How Mental Illness Affects Relationships

For any kind of relationship to function smoothly, there are various factors that play an important role.

These are compatibility, love, respect, compromise, being supportive etc.

It is both sad and worrisome to know that sound mental health being such an important factor never earns any recognition. To have a fruitful and healthy relationship, a sound mental health should be given utmost priority.

The relationships we form as children and young people are predictors of our future mental health and well-being. For our mental health, having few close relationships has been linked to higher rates of depression and stress. However, as we get older, relationships often get forgotten as life gets busier with work and commitments. Instinctively, we recognize that relationships are important but we often overlook that it requires an investment of time to maintain good relationships.

The Mental Health Foundation believes we urgently need a greater focus on the quality of our relationships. We need to understand just how fundamental relationships are to our health and well-being. We cannot flourish as individuals and communities without them. In fact, they are as vital as better-established lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more and to avoid consuming alcohol etc.

A mental illness—including post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcoholism—can also affect a person’s relationships. There may be no relationship more affected by mental illness than the intimate relationship between partners.

The good news is that it’s possible to be in a healthy, loving, and long-term partnership with someone who has a mental illness. If this is relevant to you, be aware of the unique challenges you and your partner may face, and utilize resources and strategies that will help you grow and nurture your relationship.

Things you can do

  1. Give time: put more time aside to connect with friends and family.
  2. Be present: it can be tempting to check your phone, Facebook messages or even work emails when with family and friends. Try to be present in the moment and be there for your loved ones, and switch out of work mode whenever possible.
  3. Listen: actively listen to what others are saying in a non-judgmental way and concentrate on their needs in that moment.
  4. Be listened to: share how you are feeling, honestly, and allow yourself to be listened to and supported.
  5. Recognize unhealthy relationships: being around positive people can make us happier; however, our well-being can be negatively affected by harmful relationships, leaving us unhappy. Recognizing this can help us move forward and find solutions to issues.
  6. Seek professional help: Use whatever resources are relevant to you and within your means. Both couples counseling and individual counseling may be appropriate.
  7. Have realistic expectations: You can’t demand that someone change who they are nor expect them to meet all your needs at all times; this is true for all relationships. Equally, you don’t have to violate your boundaries in order to maintain the relationship. Find a way to compromise and grow so both of you feel safe and supported.

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