Aiding Family Members of Mentally Ill Patients Ė
Separating the Patient from the Condition
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
As a psychologist, Iím keenly aware of the need to help family members of more compromised patients to see their loved ones as I do.
Often times what happens in cases of extreme psychopathology is the family members burn out and run out of good will and good feelings for their mentally ill family member. And itís understandable, as the patientís behavior can be ďcrazy makingĒ for outsiders looking in.
For example, if your parent or child is exhibiting extreme symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, you might find yourself losing sight that you are interacting with the characteristics of the psychopathology (rather than your loved one).
And you do so from a place of disconnect, because you are not seeing what you are looking at for what it is. Instead you treat it as though itís an idiosyncrasy that you have grown to hate.
A Symptom Is a Symptom
I liken it to caring for a sick child who has symptoms that, in and of themselves, may result in your losing your appetite. And thatís putting it mildly. Now grated, a child with flu-like symptoms covered in vomit is temporary but nonetheless, the analogy holds true.
When I can inspire the family members of my patients to see this person beyond their cluster of symptoms, a door of cooperation and support for the patient opens. And then when the family members are shown how to interact with the patient without dancing with the symptoms of the pathology, healing occurs within these family relationships.
If you are the family member of an individual suffering from a psychological condition, remember your loved one is not the condition. They are merely living it, expressing it, exhibiting it; but it is not who and what they are.
If you can hold the love for the person behind the illness and refrain from fighting against the symptoms of the illness, you will help your loved one along their path toward recovery.
Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. is a seasoned psychologist of 27 years. She helps individuals and families worldwide to regain mental health, physical safety and emotional well-being. www.EndDomesticAbuse.org/consulting.html 2009 Copyright Jeanne King, Ph.D.
Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. Ė Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
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