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Living With a Spouse With Mental Illness

Living with a spouse with mental illness is not something that many people envision for themselves upon getting married. However, millions of married couples experience mental illness in their relationships, which can be extremely taxing and overwhelming for both individuals involved. 

One study from the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that those who have a mental illness are more likely to subconsciously seek out partners with similar mental health challenges. This serves as one of the reasons why mental illness can occur in marriages. However, it is certainly not the only one. Regardless of how and why your spouse is dealing with a mental illness, it can be very challenging to cope with and create serious issues within your relationship if neglected. 

Does My Spouse Have a Mental Illness?

When things start going wrong in a marriage, a number of things can come to a spouse’s mind. They might think their spouse is too stressed from work or is doing something more deceptive like having an affair. But, for many couples, mental illness is what ends up impacting their relationship. 

It is not always easy to pinpoint exactly what is going on with your spouse. However, being aware of the signs of mental illness can help answer some of your potential questions. If you are living with a spouse with mental illness, they are likely to be exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • Changes in sleep patterns (i.e. sleeping too much or suffering from insomnia)
  • Changes in eating habits (i.e. overeating, not eating at all, not eating enough, or not eating healthy)
  • Extreme mood swings that are unexplainable 
  • Pervasive sadness and feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability 
  • Social isolation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Expressing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting suicidal behaviors

Some of these symptoms may come across as personality traits or character flaws. However, they could also be signs of a mental health disorder. If you’re noticing these symptoms in your spouse, it can be helpful to try and speak with them about it. Do so in a non-judgmental tone. Also, be sure to offer your help if they decide to see a professional or enter treatment.

Risk Factors For Developing A Mental Illness

Some individuals are more likely to develop a mental health disorder than others. If an individual is pre-dispositioned 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

Whether treatment is being obtained or not, living with a spouse with mental illness can be difficult. That is because most mental illnesses are complex and require a great deal of coping skills to properly manage. Those who actively see a professional or family treatment for their mental illness are more likely to have an easier time coping with their condition than those who do not. The same applies for you. Coping with your spouse with mental illness can be easier or more difficult based on the care they are getting. 

So, if you are living with a spouse with mental illness, regardless of if they are being treated or not, what are some ways that you can cope? 

Learn About Their Mental Illness

The more information you have about your spouse’s mental illness, the better you can understand what they are experiencing. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of a mental illness. This can cause you to begin developing resentments. However, taking the time to learn about the mental illness your spouse is experiencing can make everything a little easier. You can do this by looking at scholarly articles online, reading books, reading our family resources, and even reaching out to your healthcare providers for more information. 

Seek Help For Yourself

Living with a spouse with mental illness is one of the best reasons to seek help for yourself. 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’s also important to seek professional help or your own therapist and be involved with family sessions with your spouse. Your own mental health and well-being should be just as important as your spouse’s. Especially if you want to avoid marital separation and potentially abusive behavior.

Practice Good Communication

Mental illness can make even the simplest things convoluted. Communicating with your spouse with a mental illness may be more challenging than if you were to communicate with someone who does not have a mental illness. This is normal and can be expected, but that is even more reason to practice good communication among one another. With good communication, you and your spouse can maintain compassion and respect for one another, even when the ugly side of mental illness comes out. 

It is imperative to not only follow these guidelines, but to also ensure that you are doing things that you enjoy, making yourself a priority when it comes to caring for yourself, and practice expanding upon your patience as you both work through this time in your lives. 

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.

Woman is helping her spouse who has been dealing with a mental illness

Treatment for Mental Illness in Tennessee

If your spouse is having trouble with their mental health, seeking help can be the best option for you both. At Arbor Treatment Center, our team is dedicated to work with both individuals in the marriage so that everyone can benefit from the care that we can provide. 

You do not need to go through this alone. Learn more about how we can help you by visiting our website or by calling us right now at 866-771-1649 or learning more about our family resources. We are here to help and support you and your spouse so that you both can start living the life you dreamed for yourselves.