Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Paul Nestor

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Michelle Friedman-Yakoobian


For centuries, the study of psychiatric disorders has focused on pathology and deficit models of illness. In more recent years, the field of positive psychology have precipitated a shift toward focusing on sources of strength, resilience and wellbeing in both mental health and mental illness. Concentrating only on deficits may blind us to the possibility of flourishing within mental illness, or to see it as an exception to the rule. The emerging consensus is that mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness, but rather each represents a distinct set of emotional, cognitive, social and behavioral experiences. The central research question of the current study is thus, what are the fundamental characteristics of wellbeing and how might these factors shed light on the dynamics of risk, resilience, and recovery in early stages of mental illness? Accordingly, we proposed an inchoate model of wellbeing that unites three distinct but related domains: 1) social-emotional perception and personality traits; 2) cognitive abilities of attention and concentration; and 3) attitudinal predispositions and related to mindfulness, self-awareness, resilience, and insight.

Consistent with Keyes (2007), this study conceptualized wellbeing on a continuum, and hypothesized that variations in wellbeing could be explained by differences in social cognition, mindfulness, and attention/concentration. Participants recruited from a student population on a spectrum of risk for a variety of mental disorders completed multiple measures, including self-report measures of wellbeing, mindfulness, and resilience as well as performance-based tests of emotion perception, metacognition, and attention/concentration. In addition, a subset of these measures was administered in a clinical population established as having a high risk for psychosis (HRP) syndrome, recruited from an ongoing study of stigma and insight in this population. Findings suggested that in the population of students on a spectrum of risk, mindfulness may buffer against the negative effects of risk symptoms in this population, and that those with high and low wellbeing have distinct personality profiles, marked by variations in conscientiousness and neuroticism. In the HRP group, increased positive symptoms of risk were associated with lower wellbeing, and increased mindfulness was associated with higher levels of stereotype awareness.


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