Recovery from severe mental illness, a gender perspective

Scand J Caring Sci. 2010 Sep;24(3):557-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2009.00748.x.


Background and research objectives: Recovery from mental illness is an individual process characterized by regaining a positive sense of self and developing a new meaning. Knowledge concerning differences between male and female recovery processes is, however, limited. The objective of this study was to determine gender diversity in what individuals described as decisive factors for their recovery.

Subjects and methods: In this qualitative study based on grounded theory, 30 first-person accounts of recovery from mental illness are examined. After informed consent from the participants, data were collected through in-depth interviews with people in recovery from psychosis, bipolar disorders or personality disorders.

Results: The results show that in spite of structural gender inequalities, female gender norms seem to be an advantage in the recovery process. The female participants were focused on making sense and meaning in their recovery process, while the male participants were focused on control over symptoms and reinforcement of traditional roles such as occupation and independence. Another result showed psychiatric hospitalization to mainly contribute to male recovery processes.

Conclusion: These results provide new insights into gender as an important factor in understanding recovery processes and in providing care to facilitate these processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors*
  • Young Adult