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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


LOPEZ JIMENEZ, María Teresa et al. Family functioning, beliefs regarding illness and emotional intelligence in patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in their relatives. Salud Ment [online]. 2011, vol.34, n.2, pp.111-120. ISSN 0185-3325.

Mental health problems, specifically mental disorders, develop from a complex system and not from a single cause. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects more than 2% of the population and generally the course of the illness is insidious and chronic. When functioning adequately, family constitutes a very important resource to face health problems and to help to improve the patient's life quality. This is the reason why it is important to underline the relevance of a stable, good functioning of the family system aimed at attaining an optimal development of all its members. Such development may be hindered by the family's incapability to modify functioning patterns at crucial moments when they are trapped in a series of inadaptable interactions which prevent to give specific solutions to the problems that are appearing, and when reporting, within a context of expressed emotion, an emotional over-involvement and high levels of hostility and criticism towards the member with OCD. Family accommodation is a phenomenon typical of families where the identified patient exerts a control based on aggressiveness when his/her wishes are not rewarded within the group. There are very few researches on the functioning of families of patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Generally, these researches are related with the partially negative effects that the interactions have on the behavior of patients and their relatives by preventing or hindering the development of the subject's system. The accordance between the patient's emotional regulation or emotional intelligence and their relatives has not been studied. On the other hand, the knowledge of the beliefs that relatives hold regarding the illness may be related with the functioning of the group as a family, whereas beliefs will provide consistency to family life because they provide continuity between past, present and future. They are also a way to address new and ambiguous situations such as mental illness. This is the reason why getting to know these family systems may allow elaborating more specific and effective intervention programs for groups and families. Objective To determine the family types through a member identified with obsessive-compulsive disorder; to compare the emotional intelligence profile between patients and relatives according to the perceived type of family; to compare the relatives' beliefs toward the illness according to the perceived type of family. Material and methods A sample of patients and their families with obsessive-compulsive disorder was obtained from those who were sent by the doctor in charge of their treatment to participate in a model of group therapy for OCD, consisting of cognitive behavioral theory, practices and psychoeducation. During the first session patients and their relatives answered the following instruments: Family Adjustment and Cohesion scales (FACES-II) by Olson, Profile of Emotional Intelligence (PIEMO) by Cortés et al., Beck Inventory of Anxiety. Relatives answered too the Beliefs and Attributions Questionnaire by Salorio et al. In addition, data on family structure was complied. The sample was constituted by 48 patients and 61 relatives. All instruments were self-applied. Once that the type was obtained according to the Olson's circumflex model, the emotional profile, the anxious and the depressive symptoms were compared through factorial 2x3 ANOVA. Beliefs and attributions were compared through simple ANOVA. Results Three types of families were determined as follows: high cohesion with chaotic standards for expressing emotions and ideas; high cohesion with a rigid expression of ideas and emotions; low cohesion with a little expression of ideas and emotions. Different profiles of emotional intelligence were found not only for patients but also for relatives, in each family type. Families with high cohesion and high adjustment appear as most emotionally intelligent, less anxious and depressed, and with beliefs more attuned to reality. This type of family function was the less frequent. For beliefs and illness attributions, it was observed that comprehension of the disorder increases in proportion to a higher family adaptation, while the tendency of family members to experience feelings of guilt either towards themselves or towards the patient is decreased. As a result, the perception of experiencing the patient's illness as a nuisance disappears. With regard to the results of the Beck scales, family members perceived a high cohesion and low adaptation had higher scores for depression and anxiety. In patients who show high levels of depression and anxiety perceive family functioning as a rigid structure, with little prospect of change and interaction that prevents growth (high cohesion, low adaptation), and in those perceived isolation, without significant emotional ties with other family members and with the rigidity that prevents problem situations. Conclusions The results obtained are congruent with Olson's statements in regard to family functioning in the specific case of obsessive- compulsive disorder; these findings permit to understand the family dynamics which may typify the symptoms in the identified patients, and also to explain the adjustment situation described in literature. Family intervention is justified, stressing the handling of emotions as an important element to be considered in order to obtain higher therapeutic benefits for the patient. This study found differences in adjustment between patients and their families, do not perceive the need for flexibility in the operation of the system to find solutions that do not perpetuate and sustain interactions that reinforce symptoms. As for depression and anxiety, similar levels in either condition may be observed, thus confirming the close relationship between both. It was found that in patients and relatives, higher levels of family adaptation correspond to lower levels of depressive and anxious symptoms. One of the first approaches to the dynamics of these systems must be headed towards the family systems of beliefs, as the ideas that family members hold regarding the importance of their participation in the whole process of the illness has an impact in its course. Many families have rigid systems that make them more vulnerable to the fluctuations that this illness presents since for their members it is important and decisive to have control over the ailment. Families with flexible systems of beliefs are more prone to experience losses with a feeling of acceptance and therefore it is easier for them to let their members to implement changes in their functioning, thus compensating and overcoming their limitations. In this sense it is important to attain a therapeutic collaboration relationship that may create within the family a sense of realistic control and may help also to put into action the system's capabilities to promote improvement. This idea allows for openness in the system that may lead it to consider that there are more efficient operational measures that those applied to date.

Palabras llave : Family functioning; emotional intelligence; OCD; beliefs about illness.

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