All of us get depressed at one time or another for one reason or another. But these feelings are in general brief and only have slight effects on our day-to-day life. The distress in a family is even more when a member is suffering from bipolar disease. Bipolar disorder also known as manic depression is a class of mood disorders in which the person experiences states or occurrence of depression or mania, hypomania, or mixed states which severely disabling psychiatric conditions. Depression becomes problematic for some when feelings of depression are deep and last for months or even years. Day-to-day activities become more difficult and feelings of depression become so severe that sometimes for these people suicide may seem the only solution (Douglas, 1999). This paper discusses the sufferings that surround the family of a person suffering from bipolar disease. It also discusses how the family can support the individual and reduce the agony.
A depressive disorder can be defined as an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person performs an activity such as eating and sleeping, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about others. It is important to understand that a depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood and should not be confused with it. Consequently, it is an illness that requires systematic diagnosis and treatment. If the patient is not treated, the symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even for years (Cohen, 2003).
The name “bipolar disorder” came from the cycling mood changes which swing between severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Occasionally these mood switches are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual. When in the depressed cycle, an individual can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder mentioned below. On the other hand, when the individual is in the manic cycle, they may be overactive, over-talkative, and over-energetic. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment and if left untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state (NIMH, 2000).
Bipolar disorder can also badly affect spouses, family members, friends, and people in the workplace. It usually begins in late adolescence though it can start in early childhood. An equal number of men and women develop this illness and it is found among all races, ethnic groups and social classes. Bipolar disorder is rare in young children, but more common in adolescents. Detection can be problematic, particularly given that the presentation is similar to major depression. As a result, youth with bipolar disorder may not be diagnosed accurately until they reach a psychiatric inpatient unit (Burns, et al. 1999).
Today it has become essential that everyone should be aware of the disease and its symptoms since it is more widespread than most people think. Often people take it casually and talk to friends and family regarding the likelihood of having this disorder but it should not be ignored or disregarded. A lot of young people find them blissful one day and irritated the next. After finding out the seriousness of bipolar disorder and the depressing effects an individual can have and the family and friends around them awareness must be created regarding the possible treatments (unc.edu, N.D).
Studies have proven that the family dynamics, as well as surroundings, articulated emotions, and worrying life events, appear to be a causative aspect in the progress of the bipolar disorder. For instance, an interconnected and affectionate family setting appears to be the main component in the psychological health of an individual. It is comprehensible that a human being brought up in an incompatible and stressful environment would be more prone to increasing bipolar disorder.
Several studies point out the fact that it is the familial loading that is a precursor for the disorder however problems in the family setting such as divorce, isolation etc. possibly will have added effect on the individual who is suffering. A great amount of research on bipolar disorder points out that family communications frequently add to the real on-set and recurrence of this disorder.
It is possible that if the family support is lacking the quality of life can be negatively be influenced especially when they have a lower salary, higher joblessness, work non-attendance, higher rates of divorce, low educational qualification, higher rates of criminals and arrests and hospitalization (Leahy, 2007). It should be noted that in these individuals the loss of social functioning takes a significant charge on caregivers and families which can harmfully influence the medical effect for patients. It is observed that the families with individuals suffering from bipolar turn out to be further isolated from society and build up dislike towards the bipolar disorder individual especially due to the increased financial and emotional burden.
According to a study conducted by Elgie and Morselli (2007) it was found that the connection or the bonding with the family seems to be severely and unfavorably exaggerated in most cases. However it was also found that this kind of hostile attitude of the family is often owing to the lack of proper knowledge and understanding about the disorder. Further the study also noted that there was a social stigma, setback or lack of proper diagnosis, and high levels of joblessness among the individuals and the family increased the sufferings.
The families need to understand that the disorder can be controlled with the help of a combination of counseling and medication. For this purpose it is important to have close supervision of behavioral symptoms in the individuals, psychiatric therapy that can include the patient and the family, increasing the awareness about the disorder, providing good nutrition, regular work out and sleeping patterns, and decrease worrying situations. Researchers have found that if a young adult or a child is suffering from bipolar disorder, the parents, teachers and medical professionals can work together in the treatment of the child. They suggest that it is the family’s participation in the treatment plan that can reduce the strength, occurrence, and degree of episodes (phobias-help.com, 2008).
Family plays a vital role in every individual’s life. Often when people converse about depression, they only consider the individual suffering and ignore the family suffering that surrounds it. It is essential to take into consideration the negative impact of bipolar on social life, work-life and family life. It is also seen that the individual with bipolar is socially isolated their friends start to vanish. Relatives and family members begin to feel that the person is of no significance. However, in some cases the close family members cannot ignore the patient and try to support them. A close-knit family and good support from friends and relatives can help the individuals in a much positive manner than in other cases. Additionally external support is also necessary for the family members with bipolar disorder as they need to be aware of the various options of treatments available together with moral support. If they are dejected from getting this help or treatment they need, the family members start on to feel exhausted and can become depressed themselves and psychologically drained out.
Burns, B.J., Hoagwood, K., and Mrazek, P.J. (1999) Effective Treatment for Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol. 2, No. 4,:199-254.
Cohen, B.J. (2003) Theory and Practice of Psychiatry, Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN-10: 0195149386.
Douglas, B. (1999) Understanding Depression, Web.
Elgie, R., & Morselli, P. (2007). Social functioning in bipolar patients: the perception and perspective of patients, relatives and advocacy organizations – a review. Bipolar Disorders, 0(1-2), 144-157.
Leahy, R. (2007). Bipolar disorder: Causes, contexts, and treatments. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 63(5), 417-424.
NIMH, (2000) Depression, National Institute of Mental Health, Web.
phobias-help.com, (2008) Is Your Child Suffering from Bipolar Disorder? Web.
unc.edu, (N.D.) Bipolar Disorder, Web.