Contagious Factor/Siblings/Depression Risks

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Nomad, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    We've had discussions here about protecting siblings from the difficulties of living with a brother or sister with a mental illness as much as possible. Sounds like a good plan. I also feel like we should insulate ourselves (mom and dad) as much as possible as well.

    Sibling with mental illness may up depression risk

    Sibling with mental illness may up depression risk
    Last Updated: 2008-12-25 13:00:17 -0400 (Reuters Health)
    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Adults with a sibling who's suffered from a mental disorder may themselves be at risk of depression, a new study suggests.
    Researchers found that of more than 800 adults followed over decades, those who had a sibling who'd ever suffered from depression, an anxiety disorder or other mental illness were 63 percent more likely to have ever been diagnosed with depression.
    They also tended to have poorer psychological well-being in general -- particularly those with a brother who'd been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.
    The findings suggest that a combination of genetics and environment may make these adult siblings more vulnerable to depression, the researchers report in the Journal of Family Psychology.
    In some families, the investigators note, these siblings may have a genetic susceptibility to mental health problems -- which, coupled with the stress of a brother's or sister's symptoms, may contribute to depression.
    "Our findings highlight the need for families of the mentally ill, specifically siblings, to be more aware of their own mental health needs throughout their lifetimes," lead researcher Dr. Julie Lounds Taylor, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted in a written statement.
    The researchers based their findings on data from a long-term health study that has followed roughly 5,800 sibling pairs since their graduation from high school in the 1950s. Taylor's team focused on 83 participants with a sibling who'd ever been diagnosed with a mental health disorder -- most commonly, depression or anxiety -- as well as
    268 whose sibling was mildly intellectually impaired (having an IQ lower than 85).
    These men and women were compared with a group of 791 study participants whose siblings were free of mental illness or impairment.
    Compared with this latter group, Taylor's team found, adults with a sibling who'd suffered from a mental illness were at greater risk of ever being diagnosed with depression.
    In contrast, this was not true of those whose siblings had a low IQ, the researchers found. These men and women did, however, tend to be less emotionally attached to their sibling than study participants in the comparison group.
    This, Taylor and her colleagues note, may be because siblings of mentally impaired adults often feel they have an "obligatory" type of relationship with their brother or sister. That is, they feel a responsibility to support their sibling, but they don't feel the same emotional closeness that two, more-equal adult siblings might.
    "So little is known about the impact that a person with low IQ or mental illness has on the psychological and social development of his or her siblings, especially beyond childhood," Taylor said.
    This study, she and her colleagues write, is an "important first step" in understanding that dynamic.
    SOURCE: Journal of Family Psychology, December 2008.
  2. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Interesting Nomad.

    easy child has delt well with the 2 difficult children over the years. (other than normal kid stuff) I've not noticed any side effects with her. Except a desire to "over protect" them from time to time. But that may have as much to do with her personality as anything too.

    And while we had raging, we didn't have violence in the house, it was not tolerated. So we skipped alot with that not there, I know. And easy child was already out of the house before Nichole started her downward she only had the outsider view of that. Guess there are some blessings to being the oldest.

    Only thing I noticed with easy child was she didn't hesitate to move out asap when she was able. She says she needed to escape the gfgdom always being in her face. But once out, she was fine with it all.
  3. ML

    ML Guest

    I guess there are advantages to having "onlies".
  4. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member

    I'm always worried about the impact on easy child of having two difficult child brothers. While we try to keep her life as "normal" as possible, there is no way she can escape the negative impact her brothers have on all of us.

