When Mental Health Affects Relationships – Seek Free Relationship Counseling Online

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated June 23, 2022

Mental health concerns are very common and real. In fact, approximately 20% or one in five Americans is living with a mental health disorder. So, there’s a very strong chance that mental health concerns will impact either you or someone you’re in relationship with. If you or a loved one is living with a mental health disorder, you can still enjoy fulfilling, positive relationships of all types, including friendships, romances, and family bonds.

How Mental Health Disorders Can Affect Relationships

When a person is living with a mental health disorder, their loved ones, friends, and family members can be affected. Common, powerful feelings—for those living with the mental health disorder and for their loved ones—may include shame, guilt, confusion, anger, grief, fear, sadness, and helplessness.

How To Help A Loved One Who Has A Mental Health Disorder

  1. Know The Signs Of Mental Health Disorders.

While the signs don’t necessarily mean that a loved one has a mental health disorder, there are some characteristics to be aware of. If you notice the signs in loved ones, seeking the advice of a primary health care provider or a licensed mental health professional can be an important step.

  • Withdrawal from activities that were previously enjoyed; apathy about participation in interests or activities.
  • Sleep or appetite changes.
  • A drop in functioning, such as a drop in academic progress, work performance, or familiar tasks.
  • Mood changes, including feelings of depression or rapid or dramatic mood swings.
  • Problems with thinking, concentration, memory, or speech.
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds, touch, sights, or smells and avoiding stimulation.
  • A feeling of being disconnected from surroundings.
  • Illogical or exaggerated thinking or feelings about personal power.
  • Unusual behavior that’s out of character.
  • Suspiciousness
  • Excessive fears.
  • Low energy.
  • Detachment from reality.
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use.
  • Excessive anger or hostility.
  • Thoughts of or actions relating to self-harm or suicide.

If you or a loved one is considering or is in danger of suicide or self-harm, it’s crucial to seek help right away. Call 9-1-1 in the event of a crisis or immediate risk of harm.

Support is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or on the website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

Are You And Your Partner Ready To Strengthen Your Relationship?

2. Know How To Start A Conversation About Mental Health Concerns.

Talking to the person you’re concerned about in a supportive, patient, caring way can be a good way to get the conversation started. A helpful tip to remember is to use “I” statements, such as “I care about you,” or “I would like to help you,” or “I would like to ask you to consider talking to an professional.” Avoiding demanding statements like “You should…” or “You are…” can also be a good practice. Reassuring your loved one that you care about them and are there to offer support and to listen can help them feel secure. Stressing that seeking help is a sign of strength can also be encouraging.

3. Address Barriers To Getting Care And Help Find Treatment Options.

Some people who are experiencing an illness—whether physical or mental—find that seeking treatment options can be a challenge. Helping your loved one make and keep appointments, find the right care, and communicate about their condition with others can make a difference. Encouraging them to take any medication and to follow up with therapy and continue self-care can also be helpful.

4. Remember That Knowledge Is Power.

Use reputable sources to learn more about the mental health condition, treatments, and how to be most helpful. Your own primary care medical provider can be a good person to ask for recommendations for reputable sources. You can also encourage your loved one to talk openly with their own mental health care provider so that the provider has information to help individualize a treatment plan. Empowering your loved one to ask questions so that they understand their treatment plan, their condition, and what they might expect can also be a proactive step.

5. Seek Support For Yourself.

When you’re in a relationship with a person living with a mental health disorder, it’s important to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. It can be very helpful to know your limitations and how to cope with your own emotions about the mental illness and your loved one. Regular self-care strategies, such as adequate sleep, good nutrition, and relaxation, can help you stay strong for yourself and your loved one. You can also seek support for yourself. A therapist can offer you a safe, empathetic space to share your emotions, brainstorm productive ways to handle your circumstances, help you understand mental health disorders, and explore fresh perspectives on how to live with and support your loved one.

