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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