    Interesting article - Thanks for sharing this. WFEN
  5. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Our son and family had great difficulties with- all of this.
    I did observe our son really blossom once he was out of the home.
    In retrospect, I wish there had been many more opportunities for separation.
    I WISH I could have figured out healthy and happy ways for him to visit relatives for example.
    Or for difficult child to have gone to a boarding school or summer school to give easy child a breather. (However, with adoption in the picture...those abandonment concerns are always there).
    By the time we figured some of these things out, my kids were older and husband and I were burned out in a major way. I use to walk around saying "what happens after one is PAST burn out." That is where I was.
    This is why I like to encourage folks on this board to do a few things when and where possible...
    1. Get rest and nurture yourself
    2. Get help...respite...relief...separation time
    3. Figure out a way to find some quiet time for yourself, your other children and for your spouse.
    It's a tall order and really will require the help of others. husband and I rarely had that help. On the occassions that we did...I think of these people as major blessings in my life and am very grateful.
    I think that if you can work in some relief time, in the end the resentment will not be as powerful. MY easy child does have "issues" with reference to his sister, but I have also noticed that he has a very kind spirit. (Both of my children do).
    I do wonder if our son would not be such a wise young man at such a young age had he not seen all that he has seen.
  6. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have no doubt that my Youngest's issues are directly related to growing up with Oldest (combined with genetic factors). It breaks my heart to remember what a sweet little girl she was, and then to remember her progression into instability after Oldest began to get sicker and sicker. I remember having to physically restrain Oldest in one of her rages, while Youngest cried to herself in her bedroom, alone, scared to death. I remember all the times Youngest was shuffled off to a neighbor in the middle of the night when I had to take Oldest to the ER during a Crohn's flare, and then days of hospitalizations with me back and forth between home, the hospital and work, Youngest staying with a neighbor and rarely seeing me. As a single mother with no family nearby and few friends who could (or wanted to) help, I had very few choices.. but the guilt still overwhelms me at times. I'm slowly letting that go.

    Absolutely, make the time for the other siblings, and for yourself. Gather a support system around you. "Circle the Wagons," so to speak. Let the school know what's going on, within reason, to add extra supports for the siblings. Encourage family therapy, to help all members of the family deal with the stress of living with a difficult child. Those are all things I learned.
  7. jbrain

    jbrain Member

    I had a similar experience to Crazy. My youngest dtr's problems are directly related to growing up with her older sister who was not nice to her most of the time. Also, I was so focused on difficult child 1 and her problems that I didn't make the time easy child/difficult child 2 needed from me. She felt she had to be perfect and stuff all her feelings and she was dealing with the physical and emotional abuse from her sister too. Even my older son told me he felt all alone after his dad died and he knew he couldn't have any problems because I had enough on my hands with his sister.

    I regret that I seemed to totally focus on fixing my difficult child--it is hard for me to understand that mindset anymore now that she has been gone from my house for nearly 3 years and she didn't really make any progress until she was gone. I spent so much time and energy and money on trying to fix her when I think what she really needed was to figure out she would have to fix herself.

  8. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I wonder if birth order is a factor in how strongly affected kids are.

    I think older children remember a time "before difficult child". They've had an opportunity to establish themselves in the family structure, and possibly are better able to establish social and support systems outside of the immediate family.

    With PCs who are younger than their difficult child siblings, they come into a family already dealing with difficult child-dom. They don't know any other way. And from the difficult child's perspective, any older brothers or sisters were already on the scene, part of the family. New ones that come along after the fact are interlopers.

    I know that my difficult child had a lot of trouble with having a little brother. He really resented getting knocked off his "baby of the family" pedestal. He resents Step-D as well, but she was there first and in his perception he displaced her in the same way that he sees Little easy child as having displaced him.

    Being the "accident" that followed quickly on the heels of the beloved first-born son, my own family dynamic was a bit different, but I think being last in the birth order played a part in the level of torment that my older difficult child-brother heaped on me. Somehow I think being the older sister might have carried a bit of weight somehow. Perhaps not. That's a "what if" that I don't normally think about.

  9. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    jbrain...I too spent much time thinking I could "fix" difficult child. And this took significant time away from young easy child...sometimes tooooo much time.
    I noticed a change in easy child's mindset when he left home.
    I noticed a change in my mindset when difficult child left home.
    Both of us blossomed.
    difficult child has grown in tiny increments.
    What you said in that last line was is worth much thought. Thank you.