2. Impact of psychosis on families

Impact on family members

The impact of psychosis can be different for each family member, depending on their role. Parents, siblings, children, partners, extended family and friends are all impacted in different ways. However, everyone requires information to help them gain a better understanding of psychosis and every family member needs support. Each family member may also have different coping mechanisms.


Parents

Parents of young adults who are experiencing a first episode of psychosis often experience loss and sadness over the changes they witness. A “failure” or delay in meeting typical milestones can be difficult for parents. They may grieve and re-evaluate their expectations and hopes for their child regarding education, career, marriage and children. Aging parents may find themselves taking on a parenting role again and may also worry that they will not always be able to care for their child.

Siblings

Pain, confusion, despair, hopelessness, anger, grief, guilt, stress, fear and shame are emotions commonly reported by siblings (Sin et al., 2012).

Depending on their age or birth order, a sibling may feel neglected or ignored when the family focuses on a brother or sister affected by psychosis. Siblings may worry about developing mental health or substance use problems of their own. They may also worry about the strain that their parents are experiencing and may try to make up for what they feel their parents have lost in their other child. Due to the nature of the relationship, siblings may also have to reconsider choices they’ve made regarding their own career or relationships because they may have to help with the long-term care of their sibling.

Children

When a child has a parent with psychosis, they may be confused about what is happening. Children notice when someone in the family has changed—particularly a parent—and may worry about their family member's behaviour. They may experience a disruption in their school or care. Family disruption may result in older children assuming more adult-like responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings and preparing meals.

Partners

Having a partner with psychosis can profoundly affect the relationship. Your partner may behave in uncharacteristic ways, and feelings of resentment, loss or sadness can lead to distance in the relationship. Some partners may not want to be emotionally or physically close with a person, and a couple's intimacy may change.

Friends and extended family

Friends and extended family are also significantly affected by psychosis. Friends may be the first to notice when something is wrong. As well, the person with psychosis may withdraw and distance themselves from their friends and family.



Regardless of the relationship, it is important for all family members and friends to have the opportunity to talk about their feelings and experiences and to learn more about psychosis. It is helpful to talk with other people who have been through similar experiences.