can be used to plan interventions aimed at preventing or minimizing the decay of impact.”

Park, M.J., Green, J., Ishikawa, H., Yamazaki, Y., Kitagawa, A., et al. (2013). Decay of impact after self-management education for people with chronic illnesses: Changes in anxiety and depression over one year. PLoS ONE 8(6): e65316. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065316

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • KJP


    June 25th, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    This is pretty much like anything else. Just because you reach a certain goal doesn’t mean that you can then stop the hard work. For most of us even after treatment has stopped, or dieting or whatever it may be, there is still this maintenance that has to be done and that is where the hard work really begins for the majority of us. This is typically though where most of us slack off, we think that we have this thing beat, when in reality that is never the case. For most of us, our struggle, whatever that may be, is going to be a lifelong one. Just because we have the initial symptoms at bay that is no sign to stop working. That is just a sign that we might have to work a little harder to stay at that level of improvement.

  • reena mcgowan

    reena mcgowan

    June 26th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    That’s too bad to hear that, because therapy can be such a wonderful thing, but the skills there do have to be practiced and cultivated. I would generally believe that is the therapist and the client make a real connection with each other, then this is something that both parties will want to do. If it is only something that makes an impact on the surface but doesn’t cut deeper, then I think that this is where you are going to discover continuin problems. It is one of those things where if you wnat to make a difference and succeed, then you will. You will have been given the resources to help make that happen, but the rest will be up to you.

  • green


    June 26th, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    the ‘decay’ could be more pronounced or impactful for some people more than others.the key for such people would be to have support,although not constantly they could seek periodic support.they could have a session for anxiety when they feel the ‘decay’ is setting in for example.coping ways to deal with the downfall of effects of management techniques,but a necessity for some.

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