What to do When Mental Health Affects Your Relationships

Living with a mental health condition can be lonely, debilitating, confusing and upsetting. The relationships in our lives are an enormous source of comfort when things get tough, but those same relationships can also be heavily impacted by the toll mental illness can take.

“According to behavioural care service provider The Priory Group, there’s evidence that eight out of 10 people with mental ill health believe their condition has a detrimental effect on their family.”

You should never feel guilty for struggling with your mental health, but it is important to recognise the effect it can have on the people around you, and most importantly, what you can do – together – to makes things more harmonious. After all, tensions in any relationship can have an extremely negative impact on your wellbeing – and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve.

 

When Loved Ones are Worried About You

One of the most challenging parts of seeing a loved one experience mental ill health is not knowing how to help them. Communication really is key here. If you suffer from anxiety, you might need calm, quiet and solitude when anxieties are high; conversely, you might need reassurance, understanding and compassion. But the people around you won’t know what helps unless you tell them.

Our experience with mental health is unique; no two people cope in the same way, so it’s unrealistic to expect your partner, friend, parent or colleague to know how to treat you. If having a face-to-face conversation is difficult, try putting it down in writing: “When I’m feeling anxious/stressed/down/depressed, I need you to give me space/reassure me/check in regularly.”

 

When Stress Takes its Toll

Looking after someone with a mental health condition can be stressful, but so can living with poor mental health. The problem is that when stress levels soar, we tend to take it out on the people around us. Whether you lose your cool and snap at one another more regularly, or you withdraw completely and crave time alone, it can put a lot of strain on your relationships.

The same advice about communication absolutely applies here (you and your partner need to know what triggers you, and what helps you to decompress), but it’s also important that you focus on stress relief. Whether that’s working through your challenges with a therapist, or devoting time to essential self-care.

 

When You Feel Like a Burden

It is incredibly common for anyone living with a mental health condition to feel like a burden on the people around them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your loved ones care about you, and if they seem stressed or frustrated, this usually comes from a place of wanting to help and not knowing how. The trouble is, feeling guilty about your condition can cause you even more stress, cause your symptoms to worsen, and create further tensions in the relationship.  

Despite being really common, these feelings can be serious – even leading to suicidal thoughts. It’s therefore extremely important that you’re able to talk about them openly with your family, friends or partner, alongside a therapist who can help you to process these emotions.

 

When Your Partner Takes on Too Much

A loving partner will always want to do all they can to help you through difficult times. When you’re struggling with a mental health condition, it can make it really hard for you to complete even basic tasks – such as household chores, paying bills, or cooking meals.

Having someone in your life to help with these things can be a blessing, but if your partner feels pressured to take on too much, they may get burned out. The best way around this is to prioritise the important tasks, and ask for help. Tackling tasks together can be less of a strain on both of you. If finances allow, it can also help to outsource certain things – such as investing in a cleaner for a couple of hours a week, or using a meal planning and delivery service like Hello Fresh.

 

When You Need Someone Objective to Talk To

 

Being able to confide in your partner, family and friends about your mental health challenges is a truly wonderful thing – but there will always be topics that you don’t feel completely comfortable sharing. If you struggle with a condition like OCD, the nature of intrusive thoughts can be scary and alarming – which means you’ll often keep them to yourself, even when you have a great support network around you.

Talking to somebody completely objective, like a qualified therapist, can really help you to work through your challenges, process your emotions, and find healthy coping mechanisms. And because therapists will understand your condition, they won’t be shocked by anything you have to say.

Need to talk? Get in touch with a qualified therapist like me.

It is important you find a reputable qualified therapist. You can do so on a counselling directory such as The Counselling directory or the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (B.A.C.P). 

 

 If your a therapist or other mental health professional you may be interested in my new course called the Relationship Recovery Toolkit. The course launches on the 15th February and enrolment closes on the 28th February. Join my waiting list here.