A mental disorder in a family member often leads to strained relationships within the entire family unit. While some family members may feel the overwhelming need to care for the individual, others may feel as if their mental disorder is a burden. While the effects of mental health on an individual are clear, the impact of mental illness on loved ones is often pushed to the backburner.
As a family of nationwide addiction treatment centers, we wanted to offer a less common perspective of how mental illness impacts loved ones.
When mental illness creeps into a family, it can create cracks in even the strongest of foundations. Depending on the individual, they may look to their family for support during this trying time. On the other hand, the individual may be in denial about their condition and reject any help that’s offered to them. Regardless, this can be a stressful situation for any family.
When it comes to the impact of mental illness on loved ones, the role of caregiver is a common source of stress. A parent, sibling, or spouse may have to take up the role of caregiver to their loved one, which can change certain aspects of their relationship with that person. The individual may become dependent on their family member for help and support. While offering support is welcomed, an unhealthy balance can lead to enabling behavior and codependency. Enabling is when one person makes excuses for another person’s behavior. They may also always help the individual fix things that they should be able to do on their own. This form of behavior can make the individual believe that they won’t be held accountable for their behavior. Enabling a person with a mental illness can also make them believe that they don’t need help from a mental health program.
Codependency is also another dangerous and common effect of mental illness on family members. Codependency is when the caregiver becomes dependent on being needed by the other person, while the other person may feel as if they can’t do anything in life without the other person. When it comes to the caregiver, they may actually avoid getting their loved one help because they don’t want to lose the hold they have on that person.
On the other hand, mental disorders can isolate a person from their family. Few people truly understand the scope of mental illness and many don’t know how to react to this news from someone they’re close to. They may begin to distance themselves from the individual because they don’t want to cope with them or be associated with them. If parents have a child with a mental disorder, they may avoid inviting friends over for fear of being ridiculed or fear of their child being ridiculed. Other family members may not be as understanding of the person’s condition and believe that they’re being dramatic or seeking attention. The impact of mental illness on relationships can vary depending on the person’s family and condition, of course.
As heartbreaking as it is, not all families will be understanding of a loved one’s mental illness. Not only is mental health treatment important, but family support is also necessary for the person to make a successful recovery. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer a mental health program that incorporates a variety of therapies to treat different mental disorders. With the help of our staff, patients can learn new ways to cope with their disorders while rebuilding family relationships.