BACKGROUND Family members of patients with schizophrenia frequently report burdens associated with caring for their relatives.
AIMS We evaluate the impact of illness beliefs on the burden reported by family care-givers of people with bipolar illness.
METHOD The multivariate relationships between patient symptomatology and family illness beliefs and report of burden were examined at baseline among care-givers of 266 patients with Research Diagnostic Criteria-diagnosed bipolar illness who were subsequently followed for 15 months.
RESULTS At baseline, 93% of care-givers reported moderate or greater distress in at least one burden domain. As a group, care-giver illness beliefs (illness awareness, perception of patient and family control) explained an additional 18-28% of variance in burden experienced beyond the effects of the patient's clinical state and history.
CONCLUSIONS Care-givers of patients with bipolar illness report widespread burden that is influenced by beliefs about the illness.