Objectives: In contrast to schizophrenia, coping patterns of caregivers of bipolar patients have not received much attention. Previous evidence suggests that demographic factors, illness variables, caregiver burden, appraisal, etc can significantly influence coping styles. This study thus attempted to examine coping and its correlates in caregivers of bipolar patients, in comparison with schizophrenia.
Method: Structured assessments of dysfunction, burden, appraisal, social support available, and coping styles were carried out in caregivers of 38 bipolar patients and 20 patients with schizophrenia (ICD – 10 diagnoses).
Results: Caregivers used a wide variety of coping strategies, both problem and emotion-focused. In bipolar disorder, demographic parameters, illness duration, levels of dysfunction, burden and social support, and appraisal by caregivers demonstrated significant associations with coping styles of caregivers. Problem-focused coping strategies were more common in caregivers of bipolar patients and emotion-focused strategies in caregivers of schizophrenic patients. These differences appeared to be linked to differences in caregiver-burden and appraisal between the two groups.
Conclusions: Appraisal by, and burden on caregivers play a major role in determining their style of coping. These factors largely accounted for the differences in coping observed between caregivers of patients of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, in this study. Reducing burden on caregivers and enhancing their awareness of illness could lead to adoption of more adaptive coping styles by them.