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.
One of the issues I found most overwhelming was not my mums mental illness as such, but the juggling aspect. I worked 40 hour weeks, took care of two households and did part-time study - if being her carer was my only job, it would have been far easier. A lot of the time, I was just tired. Although we have carer payments in Australia, the amount is nowhere near enough to enable people to cease their employment for any significant length of time, it’s merely enough to cover 2 weeks worth of rent at best.
The role itself has plenty of frustrations but they are all compounded by not having enough hours in the day (and not enough energy) to properly deal with things. I remember a social worker saying ‘don’t forget to look after yourself!’ to which I laughed - when will I get time to look after myself? I’m now a social worker and it reminds me not to say stupid things to people whose capacities are maxed out.
When my son was first diagnosed I had depression, anxiety and panic attack. He lived away from us and someone would see him and call me to tell me about him and that made me very anxious. I slept only 2 hours at night , then I saw Psychiatrist and went on medication to sleep, a very low dose. I still see him after 4 years. Once my son came to live with us my anxiety became less as time went by, I gave up my job and took care of him. Now al most 30 months. I have to say taking care of them , supporting them and loving them makes them feel better too. This is my observation. Per studies the highest anxiety is felt by Mom, then Dad then siblings. I am sure spouse, partner would feel it the same I would think.
I think another reason we calm down is that we find out, “That’s not how it is.” In other words, we do a bit of research and realize that the common, media portrayal of mental illness is completely OTT. I really thought I had “lost” my son at first, but it’s just not true, thank God. He has some problems but he’s basically the same, but a lot more mature than he was. Diagnosed and treated is far better than undiagnosed and untreated.
@crimby , I appreciate your kind words. I am more than happy to take care of our son. I know it is a lot of work but I find comfort in knowing that he is with us and he is safe. He has made a lot of progress in the last 29.5 months that he has been with us. The support groups and his siblings have been wonderful. Having this forum is a plus. Lots of wonderful people here and I am grateful. Thanks again.
I have respect for them too, but I have to say that I am not living with my son now. I am only giving financial and emotional support. But when he was with me, up until just before diagnosis, I didn’t feel forced into helping him. I actually felt forced into making him leave when his paranoia made his behaviour threatening. So all is much better now. And he’s getting quite independent and sociable. So my anxiety has almost completely gone.
@Hatty , I am glad things are better for you. I wish everyone who is suffering and their families the very best. What ever works for each one of us is better than nothing. Our son needed us, so We were happy to have him with us. There is no right OR wrong in doing what works.