Bearing Through It: How Caregivers of Mentally Ill Loved One Can Cope
ScienceDaily — Caring for a family member with a mental illness can be a taxing experience marked by personal sacrifices and psychological problems.
A new study from Concordia University, AMI-Québec and the University of British Columbia has found family caregivers can experience high levels of stress, self-blame, substance abuse and depressive symptoms — unless they refocus their priorities and lighten their load.
"Being the principal caregiver to a mentally ill family member is a stressor that often creates high levels of burden and contributes to depressive symptoms," says lead author Carsten Wrosch, a professor in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
"Caring for a relative with a mental illness can be strenuous — such caregivers can even be more burdened than caregivers of dementia patients," Wrosch continues. "That said, even in this situation, caregivers can experience high levels of wellbeing if they adjust their goals and use effective coping strategies."
Published in the May issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the investigation followed family caregivers over a 17-month period and found those who reset priorities fared better. The research team expected that caregivers who are capable of adjusting important life goals (e.g., career, vacation, etc.) would cope better with caregiving stress and that this resilient process would protect their emotional wellbeing.
"We found participants who had an easier time abandoning goals blamed themselves less frequently for problems associated with caregiving and used alcohol or drugs less frequently to regulate their emotions," says co-author Ella Amir, a Concordia graduate and executive director at AMI-Québec, a grassroots organization committed to helping families manage the effects of mental illness.
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