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High expressed emotion: marker for a caring family?

, : High expressed emotion: marker for a caring family?. Comprehensive Psychiatry 42(6): 504-507

"Expressed emotion" (EE) is considered a marker of dysfunctional family interaction in patients with schizophrenia. An alternative hypothesis, however, is that at least some of the different elements of EE really represent attempts on the part of carers to cope with and care for a relative with a psychiatric disorder. EE (criticism and emotional overinvolvement) was measured in relatives (n = 31) of patients with psychotic illness using the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS). Level of EE was examined in relation to (1) patient-reported family involvement in care over the previous 2 years as indicated by medication monitoring, involvement in treatment decisions, and providing a substitute for institutional care; and (2) symptom severity and number of psychotic episodes. Presence of EE in the relative was strongly associated with the degree of family involvement in care (odds ratio (OR) over three levels: 3.2; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.1 to 9.0). In addition, presence of high EE was associated with number of psychotic episodes in the previous 5 years in the proband (OR over 0, 1, or 2 episodes: 6.2; 95% CI, 1.2 to 31.9). The association with family involvement was confined to emotional overinvolvement (OR = 9.1; 95% CI, 2.0 to 42.2), whereas the association with previous psychotic episodes was confined to criticism (OR = 20.6; 95% CI, 2.8 to 149.3). Emotional overinvolvement may be a state marker for attempts on the part of relatives to be partners in the care for patients with psychotic illness. High level of criticism may be a trait marker in relatives associated with poor prognosis, but could also develop in reaction to a frequently relapsing illness.


PMID: 11704944

DOI: 10.1053/comp.2001.27899

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