Impact on families

How does bipolar disorder impact on families?

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder can have considerable impact not only on the affected individual, but also on the people closest to them. Sometimes families experience different types of burden, particularly during acute phases of the illness. Burden is considered in terms of objective effects, such as illness severity or financial strain, but also in terms of subjective effects, such as the emotional impact of the illness on family members.

What is the evidence regarding impact on families?

Moderate to low quality evidence found lower parent-reported cohesion in families with a parent with bipolar disorder compared to families with no parental psychiatric disorder. There were no differences in family environment between parents with bipolar disorder and parents with other psychiatric disorders. Families with a child with bipolar disorder had higher conflict than families without a child with bipolar disorder.

Caregiver burden is apparent during their relative’s depressive and manic episodes. Patient behaviours of most concern to caregivers include impulsive spending, over activity, lack of sleep, over talkativeness, lack of insight, and odd, aggressive or unpredictable behaviours. Around half of all caregivers report depression symptoms, and around a third report contact with mental health services for their own symptoms. Caregiver knowledge is increased, and short-term burden is decreased, following education about bipolar disorder.

October 2021

Image: ©Olesya Shelomova –

Last updated at: 12:04 pm, 30th March 2022
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Fact Sheet Technical Commentary
Tags:  Families

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