When Your Partner has a Mental Illness

Does your partner have a mental illness? Or perhaps somebody in your immediate family?

This can place extra pressure on your couple relationship; it is not just the person with the mental illness who is affected. Like ripples in a pond, mental illness can impact the lives of surrounding family and friends in many ways – particularly if you are helping to care for them.

supporting a loved one with a mental health condition

When Your Partner Has a Mental Illness

For example, when your partner has a mental illness, you may find that your relationship becomes one-sided due to increased tension that may have developed due to their condition.

Reduced emotional and physical intimacy can also be a common experience, as communication can become difficult for many people with a mental illness, causing them to withdraw.

Even things like family routines and normality gradually change.

Despite your best intentions, it can be hard not to feel rejected if your partner continuously refuses to accept help, or seems indifferent to your efforts.

Thus, it is equally important that in addition to supporting your partner or loved one, that take care to look after your own health and wellbeing. Every plane trip begins with a safety reminder, that you should take care of your own needs with an oxygen mask first, before seeking to help anybody else. This advice is just as relevant when it comes to any caring role; by taking care of your own needs first, you will be in the best position to be able to help your loved one.

The Importance of Counselling and Support

One way you can look after yourself in this particular situation, is to seek professional support from a psychologist. Counselling can not only help you to cope better with the stresses of supporting your loved one, but can also provide you with practical strategies to help them in their recovery. For example, counselling can help you to:

  • Identify areas of dispute, and generate solutions for action;
  • Modify any unhelpful communication patterns or expectations;
  • Unload your negative feelings;
  • Learn about your loved one’s mental health condition and treatment;
  • Understand and reinforce any particular strategies being used in the treatment of your loved one, such as anxiety inoculation techniques;
  • Assist your loved one in coping with situations that may trigger stress and anxiety;
  • Avoid/minimize overprotective behaviour, as this can increase your loved one’s dependence and diminish their learning opportunities;
  • Better understand the behaviours, and accept the challenges, that come with a mental health condition;
  • Avoid judging or criticising your loved one;
  • Openly discuss what is helpful – and what is not helpful. This can foster a sense of trust that is healthy for everyone’s emotional needs;
  • Focus on positive changes rather than negativity. Positive interactions facilitate trust and fun in relationships.

In addition to individual counselling, I have a special interest in using a collaborative approach to help clients recover from mental health conditions. This approach is particularly useful when depression and anxiety are related to interpersonal relationship problems. Psychotherapy – for both the individual and their loved one/s – can facilitate healthier interpersonal relationships, which in turn help to alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms.

Claire Pang couples counselling psychologistAuthor: Claire Pang, B Psych (Hons), M Clin Psych.

As a Clinical Psychologist, Claire has training in psychological assessment and evidence-based therapies treating depression, anxiety, trauma and complex mental health conditions, and enjoys working with adults and couples. She is result-orientated, and draws on a wide range of therapeutic approaches to customise treatment to the individual’s needs and concerns.

To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Claire Pang, freecall Vision Psychology Mount Gravatt on 1800 877 924 today or you can book online!

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