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I am worried that I am starting to blame my wife for developing Bipolar. I know that this is unfair but some days I get so angry and I start to yell or I withdraw completely. Help!

This is not an uncommon reaction. People with mental illness are often perceived by the public to be responsible for developing the illness and seen as responsible for being able to control their illness as well (Corrigan et al, 2000, Weiner et al, 1988).

A common reaction from family is to at some point blame our loved one for their illness. We may not even realize that this is what we are doing and it may come out as anger towards them, withdrawing from them by withholding help and avoiding them socially and to support services that are coercive in nature (Corrigan, Watson, Miller, 2006).

It is also common to have resentment towards a loved one with Bipolar that he or she is not trying hard enough to get better. This can have an impact on you as a caregiver as well. It has been found that relatives who believe that their family member can control their symptoms but is not doing so show higher levels of burden than those who believe that they as a caregiver have influence over the symptoms. There is a positive relationship between the belief that the person with a mental illness is not trying hard enough to get better and high burden on the caregiver (Karp & Tanarugsachok, 2000).

Siblings have also been shown to be affected. It was found that siblings who think their sibling with the illness has some level of control over their symptoms but is not doing anything about it feel more stigma, burden and worry (Greenberg et al, 1997).

Therefore if you as a caregiver feel that your loved one is able to influence their symptoms but is not doing so you will likely experience more caregiver burden which of course is not good for you or your loved one.

Back to Stigma and Social Control