For those who have a mental illness, many different challenges can come with the condition. For adults, dating can be intimidating and difficult to navigate while struggling with mental health issues. Although dating may be more difficult with a mental health condition, it’s certainly possible and can be achieved.
Finding the Right Person
Although dating while suffering from a mental health condition is not impossible, it can prove to be challenging. According to Psychology Today, the stigma that is often associated with mental illness can cause some people to have a change of heart about dating the individual, especially if therapy, supported housing, or medication is involved. Structural barriers are also present, especially when dating a schizophrenic individual, which is considered to be a more severe form of mental illness that can be challenging to cope with for some partners.
It may require finding the right person who has the patience and understanding to accept the mental illness and learn how to help the individual cope. Adults who have been exposed to mental illness within their own family or friends may have an easier time dating an individual who suffers from a condition like bipolar disorder or clinical depression. Becoming exposed early on can allow some individuals to accept the issue without allowing it to become a stigma or redefine their perception of their partner.
Waiting to Discuss the Mental Illness
According to Mental Health America, many experts recommend waiting to get to know the individual that you’re currently dating before discussing the condition. Allowing someone to learn more about who you are and what you’re like can prevent them from assuming that the mental illness is your complete identity.
Although you don’t have to discuss the issue on your first date, it’s still essential to avoid waiting too long to be honest once the relationship begins to progress over time. Some individuals can start to have an episode while dating the other person, which can scare them away if they’re not prepared or are unaware of the mental health condition. Informing them at the appropriate time can make it easier to prepare for the issues once they arise to ensure that they don’t become scared off.
Others suggest that it’s best to disclose the diagnosis when you feel most at ease and comfortable with the other person. You should feel safe and have established a form of trust to ensure that there’s a good outcome. The person should allow you to have freedom of talking about mental illness and processing your feelings when necessary.
To find success in the dating world, proper communication is necessary to ensure that the other person knows what to expect with the symptoms of the condition. They may be limited with their information on PTSD or anxiety, making it necessary to inform them of the details. They may want to know how to prepare or help if they plan to stay in the relationship and are committed.
Celebrities like Demi Lovato have opened up about struggling with mental health issues and how everyone deserves to live a normal life. Her bipolar disorder diagnosis came while dating actor Wilmer Valderrama, with whom she obtained a significant amount of support as she began her journey obtaining therapy and learning how to cope. Remaining in communication with another person you’re dating without making it consume the relationship is integral to growing together without ignoring the diagnosis.
In many cases, social anxiety is a common challenge for those who have a mental health condition and are trying to date. Meeting new people and getting to know strangers can result in cancelling dates frequently, which can make it a struggle to find a relationship. It’s important to continue to try and avoid giving up on the dating scene altogether. Consider meeting in a neutral setting that is relaxed and casual to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Although dating can be intimidating, it’s necessary to focus on the rewards that come with a healthy and loving relationship, which can make it easier to put yourself out there.
In many cases, being involved in a romantic relationship can actually improve the symptoms that come with different mental illnesses. The individual who is diagnosed with the condition can have improved moods, which can reduce the risk of anxiety and depression that is caused by the mental illness.
Start an Ongoing Conversation
There should be an ongoing conversation after disclosing the mental illness at the beginning of the relationship. You may need to give updates to your significant other and check in with them. Ongoing discussions are necessary when the relationship becomes more serious and a significant amount of trust has already been established with the other individual.
Life can be challenging enough with a mental illness. But with a bit of preparation, patience, and honesty, you’ll find that there are plenty of people available who won’t be scared off by a mental illness or diagnosis.
Alex Moore is a psychology undergraduate interested in the social aspects of mental illness and how they can improve lives.