Background: The caregiving experience has been extensively investigated in some chronic/severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. These studies have suggested that illness variables and situational/personal characteristics of caregivers have a significant influence on how caregivers cope with mental illness. However, other similar conditions, e. g. bipolar affective disorder (BPAD), have been relatively neglected in this regard. This study attempted to compare caregiver-coping in BPAD and schizophrenia and to explore the determinants of such coping.
Method: Illness variables and coping, burden, appraisal, perceived support, and neuroticism among caregivers were examined in 50 patients each of BPAD and schizophrenia and their caregivers.
Results: High levels of patient-dysfunction and caregiver-burden, low awareness of illness and low perceived control over patient’s behaviour were characteristic of both BPAD and schizophrenia, with no significant differences between the two groups on these parameters. Coping patterns were also quite alike, though caregivers of patients with schizophrenia were using some emotion-focused strategies significantly more often. Caregiver’s gender, patient-dysfunction and caregiver-neuroticism had a significant influence on coping patterns, but explained only a small proportion of the variance in use of different coping strategies.
Conclusions: Coping and other elements of the caregiving experience in BPAD are no different from schizophrenia. The relationship between caregiver-coping and its determinants appears to be a complex one. More methodologically sound and culturally relevant investigations are required to understand this intricate area, with the hope that a better understanding will help the cause of both patients and their caregivers.