How To Deal With A Spouse with Mental Illness

Partner with a mentally ill spouse

Having a spouse with a mental illness can be extraordinarily difficult. Relationships and marriages already take constant work and communication, add in a mental health disorder and the relationship can quickly fall apart. Mental illness puts an enormous level of stress onto a relationship, and as the spouse you often find yourself in the role of a caretaker. Statistics show that 1 in five individuals struggle with mental illness, so if one of those five is your spouse, understand that you are not alone on this journey.  Learning how to deal with a spouse with mental illness takes time, work, and help. To learn more about how to navigate this difficult relationship dynamic read our guide. 

Signs That Your Spouse May Be Struggling With Mental Illness

Mental illness doesn’t always look how we imagine it should and the symptoms could vary by individual. Sometimes the symptoms begin slowly, other times they come on rapidly. While there is no way to know for sure if your spouse is struggling without a psychiatric evaluation, here are some general signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Excessive or an abnormal amount of sadness
  • Symptoms of insomnia 
  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion 
  • Suicidal ideations, plans, and/or thoughts
  • Anger and irritability 
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Increased or decreased sex drive
  • Appetite changes

Some of these symptoms may come across as personality traits or character flaws, but they could also be signs of a mental health disorder. If you are noticing these symptoms in your spouse contact a mental health clinician or treatment center in order to find out more information and help your significant other get an evaluation.

Risk Factors For Developing A Mental Illness

Some individuals are more likely to develop a mental health disorder than others. If an individual is predispositioned to having a mental disorder, then it might not be a preventable illness. In order to slow down the progression of the disorder and cope with it better it is wise to seek treatment from a clinician or facility as early as possible. Some risk factors include:

  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Childhood abuse, neglect, and/or trauma
  • Unhealthy or abusive relationships
  • Traumatic events such as sexual assualt
  • A history of previous mental health diagnoses 
  • Stressful life events such as moving, divorce, and death of a loved one’s mental illness

How To Deal with a Spouse with Mental Illness

Learning how to deal with a spouse with mental illness can seem like an overwhelming task. It can be extremely difficult and frustrating to help your spouse when they are suffering with a mental disorder. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder can not only take over your spouse’s life, but they can seem to take over yours as well. There are some techniques that you can help you make both you and your spouse’s life easier.

Learn About Your Spouse’s Mental Illness

One of the most important things you can do when living with an individual with a mental health illness is to learn and understand their diagnosis. To help you understand what they are going through, you can research the signs and symptoms of their illness. You can also talk with your partner about their own personal experience. This can help you to not only understand their struggles, but also know the signs of  when their mental illness may be worsening. It is also extremely important to seek the guidance and advice of medical professionals who specialize in treating your spouse’s diagnosis. 

Communicate With Your Significant Other

Practicing good communication is always important in a relationship, but it becomes even more important when your spouse is dealing with any sort of illness. Ask your significant other what you can do to help them. If your spouse does something that is hurtful, make sure that you address it and talk about it. Avoid becoming an enabler and remember that you are not a therapist or mental health professional. You can be supportive, but your spouse should be seeking professional medical help in order to manage their mental illness. Your spouse is responsible for their own treatment and wellness. It is important to be supportive and comforting, but avoid becoming a “crutch”.

Seek Support

The process of learning how to deal with a spouse with mental illness (e.g., post traumatic stress disorder) will not happen without finding the right support system. There are many types of support groups for individuals and families living with loved ones who are suffering from mental illness. These groups will help you process your own experiences and offer guidance on how to cope moving forward. They may offer group therapy that focuses on building healthy relationships, coping skills, family therapy, and behavioral health. It is also important to seek professional help or your own therapist and be involved with family sessions with your spouse. Your own mental health well-being should be just as important as your spouse’s if you want to avoid marital separation and potentially abusive behaviour.

Continue To Work On Your Relationship Despite The Mental Illness

Don’t lose sight of what’s important. It can be easy to make the main focus of your relationship your spouse’s mental illness, but that is not a healthy way to maintain a relationship. Avoid letting mental illnesses consume your marriage by maintaining things like quality time, shared interests, and deep conversations. When living with mental illness, it is important to remember that your spouse is an entire person, and not defined by their mental health issues.

Working on the relationship may mean working on your communication skills, involving the entire family, and seeking out professional help, even individual therapy to talk about your own feelings to maintain your own well being. Support groups are another option to help you come up with your own coping skills. Treatment programs for a spouse who has a mental illness or who is suffering from a mental condition can be useful for avoiding mental health disorders amongst other family members. This is especially true of a situation where a mentally ill spouse suffers from bipolar disorder. To maintain a healthy relationship it may take more than group therapy when warning signs of mental illness and marital issues start to surface. People with mental illness may feel angry, have panic attacks, depression, and have difficulty concentrating or having self discipline.

Get Help For Your Spouse’s Mental Illness in Tennessee 

Here at Arbor Wellness, in Tennessee, we understand that your spouse’s mental illness affects not just their life, but yours as well. We want to help both your mentally ill spouse and yourself heal, and learn to cope with your partner’s mental illness. If you or your spouse or other family members are suffering due to their mental health diagnosis, contact us today to learn more about the ways in which we can help you start living a more fulfilled life.