Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Nursing, who studied the emotional distress of caring for a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, found anxiety is high for the primary caregiver at the initial diagnosis or early in the course of the illness and decreases over time.
“This finding is significant,” said Jaclene A. Zauszniewski, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, the Kate Hanna Harvey Professor of Community Health at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and study’s corresponding author.
She attributes the differences to possibly two factors: the family member becomes more stable with treatment or medication, or the caregiver learns to adapt or cope with the situation over time.
The study also found that women new to caregiving tended to get depressed and angry more than those who provided care for some time. Anxiety symptoms were greater for Caucasians than African-Americans.
The findings are based on responses from 60 female caregivers, age 18 to 65, about their experiences when caring for a family member with anxiety, bipolar disorder, severe depression or schizophrenia.
The study represents initial steps to examine the connection between caring for a family member with a mental illness and the emotional toll it takes on caregivers—most of whom are women, Zauszniewski said.