6. Have Realistic Expectations.

Often the path to treatment and recovery isn’t a straight one. Progress and setbacks are common. For the sake of you and your partner, it can be encouraging to remind yourself (and them) that, ultimately, treatments can be very effective even when setbacks occur.

If Your Partner Is Living With A Mental Health Condition

All relationships face challenges. A mental health disorder may be one of those. It can be helpful to remember that most people who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder will improve with effective treatment. An accepting, positive attitude can be an important factor in helping your partner recover. Taking care of yourself, taking breaks to relax, and asking for help when you need it—with everything from emotional support to household work and more—can be important for your own physical and emotional help.

If Your Child Experiences a Mental Health Condition

Parents of children who are living with a mental health disorder may experience a range of emotions. They may find it upsetting to adjust their visions and plans for the future of their family, and to know that their child is going through something difficult. However, it’s important to maintain hope and remember that interventions and treatment can be very effective.

Helping your child get the right care should be a priority. Your child’s mental healthcare provider and pediatrician can not only provide care for your child but may also be great sources of information and support for you.

If parents of a child with a mental health disorder have other children, taking care of those children and considering their emotions and the family dynamics can help all members of the family feel supported. As always, self-care and asking for help when you need it are highly encouraged.

If You’re Living With A Mental Health Disorder

If you’re living with a mental health condition, you may wonder or worry about how it might affect your relationships. A positive step is to communicate with your loved ones about how you’re feeling. Chances are, they’ll want to know and want to help. You can also try to listen to their thoughts and perspectives. Taking care of your mental health is one of the best steps for maintaining a strong relationship. Tips include:

  • Following your treatment plan and the recommendations of your licensed mental healthcare provider.
  • Taking care of yourself with healthy eating, sleep, activities, and relaxation.
  • Learning about the disorder and sharing the information with your loved ones.
  • Staying connected with family and friends.

Health Benefits Of Strong Relationships

Relationships can offer healthy connections and a sense of meaning. Even if you or a loved one is living with mental health concerns, positive relationships are very possible and can offer an array of benefits.

Healthy relationships can have very healthy outcomes for all involved, including:

  1. Less Stress: Those in healthy relationships experience less stress and less release of the stress hormone cortisol. Social and emotional support can help with stress-management.
  2. Better Healing: Emotional support can lead to better outcomes in the event of illness or surgery.
  3. A Longer Life: Those who have strong emotional support and social ties are more likely to live longer.
  4. Healthier Behaviors: People in healthy relationships tend to have healthier lifestyles. This may be a result of healthy habits of friends or loved ones. For instance, people with habits like exercising, not smoking, and eating nutritiously might inspire or encourage people around them to do the same.
  5. An Enhanced Sense Of Purpose: Positive relationships can help people feel a greater sense well-being and meaning.

Are You And Your Partner Ready To Strengthen Your Relationship?

Affordable And Free Resources For Mental Healthcare And Support

If you or a loved is experiencing a mental health concern, please reach out for help. There are many resources for finding free or affordable mental health care.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a website with affordable healthcare resources. There is also a website for locating behavioral health treatment.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and they have multiple resources available. NAMI Family-to-Family is a free educational program for families and loved ones of those who are experiencing a mental health condition. NAMI Family Support Group is a free support group for adults who have a relationship with someone who is living with a mental health disorder. You can find strength in sharing and learning from others in these groups that follow a structured, helpful model.

Your healthcare provider may also be able to recommend resources for free or affordable mental health care, counseling, and support in your community.

Online therapy can be a positive, accessible, affordable option for relationship counseling and individual therapy. At BetterHelp, you can connect with licensed mental health professionals who can offer you compassionate help, support, and guidance. If you’re living with a mental health condition, please seek professional help and consider accepting help from those you’re in positive relationships with. If you’re in a relationship with someone who has a mental health disorder, encouraging them to seek help and taking care of yourself can be good ways to support both of you. Relationships are valuable—as is the mental health of everyone in them.

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