Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition. In fact, the World Health Organization places…
How Parents with Bipolar Disorder Cope
It’s said that once you learn a new word, you’ll see and hear it more often. We tend to be attuned to things about which we are aware. The same is true for adults with bipolar disorder. When they have children of their own, they are very much alert to the potential signs of illness in their children. Monitoring their children’s moods is an active coping mechanism which helps these parents feel empowered to help their children.
A recent study of 266 American adults with bipolar disorder looked at how parents were coping with their kids’ risk for the disease. While there is still much that remains unknown about bipolar, it does seem to be a heritable condition, and 87 percent of respondents said that family history was an important risk factor toward developing the disorder. A majority also felt it was important to keep track of their children’s moods as a means of protection. Doing so made the parents feel more in control of their child’s wellbeing, but did not actually reduce their anxiety over passing the condition on to their offspring.
The study used a scale of 1-5 to measure parental modes of coping with their children’s risk. Cognitive distancing by parents would be dealing with the stress of worry through emotional or physical withdrawal or avoidance. This coping strategy scored lower (2.6) compared to active coping (3.4) mechanisms. Active coping means doing something, whether psychologically or behaviorally, in order to manage the stress of a situation. It’s a promising sign that so many bipolar parents were able to adopt active coping mechanisms to deal with their worry.
Those positive scores on parenting behavior were found to be linked to personal wellness. Parents who were actively coping with worry for their child were also more actively coping with their own mental health. This is important for the parent and for the child. Positive parental coping scores were also linked to higher levels of personal adaptation to having bipolar.
The unfortunate side of the study is that even while careful mood monitoring helps bipolar parents feel empowered, it doesn’t necessarily erase their concern over whether their child will inherit the disorder. On the positive side, the study revealed that parents who feel capable of managing their own condition also feel better able to keep track of their children’s moods and guard their child’s wellbeing.