Is there an alternative to the verb convalescing for someone recuperating from a mental breakdown, as opposed to convalescing after a physical illness?

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    This is a question for a mental-health professional.
    – WS2
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 15:19
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    I do not think that mental-health boards are the place to ask for words. English language boards, however... Would anyone care to explain the downvote, since, to the best of my knowledge I posted a valid question with a valid tag?
    – Halaster
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 16:21
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    It may be significant that a higher proportion of people suffering from mental illness (as opposed to physical health problems, injuries, etc.) never actually "recover" in the normal sense of the word. They're more likely to learn to manage their condition (often with a life-long drug regime), and it's also often more appropriate to describe them as "in remission" rather than "cured". Commented May 17, 2014 at 16:35
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    @Mari-LouA - It's not uncommon for a Doc or Psychiatrist to say "You seem to be a little perkier than you were at our last visit." Patients understand that better than "Your affect isn't as flat as it was." There's not a lot of positive vocabulary for recovery. I ran a free mental health clinic for a while. I would say, "You seem better than at your last visit. Do you feel better?" And patients almost always responded "In what way?" (which is OK) but a little bit perkier rarely drew a what way? response. When you have limited time with someone, it's important to be understood. Commented May 17, 2014 at 18:30
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    "Perk up" is used in psychology related sources. It does not usually mean full recovery, it means feeling better in the period of mental illness. There are details and colloquial usages but yes we did not find a verb that covers all mental situations and excludes physical. But your comments are more related to a medical discussion than English language discussion.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 18:30

5 Answers 5


Revive might fit in some cases, though it has other connotations as well.

to bring or come back to mind

cause to regain consciousness; "The doctors revived the comatose man"

Note: There are psychiatric comas and structural/metabolic comas.

Perk (or perk up) can be used in the case of depression:

to gain in vigor or cheerfulness especially after a period of weakness or depression

—usually used with up: he's perked up noticeably

It is used in psychology related sources as well. It does not usually mean full recovery, it usually means feeling better in the period of mental illness. There are details and colloquial usages also.

Note: We were trying to find a verb other than "recover" and OP asked for alternative verbs that is only related to mental health. I already mentioned that the answers that I have can be used in certain cases but talking in details lead to a medical discussion.

  • That would make sense in the case where a man was restored to conciousness, however, I don't think it applies to people who are recovering from, say, post-traumatic stress disorder. FumbleFingers raises a valid point by saying that in most cases recovery from mental illnesses does not occur. Instead, the illness or injury is managed.
    – Halaster
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 17:12
  • @Lucas: Yes I also mentioned that it might fit in some cases though definition and usage is closer to what you are looking for. Mental illness has a lot of different cases. Also, you can regain mental health.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 17:30
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    Just to be clear, I did not mean to disagree, I was simply looking for a word that applies to all cases and not a few. However, the word perk seems to be the closest fit to what I'm looking for. I would also vote up your answer, but I don't have the required rep. Thank you.
    – Halaster
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 17:37
  • @ermanen - I'm sorry, I was not criticizing you. I was trying to explain that the OP request is unrealistic. Commented May 18, 2014 at 0:43

I am not a medical expert, but in standard American English there's a word called recover, which means to get back to normal after a sickness.

  • I think he needs a synonym exclusively used in association with mental health and not physical or both..
    – Invoker
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 15:38
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    Invoker is right. When it's said that a person is convalescing, one immediately knows that that person recovering from something of a physical nature. I'm merely looking for a word which is exclusively used for recovering from a mental injury.
    – Halaster
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 16:24
  • Noah's answer is the one, which psychiatrists would use. I can't possibly imagine any serious doctor worth his weight saying that a bipolar patient has perked up. It's almost insulting. From Wikipedia "A recovery approach to mental disorder or substance dependence (and/or from being labeled in those terms) emphasizes and supports a person's potential for recovery"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 18:03
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    Except that the word recover targets both mental problems as well as physical ones. What I was looking for was a word that targets mental recovery exclusively. Perk might not sound very serious BUT it only targets mental illnesses and injuries.
    – Halaster
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 18:27

I feel that it's important to put some perspective here on language used with mental illness.

Perk up is not a synonym for recovery. There is no language of recovery unique to mental illness. It just does not exist. If you want my background, hover over the empty field.

Background: For a short time, I ran a free mental health and addiction clinic. I was certified through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (which is the Federal Government's lead agency for improving the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, addiction treatment, and mental health services in the United States.) Psychiatrists and psychologists already have the training to capably run such clinics, but I am neither. Therefore, SAMHSA provides training for other kinds of professionals, and certification on completion of many hours of specific coursework and passing the exams.

I can tell you that the goal was recovery, not perking up. Reintegration. Perceived helpfulness. Effective treatment. Improvement in levels of functioning, decreased levels of cognitive and functional impairment.

There is no word here specific to mental illness. When it is treated as an illness, it will have terminology similar to that of other illnesses.

Your wish to the contrary doesn't make a trivial expression sufficient to represent recovery from a broad category of mental illnesses.

Also, we are not as pessimistic as Fumble Fingers. People do recover from Depression, PTSD and others. People can be functional and integrated with bipolar illness and schizophrenia. We do not use remission (we leave that to oncologists). We do use stable, We believe that mental health is like physical health. SAMHSA has a Recovery Month (spreading the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover) but no remission month. And please, when people talk about slapping their doctors, it makes me a bit anxious about going to work.

  • @Mari-LouA - I'm relieved to hear that, though I had a hard time imagining a normal person doing that! People do sometimes try to hurt us. Usually, though, they think they are Elijah or Jesus. "Jesus" once threatened to punch me in the face because I pronounced my name differently than he did when I introduced myself ("You're LYING", he said). Luckily he was already in restraints. ') Commented May 17, 2014 at 20:00

Mental or Psichiatric a Rehabilitation, is the process for recovering mental health.

  • To restore to good health or useful life, as through therapy and education.
  • To restore to good condition, operation, or capacity.

You might want to consider such expressions as:

  • recover/regain a taste for life;

  • recover one's zest for life;

  • get on with (one's) life again;

  • regain the joy of living;

  • chipper up: to cause to be or become cheerful.

  • relive: live one's life again.

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