Those with mental illness can be successful at all aspects of life with the right medication, treatment, and willingness to help manage their disorder. In cases where mental illness symptoms change or expand or when disorders go undiagnosed or untreated, however, the life of those affected can suffer greatly. This is especially true for those directly related to the individual such as a partner, spouse, family member, or even a child.
It’s often times that children are the most effected when a parent with mental illness starts to slip back into their bad habits and symptoms, or if they are going untreated for their disorder. While this doesn’t remove the importance of these negative impacts on others, a child who has a mentally ill parent can be easily neglect, abused, and given bad modeling tools with which to live by. Children look to parents for nourishment, guidance, and acceptance, and most mental illnesses can make these capabilities impossible for a parent who needs to care for their child.
Remember that being a mentally ill parent may make things tougher on a person, but they are capable of being successful in their duties and many parents do fulfill their child’s needs while still managing and combating their mental disorders. Many parents with mental illness, however, can backslide and let these negative symptoms spill onto their relationships, creating a direct correlation between bad parenting and their disorder.
Disorders Can Lead to Neglect
Emotional neglect can be one of the easiest ways to stunt the development of a child and can lead to antisocial behavior, the inability to emotionally connect with others, as well as an undeveloped sense of conscience. Because those with psychological disorders can have a hard time even emotionally connecting with their own feelings and needs, doing so for other people can be even more difficult. This can lead to emotionally neglecting the child or children in their care, continuing what can be a cycle of bad behaviors and disorders.
Physical neglect can also be prevalent in parents with mental disorders, and this can come in many forms. Some common forms of physical neglect are leaving diapers unchanged for long periods of time, neglecting to dress or change children, forgetting to feed or buy food for children, as well as leaving them to their own devices to get injured.
Disorders like Cluster A personality disorders that are characterized by paranoia and isolation can lead to parents being distrusting and shut off from the rest of the world, and this can include their children. Cluster C disorders that are marked by extreme fear and anxiety can also lead to neglect in the form of isolation tendencies and extreme emotional disconnect or toxicity like co-dependence or inadequacy.
It may not be the intention of the mentally ill person to be self-absorbed, but disorders are very selfish illnesses. Those with mental illness can become consumed with their symptoms to the point of self-destruction, and this is possible for almost all mental disorders. For instance, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) causes the afflicted person to perform repetitive rituals and habits that can lead to self-harm and crippling anxiety that cannot be controlled until the person finds a way to “control” it via these routines. Parents with legitimately diagnosed OCD can become so consumed with their rituals and personal stipulations that they can be incapable of properly taking care of their children.
Disorders can be so all-consuming that the person directly dealing with them can lose sight of the people they should be caring for, namely their children, and the inconsistency that can arise because of the fluctuations in a person with mental illness can be very damaging to them. The challenges that arise with parenting when psychologically ill are of course hard on the person with a disorder, but the suffering that this can put on a child isn’t any more fair or deserved, especially when a child doesn’t comprehend why their parent is behaving the way they are and neglected them.
Abuse and Mental Illness
Another form of bad parenting that can correlate with mental illness is a more violent form of physical abuse. Mental disorders that have symptoms of anger and uncontrollable rage, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or alcohol and drug dependency, can cause parents to physically hurt their children. Physical abuse is NOT exclusive to mentally ill parents, nor are mentally ill parents always going to be physically abusive, but some disorders do make the chances of physical abuse in a home more likely.
Physical abuse is more seen in disorders that have anger, anxiety, or fear related symptoms. The paranoia and anxiety that can be caused by a disorder can put someone on edge; their mind pushing and pushing them to a breaking point that can be taken out on their child. Mood effecting disorders like alcohol dependency can make a person erratic to the point of uncontrolled violence.