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Discovering the meaning of life

Meaningful implications for recovery from substance abuse disorders and mental health

A recent study conducted by Florida Atlantic University revealed that lack of meaning in life is strongly associated with substance use disorders and other mental health problems. However, there exists no profound measure to nurture spirituality in such individuals.

The study was published in the Journal of Social Service Research.

There isn’t enough existing research that validates the relationship of adult attachment styles and spirituality with depressive symptoms. Both, adult attachment styles, whether secure or insecure, and the two distinct spirituality dimensions, meaning in life and religious well-being, have been shown to be preventive factors against depressive symptoms among individuals in treatment for substance abuse.

In collaboration with Behavioral Health of Palm Beach (BHOPB), a substance abuse treatment center in Palm Beach County, the researchers developed a model that focused on how the utilization of creativity, service and solitude could help further purpose and meaning in life. It was discovered that when creative talents such as painting and writing were encouraged alongside opportunities to serve others, and assisting them to connect to their core values and inner self through prayer and meditation, helped them discover their ultimate purpose and meaning in life as part of their recovery process.

A major discovery of the research depicted an insecure attachment style to be a risk factor for the development of depressive symptoms. Another significant finding showed that the existential-purpose and meaning-in-life dimension of spirituality seemed to be the most important factor linked to depressive symptoms in the sample group.

Even though the research results suggested the potential of practitioners considering focus on improving interpersonal relationships for individuals with insecure attachment styles, they may want to place fostering purpose and meaning in life as a higher priority for treatment planning.

“Programs such as the 12-step model might want to take into consideration the relative importance of the two spiritual dimensions and put into place programmatic support for the development of purpose and meaning in life rather than only stressing the perceived closeness to God,” said Tammy Malloy, LCSW, chief clinical officer, BHOPB.

Addiction is a health problem of epidemic proportions in the U.S. today. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that by 2020, mental health and substance use disorders will be a major cause of disability worldwide surpassing even physical illness. In 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older, 9.4 percent of the population, admitted to using an illicit drug in the past month. This number was up from 8.3 percent in 2002. The societal cost of substance abuse problems is approximately $511 billion.

“The cutting-edge research conducted by Drs. Horton and Luna and Ms. Malloy is extremely important because it sheds light on different ways to help individuals in treatment addiction,” said John R. Graham, Ph.D., professor and director of FAU’s School of Social Work. “This in turn not only helps the clients receiving treatment, but also improves how addiction professionals do their work — contributing to the health and well-being of the broader community.”

The 24/7 Recovery Helpline is specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of those battling an addiction or mental illness. Our representatives are committed to connecting you with the leading rehabilitation and behavioral health center that offers customized treatment plans for every patient. If you or a loved one is currently seeking recovery, call us right away.

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