• We explored the relationship between aggressive behaviors and coping strategies used by caregivers of patients with severe mental illness.

• Coping towards aggression in caregivers are maladaptive especially when encounter physical aggression and aggression directed towards property.

• Coping skills training may help family caregivers to address aggression better.

Aggression is one of the chief determinants of caregiver burden in severe mental illnesses. Clinical and treatment implications of aggression in mental illness are predominantly studied in perspectives of mental health care professionals. Coping style of caregivers towards aggression of persons with mental illness is understudied. So we studied coping strategies used by caregivers of patients with severe mental illness towards aggressive behaviors of patients and relationship between aggressive behavior and coping strategies. We assessed two hundreds and seventy caregivers of patients with severe mental illness attending outpatient psychiatry department using Modified Overt Aggression Scale and the Ways of Coping Scale – revised. 95.6% of the caregivers perceived verbal aggression followed by aggression against property (67%), auto aggression (33.7%) and physical aggression (25.6%). The study revealed that adaptive coping strategies – planful problem solving and seeking social support were used by 40% each of caregivers to deal with aggressive behavior. Only 4.4% of caregivers resorted to escape avoidance which is maladaptive coping strategy. Though adaptive strategies were used by caregivers these were not used in appropriate situations. Physical aggression and aggression against property were not significantly associated with planful problem solving (r = 0.105; p = 0.08 and r = 0.110; p = 0.07 respectively). But verbal aggression, aggression against property and physical aggression were associated with escape avoidance (r = 0.152; p = 0.01 and r = 0.168; p = 0.01 and r = 0.23; p = <0.001 respectively). The study concluded that coping in caregivers of severe mental illness is maladaptive with respect to aggression. Coping skills training would play a major role to address this issue.

Neethu Bhaskaran Madathumkovilakath, Sindhu Kizhakkeppattu, Saleem Thekekunnath, Firoz Kazhungil
Asian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 35, June 2018