Have you ever wondered what mental health dating is? In this article, we will address the issue of dating someone with a mental disorder, as well as some of its implications and some useful recommendations.
Mental health dating
Mental health dating is a very challenging subject, and you may have come to this article because you are already in a relationship with someone who has a mental disorder. You might also be reading this because you are interested and curious. On the other hand, you may have a mental illness that you decided to find out about while you were single.
Whatever your reason for coming to this article, we’ll explore the topic from different perspectives and try to understand its characteristics, key elements, and possible implications for couple dynamics.
First of all, it is important to mention that there is another related issue, and that is mental health discrimination. Many people who suffer from a mental disorder are discriminated against on a daily basis for the same reason, which is very unfair. Among these forms of discrimination, there is that which they experience when trying to enter into a long-term relationship.
When you find out that the person you’ve been dating in the last few months is mentally ill, you may feel afraid and confused. This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many elements involved.
Let’s start with the following question, is it fair for a person to be dismissed because they have a mental illness? To begin with, mental illness is not about voluntary changes in behavior or ways of being. People, for different reasons, begin to develop symptoms that at some point get out of hand, and they must undergo some form of treatment to help them manage their situation.
I have a mental illness, what do I do if I want to date someone?
This is a difficult question for someone with a mental illness. Even very simple aspects of dating become very complicated, and having an honest conversation about it seems scary. Mental health dating means that the person who has a mental illness will, at some point, have to expose their situation, since it is an important part of their life.
On the other hand, it may be that the person’s decision is to keep such information private. Finally, it is her own life, and there is nothing to force her to tell everyone who knows what she is going through. This is completely valid. However, how easy will it be to sustain’?
One of the consequences, when you are dating, is that you begin to share more time, space for company and information about your private life. It is precisely in these encounters with the other person, with the possibility of exploring what he or she is and how he or she is, that bonds of affection begin to be forged.
Given the above, it is common for people to reach a moment where they feel they must tell the other person about the situation they are going through. In this case, if the relationship seems to be taking a more long-term course, the most sensible thing to do would be to behave in an honest and simple manner and to seek a space with the other person where this whole situation can be exposed and discussed openly.
The person I’m dating has a mental illness
In mental health dating, there is, of course, the other side of the story. The perspective of someone who has known a person and has found out after some time that they are suffering from a mental illness. Something very particular happens, it is common for the person to start thinking that they don’t really know the person they are dating.
Mental illness is a taboo subject and has been for a long time, even though it is now much more open and discussed in wide social circles. However, when this information comes out, it may cause some discomfort and something may need to be done to overcome it.
As in the previous section, the best thing that can happen in these situations is to speak openly, honestly and simply. Both people have some fear, doubt and possibly confusion. This is no longer a secret, and it is normal to feel uncomfortable about it.
Mental health dating: depression
Take the specific case of depression, which is one of the most prevalent mental disorders worldwide. Depression is characterized by altered moods, so that the person experiences episodes of very low mood and energy, motivation to act are very low and there is a negative perception of oneself, other people and the future.
Under such a context, it is understandable that difficulties are generated. It is very difficult for the other person, who does not have a mental disorder, not to notice that something is happening outside of the norm. The person with depression may have difficulty getting out and doing outdoor activities. He or she may just want to stay indoors.
This could be interpreted as a lack of interest, when in fact there is the only difficulty in the mood that makes behavioral activation difficult. It may be that the sexual desire is also diminished, and this begins to generate difficulties in the couple, from which other difficulties also arise (e.g. in the communication).
Mental health dating: anxiety
Another mental disorder that is highly prevalent in the general population is depression. In this disorder, it is common for people to experience constant and intense worry about a particular situation (depending on the specific disorder), or in general in any life situation (in the case of generalized anxiety disorder).
The person with this disorder is likely to invest many of his or her cognitive resources in thinking about the future and what to expect. He or she may find it difficult to make decisions and may seem pressured or “on the go. The inner experience of the person with an anxiety disorder is very unpleasant, and his or her thinking habits, being symptomatic, are very difficult to manage.
Some negative consequences for the relationship could be the following: the person finds it difficult to make decisions and this generates disputes, the person looks distracted and this makes him/her seem disinterested in his/her partner.
Recommendations: What to do in the case of mental health dating?
Here are some recommendations for those people who suffer from a mental disorder and this causes them a concern when it comes to dating:
- Do not be afraid to be honest. This is a crucial problem in the situation of mental health dating. The best thing to do is to look for honesty and space where you can talk in a genuine and sincere way. It is appropriate to mention your needs, without fear and without apologizing for them. We all have needs that we want to be met. State yours in an open way, and if the other person is right for you, they are likely to be able to react to what you are trying to do.
- Take as much time as necessary. For anyone, under normal conditions, finding a partner for the long term is difficult. Eventually, this is a permanent partner with whom you will share much of your life. So it’s a good recommendation to take the time to find out if this person is right for you. Try to look for signs of honesty and compassion (not pity), as these are characteristics that are desirable in anyone with whom you will be sharing so much. There is no need to be in a hurry, this is a big change in anyone’s life.
- Try to “make peace” with yourself. This is something we should all do. Interpersonal relationships are richer when people have something unique to share. And we all have it, maybe what is needed is to feel comfortable with it and let our life be more spontaneous, based on everything that is in us by default. To the extent that you make peace with yourself and your mental health situation, the space for sharing with a potential partner will be facilitated. As you must be honest with yourself, it is important that you accept the situation in a radical way and act on it. There is always something you can do.
Mental health dating: you don’t need to “fix” me
When you are dating a potential mentally ill partner, both (or one) of you may feel that the partner should become some sort of therapist to try to “fix” the other person.
This is a mistake, to begin with. Interpersonal relationships differ greatly from a therapeutic relationship, so these boundaries must be strictly maintained. So what is different about a therapeutic relationship? A therapeutic relationship is one that a person with some health disorder establishes with a professional who is prepared to seek a solution to the problems generated by the illness.
Friendship, although it can sometimes help us feel better and experience great support, is NOT a therapeutic relationship. Our therapist is not a friend, he is a professional with a defined role whose main work and vocation are to help us solve a series of problems and improve our quality of life.
Love, even though it sometimes “cures” us, is not a therapeutic relationship. Love is an intimate space where most of what makes up a human being is shared. In a therapeutic relationship, the main focus is everything derived from the illness, and its cure or treatment is the basis for maintaining the relationship.
Mental health dating is a challenging and difficult topic to handle. Whether from the perspective of the person with mental illness or the person without it, mental health dating is a great challenge to maintain a satisfactory relationship within reasonable limits of functioning.
Mental health dating is also an opportunity to reflect on all that is at stake in a relationship, and on the things we want to give more relevance to. Is love the main thing?
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about mental health dating
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