The Doctors’ Error, or A Matter Of Focus

A generally good article here on the possibility that some late bloomers are people with mental illness who recover. The author of this article, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, is looking at an article writen by social commentator, Malcolm Gladwell, on the place love holds in blooming late professionally. He, Dr. Sederer, uses Paul Cezanne as an example of someone who, although never accused, could have been seen as mentally ill early in his career. Alright, and later in his career Paul is the artist whose art so impressed his contemporaries and continues to impress people to this day.

(Also consider that he is calling such people as Cezanne and the ‘mentally ill’, ‘awkward outsiders’. Hmmm. Maybe someone should consider inviting a few people in for dance lessons?)

Later he uses the example of Roy, real name hidden to protect his identity. Roy was characterized as mentally ill earlier in his life, but Roy didn’t let this stop him from succeeding at a health technology business venture.

Cut to the end of the piece, and I have to object. I think the author is slipping a little.

Recovery, making a life of contribution despite and with a mental illness, is about hope and belief and patience and persistence.

…and with a mental illness…

Hold on, partner! Check your dictionary! Recovery is not making a contribution despite, recovery is recovering from. The past tense of recover, to put it another way, is recovered.

I checked a couple of dictionaries, and this is what I got.


n. pl. re·cov·er·ies
1. The act, process, duration, or an instance of recovering.
2. A return to a normal condition.
3. Something gained or restored in recovering.
4. The act of obtaining usable substances from unusable sources.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


pl -eries
1. the act of recovering from sickness, a shock, or a setback
2. restoration to a former and better condition
3. the regaining of something lost
4. the extraction of useful substances from waste

Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

Perhaps he is implicitly suggesting that full recovery is less common than partial recovery. Maybe, but that doesn’t excuse him from obscuring the fact that people actually do recover, and making it something less than it actually is. Full and complete recovery is possible, and actually happens. Psychiatrists in general tend to dwell on the percentage of the people who fail in treatment rather than the percentage who show real improvement. Given those percentages, when they are as high as they are, these psychiatrists are likely to discount the possibility that a person can recover. Well, people do fully recover, and they go on to accomplish some truly amazing things.

Comparisons by the World Health Organization have found recovery rates nearly twice as high in developing countries than they are in the developed world. When these psychiatrists focus on rates of failure at the expense of rates of success, generally they are thinking about success rates in developed countries. If they looked at rates in the developing world, their perspectives might change, as might their approaches to treatment. When recovery is seen as a distinct possibility, and it is not discounted out of hand, I imagine that recovery is then more possible than it would be were it thought of as next to impossible.