How Mental Illness Can Affect Families

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How Mental Illness Can Affect Families

As a mental illness develops, the symptoms not only affect the individual but it can also have an impact on the people closest to them. As much as the person with the disorder must learn to cope with their diagnosis, their loved ones and especially family members must also learn how to handle the illness. Families need support and education regarding mental illness so that they do not feel overwhelmed or stressed by the situation. Instead of allowing a person’s mental illness to create problems, families can learn to be compassionate and develop skills or tools that will help them manage the difficulties that go on in the home. As long as every family member works toward creating harmony there is no reason that a mental illness should disrupt a household or cause unnecessary stress.

Living with a Psychological Disorder
Because many mental illnesses first begin to develop in adolescence or early adulthoods, most people are still living with their families when the symptoms of their disorder start to appear. Disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can gradually show themselves as a high school or college student is trying to get through their studies. Their parents could be confused and alarmed by different behaviors, changes in mood and unpredictable actions.

Even for people who don’t live with their families, the ones closest to them can still be strongly affected by the mental illness. Seeing their loved one struggle with symptoms of depression, anxiety or other disorders can be hard to experience. Mental illness has a way of creating a “ripple effect” on families causing tension, troubled emotions, and enormous changes in how everyone lives their life. Different family members are likely to be affected in different ways and each person will respond in a manner that helps them cope with the changes the best that they can.

Taking Care of Loved Ones
As a family member’s mental illness progresses, some people in the household may be involved in day-to-day care when symptoms become unmanageable for them. The person taking on the role of caretaker may receive little training or support on how to provide help for their loved one. There is strong evidence that with support and training caretakers are better able to cope with the new situation and there is an improved outcome for everyone involved.

Family members can benefit from talking with professionals about the best ways to handle a mental disorder so that they are well informed especially if they are dealing with the person on a daily basis. When it comes to a person’s care, it is important for health care professionals to work with the family and make sure that they have all the information and training they need to provide adequate support to the mentally ill. If caretakers are better prepared to handle certain situations that might come up they can prevent any turmoil or conflict from occurring within the family.

When a person is first diagnosed, their family must eventually come to terms with the changes that are going to take place as a result of their illness. A diagnosis can have a serious emotional impact on close loved ones. There may be anger that this is happening, fear, confusion or a sense of loss and grief that this person will be dramatically changed by illness. Each family member should acknowledge and talk about these feelings as they go through the steps of acceptance. The family should learn as much as they can about the illness and remain optimistic about how treatment will improve many of the more severe symptoms. Staying connected with a treatment program and being engaged in the process of recovery can help the family create a positive and supportive environment for their loved one.