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Dating a person with a mental illness
by TeenHelp March 2nd 2015, 09:23 PM

Dating a person with a mental illness

By Nicole (Pug Princess)

Dating a person with a mental illness can be challenging for various reasons, however it can still be a very rewarding experience. Youíll need patience, empathy, and a positive attitude to make it work. Thereís a balance between helping take care of them, and treating them like they canít help themselves. Finding this balance and knowing how to cope can help ensure that your relationship is still healthy even if their mental health isn't. Your partner's mental illness does not mean you two canít have a healthy relationship.

Finding out your partner has a mental illness

When you first start dating somebody, itís likely you to wonít know too much about each other. Getting to know each other typically consists of showing your best traits to ensure they will return feelings for you. Once you begin dating, trust develops as you confide in each other. Learning that your partner has a mental illness can be surprising, and maybe even scary for you. Mental illnesses can be just as inhibiting as physical ones, so it will mean that your relationship will need extra care and more compromises may need to be made in order to keep you and your partner content.
Mental illness is usually not only noticeable through observed behavior. For example, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 350 million people have some form of depression. However, we donít often realize how common it is because people tend to conceal their suffering when in the company of others. Many people also do not report their depression and do not get help.
If you find out your partner has a mental illness, make sure you comfort and reassure them despite how you initially feel. It can be very beneficial to educate yourself on the illness that your partner has. There are many books you can read or you can speak to a counselor about it and get tips for how to be supportive.

How to give support

It can be difficult being with somebody who has a mental illness because you might feel as though thereís nothing you can do to help them. That is untrue, there are actually many ways you can be supportive of your partner.
  • Be a good listener. Sometimes people just need to be able to vent about whatever is bothering them. If your partner has a mental illness, it may be even more crucial that they can confide in you when they aren't doing well. Remember to only offer advice if they ask for it. This is because when you are trying to figure out what to say, you may not be able to listen to everything that they are saying. Instead, let them talk and ask little questions along the way. Then when they've let everything out, you can work together with them to try and find a solution to whatever is bothering them. It can make your partner feel a lot better if they know you will listen and they donít have to hold everything that they feel in.
  • Encourage them to reach out for help. This is extremely important to do when you are in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. Keep an eye out for warning signs of suicidal thoughts. This can include your partner talking about death, making reckless decisions such as speeding, unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self harm, and/or if they seem to have lost their interest in activities they used to enjoy. If your partner seems to be struggling to the point where it is interfering with their work or well-being, be sure to talk to them. Remind them that you care about them and donít want to see them struggling. Suggest people they can talk to, or help them find a counselor to go see. If they refuse or keep insisting that they are fine, donít be afraid to reach out for them if you notice warning signs. It is better to speak up when nothing is wrong than to ignore it and allow things to get worse. Your partner may be upset when they find out you talked to someone about them, but they will thank you later when they get help.
  • Help out when their illness is inhibiting them. Mental illnesses are typically life-long, however people can learn to cope with them. This means that some days your partner may be just fine going about their daily life, but other days they may not have the energy to cook for themselves or may feel too low to get out of bed. In this case, itís important to step up and help them out. If you notice they seem to be struggling more than usual, offer to make them dinner. If they are in a state of mania and canít sleep, offer to stay up with them if you donít have to be up early the next day. Being with someone who has a mental illness usually requires more sacrifices and flexibility than in a normal relationship, but doing so will make your partner very appreciative.
Problems and solutions

Being in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness can create more obstacles, but there are easy solutions. The most important thing is to have patience for your partner. A mental illness can be just as inhibiting as a physical one. Common problems include:
  • Feeling your partner isn't trying hard enough. This thought can occur even if you are completely in love with your partner. When you see them crying a lot and unable to get out of bed while you feel fine, it can be hard to continue to empathize with them day after day. It can be easy to say: ďWhy canít you just get up?Ē but itís hard for them to find the energy or willpower to do so. The solution to this problem is to step up and help instead of thinking negatively. If they are having trouble getting to work, offer to pack their lunch the night before and set out clothes for them. Studies show that doing things for your partner can actually improve how you feel about them.
  • Feeling like you have to sacrifice too much. You may ask your partner if you two can go to the movies on the weekend. They agree, but when the time rolls around they are having a low day and donít want to leave the house. You may be getting ready to meet some friends for lunch, but end up staying home to help calm down your partner who is having an anxiety attack. No matter what mental illness your partner has, you will need to make sacrifices that you may not normally need to make. This can be very grating after a while, and once again patience is key. If you are with someone, you need to be able to handle them at their worst as well as at their best. No relationship is happy all the time; even in a relationship without mental illness there will be times when youíll have to comfort your partner. When you feel worn down by their mood, try and look past the situation and count all of the reasons why you love them. How they feel at that moment in time is temporary, and in time they will be happy again. Itís important that you help them get there as their significant other.
  • Having to worry about them often. No matter what mental illness your partner has, youíre going to worry about them a lot more than if they didn't have the illness. If your partner has an eating disorder, youíre going to worry about if they are eating when you aren't there. If they have anxiety, youíre going to worry if theyíre doing alright at work. If they have depression, youíre going to worry if theyíre having suicidal thoughts. Worrying is okay and is actually a good thing because it means you care, however excessive worrying can be grating for yourself, too. Things to remember are that your partner can and should be able to take care of themselves. They shouldn't need to rely on a significant other to be alright. Itís also important to remember that if they have trust in you, they will tell you if they are having a low point or if they are struggling more than usual. Try not to get too into their business and instead treat them like they donít have a mental illness. If you treat them really differently and are always asking if they are doing okay, it could potentially be very irritating for them. Instead, trust that they are taking care of themselves and will ask for your help if it is needed.
How to handle break-ups

Breaking up with someone who has a mental illness can be scary because they are already somewhat unstable. When you break up, be sure to encourage them to spend time with friends and family. Someone who has depression may become suicidal when someone they love breaks up with them. Itís important to remember that if you break up, they are no longer your responsibility and itís manipulation if they try and make you stay just so they wonít get sad. Break-ups are always hard, and everyone gets sad about them. If they give any warning signs or talk about feeling suicidal, talk to one of their parents or a teacher immediately so they can get help. People with depression may need extra care, but that doesn't mean you aren't allowed to break up with them if it isn't working out.
Of course people with other mental disorders or differing levels of depression may not become suicidal. You should still communicate when you break up to make sure they can handle it in a healthy manner. They may try to cling to you because you've been tangled in their life to an extent where they have come to rely on you for mediating their illness. As said before, they aren't your responsibility. It may be beneficial to cut off contact to help them get over you easier. If they harm themselves in any way, it was their decision and you shouldn't feel like it was your fault. Everybody has an ability to cope in a healthy way.

Mental illness has a wide gradient of how much it interferes with daily life. It may not be anything more than a slight bump in a relationship, or it may cause the relationship to be too stressful. In either case, people with mental illnesses are perfectly capable of being in a committed relationship, so long as both partners communicate and encourage each other. Itís also crucial to note that relationships should not be seen as a way to alleviate a mental illness and especially not to treat one. Relying on someone for happiness isn't healthy, and can put a person in danger because things may not work out. If you or someone you know has a mental illness and wants to get into a relationship, be sure to seek help to cope with the illness, and have many sources of support such as from friends and family so that it does not come down to relying upon just one person.
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Re: Dating a person with a mental illness - December 11th 2023, 07:40 AM

Thanks for the information!
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