Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression affect one in five adults, and the impact they can have on well-being and everyday living can be profound.
Relationships in particular can come under a lot of strain, most notably due to how sufferers are likely to find it very difficult connecting emotionally with other people.
Other symptoms of illnesses such as depression and anxiety include withdrawing from social interaction, feelings of worthlessness and an increasing lack of interest in things that were once enjoyed. These can only add to the tension and difficulty of living with someone who has a mental health issue.
So what is a couple to do when one or both of you are living with a mental health issue? Take a look at the following tips that can help:
Confront the challenges
Many partners of depressed individuals will strive to pretend things are fine despite the fact they may be feeling very frustrated over the illness. This is often out of a need to minimise conflict and protect their troubled partner from difficult emotions, but this can easily backfire as resentment builds and emotional closeness dissipates.
The best way to cope with this is to confront the challenges of living with a mental health issue head on. Try talking to your partner and express that you too may be feeling down and lonely. Stress the importance of staying connected even when the illness is at its worst, and try to avoid personalising it as “your depression” or “your moodiness” as this could push them away.
Know what you’re dealing with
Having an understanding of the illness is an important step in learning to cope with it. Whether only one person in a couple or both are experiencing it, knowing about symptoms, causes and effective treatments will help to minimise the impact it has on your relationship. You can even start to make simple lifestyle changes that may help to alleviate symptoms and enable you to avoid specific triggers.
Make self-care a priority
Living with someone who has a mental health issue – particularly depression – will mean intimacy and closeness can be hard to come by. Depression and anxiety can completely change a person’s personality – sufferers may become closed off and numb, and possibly even angry and aggressive. These emotions can create a negative cycle within the relationship causing a lot of tension, conflict and little loving support.
Self-care is essential for avoiding these pitfalls. Both partners should be mindful of looking after their individual well-being. For the person with the illness this may mean visiting a professional who can devise an effective treatment plan. Supportive partners may also want to consider counselling to help them reconnect with their inner self and talk about their concerns and worries. Together with ongoing self-care, it can be easier to cope living with a mental health issue.