Building and sustaining a healthy relationship alongside a mental health condition can seem challenging, but being patient and sensitive to your partner can help to ease these times for the both of you. Our guide to understanding and supporting a partner through a mental illness is here to help you or your partner through these challenging times. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is Mental Illness?
Mental illness refers to mental health conditions that affect our emotional and social well-being, impacting 1 in 5 of us in the UK. They can be difficult to manage, causing sadness and stress for many individuals. Some common mental illnesses that impact so many of us are depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Creating or maintaining healthy relationships while going through a mental health problem can be challenging, but it’s extremely important for improving feelings of sadness and loneliness.
Should I Tell My Partner?
If you are struggling with a mental health condition and are unsure whether to share this with your partner, it may be out of fear of judgement or feelings of shame. But, these are completely normal feelings to have, and opening up about mental health can be extremely daunting.
Being open and honest with your partner about your mental health is usually the best first step. It can be extremely useful to your partner to help them understand your mood, behaviours and needs. It can help to normalise the notion of mental health in the relationship and open up an honest dialogue between the two of you. By doing this, it alleviates any confusion or mixed messages about your mental health, helping your partner to help you through these times.
Signs That Your Partner Has A Mental Illness
If it’s your partner who seems to be struggling and they haven’t mentioned anything to you, there are a few telltale signs to look out for. Symptoms of mental illnesses can range and differ from person to person, but these are some common signs to look out for if you suspect that your partner might be struggling with their mental health:
They seem to be experiencing intense feelings of sadness a lot
Sleeping problems, or oversleeping
Drinking or binge drinking
Excessive worry and stress
Isolating from friends, not wanting to socialise
They are often angry and irritable
Appetite changes (lack of or overeating)
Lack of motivation
These are just a few examples of things that might signal a mental illness, so it’s important to watch your partner and see if their behaviours are different as there may be other signs that something is wrong.
Supporting A Partner With A Mental Health Condition
Supporting your partner is one of the most important things you can do if they are struggling with their mental health. The pair of you are probably aware that the problem cannot be immediately fixed, so being kind to one another and keeping open communication can go a long way. These are some ideas of ways to support your partner during difficult times:
Actively Listening - Showing your partner that you are actively listening will show them that you care, and are attentive to what they have to say. Not only this, but it will help you gain some insight into their feelings and their mood, letting you respond more effectively to them.
Check In Regularly - Checking in on your partner regularly is very useful in giving them a voice rather than letting their emotions build up over time. They may find it difficult to start conversations about their mental health, so being able to rely on you to do this can take some stress off of them.
Routine - You may find that your partner benefits from having a time set aside every week or so to talk things over. They might want to write a message or a letter to express themselves too, and you should actively take in what they are saying so that you can understand their emotions.
Being Patient - It may seem minor but being patient with your partner while they are going through emotionally challenging times is one of the best things you can do. It takes pressure and stress off of them, leaving them supported but not suffocated. It is a good way of showing that you care without invading their space or being overbearing.
Encouragement - It may be difficult for your partner to find motivation or drive to do their usual daily activities or even social activities, but with support and encouragement, they may be able to take small steps to get back to normality. Additionally, if you think that your partner is in need of professional support, gently floating the idea and being encouraging can ease them into the idea.
Taking Care Of Yourself - During emotionally difficult times, it’s easy to forget about your own needs when tending to your partner. In order for both of you to thrive and come out on the other side of the apparent dark times, it’s important that you take care of yourself too.
What Kinds Of Treatments Are Available?
There are a range of different treatments for mental health conditions that usually depend on the severity of your condition and the type of illness that you have. The first step in seeking professional help is seeing your GP for a diagnosis and referral. Your GP will likely discuss a few options with you, including medications and different talking therapies.
Common types of medication that are available for mental health problems are antidepressants, sleeping medication, anti-anxiety medication and other mood stabilisers. They can be used for a range of different disorders, and may be offered to you by your GP.
Typically, they are taken every day, or however often the recommended dose is, and eventually you will gradually come off the medication when you are more stable. They are also often offered in combination with talking therapies so that you can get the best out of your medication and hopefully start feeling better.
There are a multitude of talking therapies out there. From counselling and therapy to CBT, talking therapies are widely used on their own or alongside medication to help with mental health disorders.
Many talking therapies aim to improve the day to day life of an individual by either looking at the root causes of problems, or the current problems someone is experiencing. For some individuals, it may be easier to talk to a counsellor or therapist than a partner or family member.
If there seems to be a lot of conflict arising in your relationship, seeking couples counselling may be something you decide to do. Conflict resolution is often used in couples therapy to reduce tension and help partners find common ground.
Conflict resolution strategies can be extremely useful for couples, especially if there seems to be a slight rough patch in the relationships. It seeks to reduce the resentment and frustration present in the relationship and find realistic solutions for both partners. The principles from conflict resolution therapies can be applied to your life day to day and outside of the relationship too, helping you to overcome difficulties together.
Key Counselling Training
We recognise and understand the importance of taking care of your mental health, and how this can affect those in relationships. If you or your partner thinks that professional help is the best path to take, there are a range of counselling services available that will be able to accommodate your personal situation.
Here at Key Counselling Training, we offer a range of classroom and remote counselling courses that are designed to help you become a counsellor. With a range of accredited counselling courses and psychotherapy training, we can help you achieve your goals. Becoming a counsellor gives you the ability to work closely with individuals to help them open up and improve their mental health.
For further enquiries about what we do, or how you can get started in your counselling career, feel free to get in touch with us today.