Love Matters: Dating with mental illness

Love Matters: Dating with mental illness

When people experience frightening mental symptoms, dark thoughts and low motivation, it can be tempting to stay inside all day, shirking responsibilities and postponing friendships. Years of research, however, suggests that social support is an essential part of recovery from mental illness.

One form of social support is dating. Entering the dating world while battling mental illness can be a daunting – and frightening – task.

Here is some advice about dating with mental illness.

1. Try online dating

Online dating has gradually become a more common and socially acceptable way to meet potential partners. For individuals with mental illness, online dating can be especially valuable.

People with mental illness often dread “the talk,” or the discussion they need to have with their partner about their illness. Prior to the first date, individuals with mental illness can mention the nature of their illness to their romantic partner through text and gauge the reaction. Rather than suffering through a sweaty-palm, face-to-face interaction with a near stranger, individuals can bring their illness out in the open on their own terms in a safe environment.

Considerable stigma associated with mental illness still exists, despite the attempts to remove it by clinicians, public figures and advocates, so not everyone will respond favorably. Other people, however, will have no issue with it and may offer emotional support.

2. Talk about the illness before a crisis

Most people likely will not want to reveal their illness before their first date, or even before their tenth date. Although there is something to be said about waiting for the “right” moment to discuss a mental illness, it’s better to disclose it in a way in which you can talk about it openly and calmly. In other words, don’t wait until a mental health crisis before saying something. A crisis can cause panic and the relationship will likely take a hit. Choose a time when you both are patient and calm.

When discussing your illness with a dating partner, have books or online reading readily available for him or her to peruse. Let your partner know that you are willing to answer any of his or her questions.

3. Seek treatment

When mental illness is beating you down, it can be hard to be a good partner. You might make impulsive or inappropriate decisions. You might withdraw into yourself. You might have difficulties with empathy or find it difficult to trust other people.

For this reason, it’s essential to receive treatment while you are dating. Severe, untreated mental illness can cause numerous problems in a relationship. Have a reliable medical support network including a psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist. Your romantic partner should not be the only one responsible for your health.

4. Make sure your partner is supportive

Although your romantic partner shouldn’t be solely responsible for your health, he or she should be supportive of your issues. A good relationship can help someone who’s going through an episode, whereas a bad relationship can trigger or worsen a mental illness. A supportive partner will take time to learn about the disorder and find ways to help and encourage you.

Being supportive, however, is distinct from being a pushover. Your partner should be able to love and support you without sacrificing his or her own mental health or well-being. To learn more about the impact of mental illness and its impact on relationships, contact the Florida Mental Health Helpline at any time at 866-846-5588 to speak to someone who can help you or a loved one today.

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