Mental illness, caregiving, and emotion management

Qual Health Res. 2000 Jan;10(1):6-25. doi: 10.1177/104973200129118219.


Based on 50 in-depth interviews, this article considers how caregivers to a spouse, parent, child, or sibling suffering from depression, manic-depression, or schizophrenia manage their emotions overtime. By considering the turning points in the joint career of caregivers and ill family members, our analysis moves beyond studies that link emotions to particular incidences, momentary encounters, or discreet events. Four interpretive junctures in the caregiver-patient relationship are identified. Before diagnosis, respondents experience emotional anomie. Diagnosis provides a medical frame that provokes feelings of hope, compassion, and sympathy. Realization that mental illness may be a permanent condition ushers in the more negative emotions of anger and resentment. Caregivers' eventual recognition that they cannot control their family member's illness allows them to decrease involvement without guilt. The article concludes with a call for research that understands that emotions in groups, settings, or organizations are linked to their distinctive histories.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anomie
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morale
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires