Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Flight to Health (or Apparently Flight INTO Health)

There is a phenomenon in mental breakdowns and their treatment that is called a "flight to health." This is how they are describing my husband's condition the last few days. He was remarkably better and seemed really motivated to get out of the hospital. The problem is he also seemed very motivated to NOT go into any further treatment. So, now, they seem to have his number. One hospital is talking to the other and his doctor (psychiatrist) got involved. I am guessing he used the "malpractice" warning. He probably said something like this: "This guy is repeating a pattern here. He's experiencing a classic flight to health, this is not a real recovery, nor is it a good faith attempt to move on with his life. No. This is more likely a sign that he is not doing well and is in for more subsequent breakdowns..." So, now, thank GOD, they are refusing to let him out of the hospital due to the instability behind this feeling of wellness. Here is one of the only definitions I found of this phenomenon:

Definition: An opposite problem occurs when change comes too quickly. It's not uncommon for clients who enter therapy to deal with a difficult problem to experience a positive change in their situation after seeing a therapist for only a few sessions. Feeling good about this reversal of their lives and assuming change is easy, they convince themselves they no longer need outside assistance. There's even a name for this phenomenon. It's called a "flight to health." So future sessions are cancelled, although there is still a lot of work to reinforce the minor changes that have been made. Source: click here

I am sad for him, but I am happy to be divorcing him...well, not really happy. I wouldn't say that. I am sad and depressed and crestfallen and disappointed. The only good thing is that, at this particular moment, I don't have to fight and scream and get involved in this medical care. I can just let it be. I don't have to care for him anymore. Although, I continue to realize that I will not ever be able to stop caring about him.

UPDATE: As I was lying in bed this morning I started thinking that the phrase "flight into health" sounded more familiar. I don't know if the social worker got it wrong, or if I heard it wrong, but I found WAY more information on this new are some interesting tidbits:

flight into health
in dynamic psychotherapy, the early but often only temporary disappearance of the symptoms that ostensibly brought the patient into therapy; a defense against the anxiety engendered by the prospect of further psychoanalytic exploration of the patients conflicts.

Retrieved from ""

Flight into health
When a sick person who is terrified of diagnosis or treatment goes to the doctor, he or she may suddenly feel a lot better and not need anything done after all. In fact this can even be a psychological phenomenon, where they actually do feel better (something akin to the placebo effect).

Denial stage - classic behavior here is a 'flight into health', where previously-perceived problems are suddenly seen as having miraculously fixed themselves


Cathy said...

Just checking up on you. I'm glad you are blogging. I get to wondering about you, and check in on things here.
I'm so glad there are Dr's communicating about what's going on with him.

Love you,

Tess said...

You sound at peace with where things are right now, even though it sounds like P still needs a lot of help. I hope he eventually achieves true health... but for now, I'm glad you and the kids have achieved some stability.

Amelia's moms said...

I think this role is good for you- interested (and caring) observer and thinker, but not manager of all of this.