A new study has found a correlation between the level of severity of positive symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and the level of stress and stress sensitivity that those patients’ mentally healthy siblings experience on a day-to-day basis. The study was published in the journal Acta Physhiatrica Scandinavica and conducted by researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. One might expect that siblings of patients dealing with any psychiatric condition would find themselves more stressed, especially those dealing with positive symptoms (symptoms not typically present in other people, such as hallucinations, voices, etc.). But the research found that the stress levels weren’t induced by the patient, but rather corresponded across siblings.
Patients with the most severe positive schizophrenic symptoms regularly had siblings who exhibited more emotional reactions to daily stressful situations. And patients with milder positive symptoms had siblings with milder emotional reaction to daily stress. These correlations indicate that even though one sibling is dealing with psychosis and another is not, they still share similar mental and emotional sensitivities. This may be a result of genetic predisposition, reaction to environmental factors while growing up, or a combination of the two, hypothesize researchers.
Either way, it illustrates the importance of stress reduction therapy not just for patients dealing with schizophrenia, but for their family members as well. Having a sibling diagnosed with such a condition can be a sign for healthy family members that they also are stress-reactive, and can benefit from stress-reduction therapy and self-relaxation techniques. This can also be a sign that the patient is still living in a high-stress social environment. The more educated family members are on techniques to reduce stress and diffuse tension, the better the living environment will be both for the patient and for his or her family members, including stress-sensitive siblings.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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