Understanding and Living with a Loved One Who Has Mental Illness

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Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Mental Health is a Critical Issue

Nearly half (46.4%) of the American population will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime. And only 41% of those people are receiving care for their mental health needs. I’ve written before about the need for access to affordable therapy, and the sobering statistics on mental health in the Millennial generation was a huge reason I wrote my book.

Mental health is a critical issue in today’s world, which is why I was interested when I received a pitch for a guest post from a writer who lives with a neurotic husband and wanted to share her tips for living with a loved one who has mental illness. Her words are an important reminder to treat our loved ones with compassion, especially when they are fighting battles we can’t always see or understand.


People who have a mental illness may have difficulty dealing with daily stresses and may be in depressed moods. These types of individuals will usually feel a lot of guilt, anxiety, and anger at different times. Here are some ways to help you deal with a loved one going through mental illness. 

Identifying Mentally Ill Behavior

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of disorder the person has. The important thing to know with most mental illnesses is, the person is usually connected to reality. There may be signs of the following symptoms:

  • Constant anxiety
  • Sadness or depression
  • Anger in the face of stress
  • Low self-worth
  • Avoiding situations
  • Perfectionism
  • Negative attitude
  • Compulsive behavior

Whereas if they have a psychotic disorder, they may exhibit hallucinations or delusions.

How to Respond

The first thing to do is realize that many triggered mental health responses stem from fear. Anxiety can be a massive part of the life of a person with mental health challenges. They may believe that people will always leave them or that they must do things perfectly to stay safe. That means their behavior revolves around avoiding getting hurt.

As per Mike Hudson, a psychology writer at OXEssays and Paper Fellows, “this person might be cold or distant but in reality what they need is reassurance and a feeling of personal connection. It’s important to reassure the person that you’re fully committed.”

Give Them Time to Open Up

You’ll want to give this person the necessary time to open up to you. Whether they seem shy at first or fun and outgoing, they’re probably keeping all their thoughts to themselves. The reason they’re keeping things inside isn’t because they don’t trust you but because they have not opened up before, or they were not well-met when opening up in the past. For them to open up, stay with them and show that they can trust you. 

Be Patient

When living with someone who has a mental illness, it can take practice to be patient when learning how exactly your partner’s mental illness affects their communication and behavior, especially during conflict.  There is a lot going on inside their mind and sometimes it can be a struggle to maintain a mentally well state of mind while dealing with a conflict or stressful situation in your relationship. Getting to a place of acceptance that your partner’s mental health issue is part of them as a person will reward you both. 

Caitlin’s Note: Don’t be afraid to establish boundaries like pausing a conversation that feels too heated or stressful, or communicating via email to help collect your thoughts if in-person conversation is too stressful or leads to high anxiety symptoms. Remember: If a partner is abusive, mental illness is no excuse. Be sure to establish healthy boundaries to avoid codependency and see the next topic in this blog to make sure you are both supported in navigating life with mental illness. 

Encourage Your Partner to Seek Help

Encourage your partner to seek treatment. Someone who is has a mental illness will do really well with therapy to move past the negative beliefs they have about themselves, such as the idea that they are unlovable. Options include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, art or music therapy, medication, and even relaxation exercises or meditation. 

Be direct with your partner, if they aren’t taking their mental health management seriously. Share your valid concerns and your expectations that they manage their health. Offer what help you can, such as helping to make phone calls if they have phone anxiety, driving them to appointments if you can, etc.

You may also want to speak to a therapist yourself. It will give you a good place where you can vent about your frustrations and you can get advice on how to handle each situation specifically. Jeanette Peterson, a relationship blogger at Academic Writing Service and Assignment Help, says, “you should be patient with your loved one, and offer to go with them or share that you’re also seeing a therapist. It may make them feel better about going to therapy themselves and it’s not a solution for sick people but just a way to handle life’s challenges.”

Understand Diagnoses

Get more familiar with the diagnosis process. Diagnosing a mental illness means that you need a professional assessment from a mental health professional according to specific diagnostic criteria from the DSM. 

It’s not always easy to live with a loved one who is struggling with their mental health, but there’s no reason to go through it alone. It’s important to have open communication and to let them know that it’s okay to seek help. Be patient with your loved one but also with yourself, it’s a difficult process for everyone involved.


Beatrix Potter is married to a neurotic husband and they have lived happily together for over 4 years now. She enjoys helping people navigate difficulties with marriage and mental health. Bea writes for Assignment Writing Service and Professional Writing Service as well as creating writing programs for Essayroo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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