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The meaning of coping for psychiatric patients

Ryan, J., Rapley, M. and Dziurawiec, S. (2014) The meaning of coping for psychiatric patients. Qualitative Health Research, 24 (8). pp. 1068-1079.

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Contemporary psychiatric theory holds that a precipitant of major mental illness is the inability of some vulnerable individuals to cope with the difficulties of everyday life. Such mentally ill people are characterized as having deficient, dysfunctional, or absent coping skills. Recently, researchers have exerted considerable effort to distinguish between productive and nonproductive coping. In this article, we argue that not only are such conceptualizations reliant on reductive, circular logic, but they also miss the essentially rational, local, and individual nature of coping in psychiatric patients’ lives. We used semistructured interviews and thematic analyses of psychiatric patients’ descriptions of their coping. Patients reported that professional intervention reduced their ability to cope, that they distrusted the mental health system and its professionals, that coping mechanisms were misinterpreted, that situational crises modulated coping, and that sometimes coping was just “not coping.” We argue for a more respectful, nuanced understanding of coping among mental health professionals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Sage
Copyright: Sage
Notes: Published online 10 July 2014
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