The following two self-help assessment measures or guides can help you understand your current situation more clearly. They can increase your ability to be proactive, and therefore less reactive, so that you will be in the best position to facilitate your loved one's healing and well-being as well as your own. They can help give you a better sense of how deeply you are under the spell—or under the influence—of your loved one's illness, addiction, or trauma.
The first is a guide to point to where you are stuck. It can indicate where your thinking might get you into slight, moderate, or serious trouble. The second is a measure of how much danger or trouble you may actually be in right now. Be as truthful as you can in order to give yourself the clearest picture of where you are functioning now. Both assessment measures are to be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." When you are not sure or are in doubt about the answer to a particular question, the answer in my experience most likely is "yes." Please note that these self-help assessment tools can be very useful, but they are not a substitute for an evaluation by a qualified professional; they are simply guidelines. They are not formal assessment procedures; rather, they are more like informal screening tests that are intended to raise awareness. If you have any doubts whatsoever, please consult a qualified mental health professional. And if you are dealing with violence, suicidal threats, or alcohol and other drugs, it is imperative that you do not waste any time. Consult a professional immediately. There may be little time to waste!
The Most Common Errors in Thinking by Family Members Under the Influence of Mental Illness
1. I am responsible for all the problems in this relationship/family.
2. The actions of the person with any serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction are directly influenced by me.
3. It's my responsibility to solve this person's problems.
4. If I can't help, no one else can.
5. If I can convince the person with a serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction that I am right, his or her problems will disappear.
6. If you really love someone, you should take his or her physical or emotional abuse.
7. Your loved one can't help having a serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction, so I should not hold the person accountable for her or his behavior.
8. Setting limits hurts the person with any serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction and is wrong.
9. No matter what the person under the influence of illness, trauma, or addiction does, I should offer them my love, understanding, support, and unconditional acceptance.
10. If I ignore the warning signs, everything will be all right.
11. If I just work hard enough, try enough, am smart enough, am pretty/handsome enough, etc., then my ill family member will be okay.
12. No one can really understand what I/we am/are going through.
13. I am alone.
14. No help is available.
15. Any serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction is untreatable.
16. A serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction is a character flaw.
17. If I am good enough, the person with a serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction will be okay.
18. Effective treatment for the person with any serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction consists of having the person understand how irrational and illogical his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are.
19. Medication is for weaklings.
20. I don't have a problem; it is just my family member or other loved one who does.
21. My loved one is just lazy.
22. I can't ever burden my loved one with my problems because his or hers are so much more serious.
23. Life is a drag and then you die.
24. There are no escaping life's burdens and responsibilities.
25. There is no one I can really trust or depend on.
26. My loved one can/will never learn to be different.
27. If people really knew what was happening, they would reject me/my loved one.
28. I have to sacrifice my life if my loved one is to recover.
29. Others will always understand my situation if I explain it clearly.
30. People with a serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction shouldn't work, be employed, or be responsible.
31. Others will like me if I always say positive things.
32. Others always have my best interests at heart.
33. I need to do things I don't like to do so others will like me.
34. It is selfish to put my needs ahead of satisfying another's needs or desires some of the time.
35. I must be agreeable for others to like me.
36. It is not possible to love if I voice a different perspective or opinion.
37. A good parent, spouse, sibling, etc., is responsible for the emotional and physical health of others.
38. I can feel worthwhile only if I have someone to love me.
39. I must stay alert to insure that I do not say something that might upset my loved one.
40. I must avoid conflict at all costs.
ANSWER KEY:If you answered two or more questions with a yes, YOU may have a problem.
If you answered three or more questions with a yes, YOU probably do have a problem.
If you answered four or more questions with a yes, YOU have a problem.
If you answered more than five questions with a yes, get help immediately.
Danger Signs for Family Members Under the Influence of Mental Illness
1. Do others like family, friends, or significant people in your life tell you they don't understand why you are putting up with your loved one's behavior?
2. Do you try to avoid contact with these people?
3. Do you feel the need to hide or cover up your family member or loved one's behavior?
4. Does the thought of spending time with the person give you unpleasant physical sensations?
5. Are you becoming clinically depressed? Do you experience less interest in normal activities or have less pleasure; have you gained or lost more than twenty-five pounds in the last six months; had or have thoughts of suicide or feelings of worthlessness; have trouble concentrating; or experience mood swings? (Count each yes as one point)
6. Have you acted in ways that go against your fundamental values and beliefs?
7. Are you no longer able to take a stand for what you believe?
8. Are you concerned about the effects of your loved one's behavior on other family members?
9. Have you ever had to intercede on behalf of a family member?
10. Have you ever felt or have actually been in physical danger with a loved one? (Count each yes as one point)
11. Is there or has there been violence by any family member?
12. Are you not sure about whether there is family violence?
13. Are you making decisions mainly out of fear, obligation, and guilt?
14. Are you taking non-prescription drugs to cope with or ward off depression or anxiety?
15. Do you regularly read self-help books about (or for) your loved ones? 16. Do you think about/worry about your loved one more than one hour per day?
17. Are you putting your life on hold?
18. Are you participating in your loved one's serious, chronic and recurrent illness, trauma, or addiction?
19. Do you think you might be participating in your loved one's illness, addiction, or trauma? (Subtract one for a yes response)
20. Do you believe your loved one has a character flaw, is weak-willed, or is malingering? (Count one for each yes)
21. Do you not have someone you can call any time of the day or night for any reason?
22. Do you not have something to be very passionate about?
23. Do you feel unloved? Unappreciated? Unneeded? (Count each yes as one point)
24. Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?
25. Do you startle easily?
26. Have you thought that you need more friends?
27. Do you feel trapped?
28. Are you too sensitive a person?
29. Have you suddenly and involuntarily recalled a frightening experience of your loved one while doing something else?
30. Do you think that you work too hard for your own good?
31. Do you get thoughts in your head that you neither want nor can control?
32. Do you have a problem with your eating?
33. Do you see or hear things others don't?
34. Have you ever thought of suicide?
35. Had a suicide plan? (Count having a plan as three yes answers)
36. Have you become a cynic?
37. If you have answered any of the above questions with a yes, are you not getting help?
38. If I disagree with my loved one, I will lose my relationship.
39. I think triumph and adversity have little in common.
40. I think fear and courage have little in common.
ANSWER KEY:If you answered one or more questions with a yes, YOU might have a problem.
If you answered two or more questions with a yes, YOU probably do have a problem and YOU should seek help.
If you answered three or more questions with a yes, you may have a major problem and YOU should seek professional help immediately.