Psychosis can have a tremendous impact on all family members. Almost universally, psychosis is accompanied by a grief process which affects everyone. The stages of the grief process include shock/denial, learning to cope, and acceptance. Individuals at different stages of grief need different things.
Family members are often at different places in the grief process, which may cause conflict. As families continue to deal with psychosis, they may go through the grief process many times. This is normal. However, it is also important to pay attention to how family members are affected by the stress and grief associated by this illness, and not to hesitate to get additional counseling. Psychosis often causes a great strain on marriages and family relationships, since individuals may reach very different conclusions about how to handle the situation. Patience and communication skills become critically important.
Since psychosis is often preceded by early, or “prodromal” symptoms, families often observe changes for an extended period before they begin to understand what’s happening. Prodromal (early) symptoms such as sleep disorder, social withdrawal and behavior changes are often mistaken for drug use, intentional conduct problems or laziness. In fact, as people deal with some of the early changes to memory, concentration and thought process, they may turn to drugs as a way of coping.
Psychosis has a direct effect on development. One of the goals of iHOPE is to minimize that impact so that the person will move on with life in a positive way. Since psychosis usually affects people starting between ages 15 and 25, some of the key developmental tasks can be directly impacted:
- Experimenting with and forming an independent identity
- Individuating and separating from parents
- Learning independent living skills
- Living independently
- Finishing school
- Entering the work force and identifying a career path
- Establishing adult peer relationships
- Starting a family
If these developmental tasks are interrupted, the person will have to return to them later before they’ll be able to progress developmentally. Also, each member of the family who is directly affected by psychosis will likely be affected developmentally. Parents who are preparing to send their child out into the world experience a return to dependency and a need to provide more direction. Siblings often develop a fear of developing psychosis themselves, and may make different choices in relationships because of their need to cope with confusion, grief and loss.