I have a mental health disorder – how does this affect my partner?

Suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia hurts not only the sufferer, but the partner too. How? DAD.info looks at how your mental health can impact on your partner...

Daily hassles and long-term relationship burdens

Individuals with partners who are mentally ill can be burdened in two specific ways, namely: daily hassles and long-term relationship burdens. When dealing with an individual with mental health issues, family members often experience a great deal of burden. The term ‘burden,’ however, does not adequately describe the experience of the romantic partners of the mentally ill individual. It is helpful to distinguish between day-to-day incidents that are burdensome (e.g., mentally ill patient’s depressive mood, lack of concentration, avoidance behaviour, or general lack of social support), on the one hand, and the key biographical elements that contribute to the spouse’s general feeling of burden on the other hand. Biographical elements include things such as spouses describing their mentally ill partners as a child rather than a husband or life-partner. Some spouses describe their life with their mentally ill partners as a totally different lifestyle than what they may have initially envisioned for themselves[1].

Could the supporting partner develop a mental disorder?

If one partner suffers from mental health issues, evidence suggests there is a probability for the other partner to develop a mental disorder: “spouses of patients who suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia develop psychiatric disorders themselves”[2]. Spouses of persons who suffer from mental illness are likely to develop depression. This is one of the burdens of caring some a partner that has mental health issues.

Gender disparity

It is worth noting that there is a gender disparity when it comes to the distribution of mental health disorders in this regard. Female partners of those with mental health issues are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety (52.2%) than male partners of those with mental health issues (32.1%). Productive intervention is therefore a greater concern in heterosexual relationships where the male partner suffers from mental disorders[3]. Intervention options such as seeking professional help (e.g., therapy, community support groups, and help from family members) is therefore more urgent in situations where the female partner is the one providing care.

Relationship imbalance

Mental health problems directly influence, and can in some instances even alter the dynamics of the relationship by putting unexpected and undesired strain on their partner in terms of providing support and care. For example, the partner of the individual with mental health issues adopts a care-giving role and takes on more responsibility than before. If children are involved, this only exacerbates the amount of work and energy required of the spouse[4].

Seek help

So the research tells us that if one person in a relationship is struggling with a mental health issue, then it is highly likely that their partner will not only be affected by the illness but also plays a pivotal role in the progress and development of the struggling person’s road to recovery[5]. Not only does the one afflicted by anxiety, obsessional neurosis, or others mental health issues suffer – this may also put considerable strain and stress on their partner. These feelings of stress and strain may, if left unchecked, translate to the development of depression and anxiety in the partner that previously had no mental health problems[6]. This implies that seeking professional support from therapists, members of the medical community, and social programs is not only beneficial to the individual with mental health problems, but also for the mental and emotional wellbeing of the care-giving spouse. The partner of the patient with mental health issues can strongly influence progress and recovery of the person struggling with mental health issues, therefore if the care-giving partner seeks help for themselves this may have a positive impact on the general mental health of their partner as well as the overall dynamic of their relationship.

 

Feel the need to talk this through further? You could start by talking to us on our online forum, from the 30,000 dads on forum – you’ll probably come across someone who has been in your shoes but a little further on in the journey to be able to offer you support.

 

Want to find out more on this subject? Check out these other help and support articles:

HOW MENTAL HEALTH AFFECTS RELATIONSHIPS

MEN'S MENTAL HEALTH - CULTURAL FACTORS 

POST-NATAL DEPRESSION: DADS - HOW IT CAN AFFECT YOU

POST-NATAL DEPRESSION: DADS - WHAT YOU CAN DO

THE MALE MENOPAUSE

SUPPORTING YOUR PARTNER WITH POST-NATAL DEPRESSION

 

References

[1] Wittmund, B., Wilms, H.U., Mory, C., Angermeyer, M.C. (2002). Depressive disorders in spouses of mentally ill patients. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37: 177-182.
[2] Wittmund, B., Wilms, H.U., Mory, C., Angermeyer, M.C. (2002). Depressive disorders in spouses of mentally ill patients. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37: 177-182.
[3] Wittmund, B., Wilms, H.U., Mory, C., Angermeyer, M.C. (2002). Depressive disorders in spouses of mentally ill patients. Social Psychiatry Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37: 177-182.
[4] Crowe, M. (2004). Couples and mental illness. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19:3, 309-318.
[5] Crowe, M. (2004). Couples and mental illness. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19:3, 309-318.
[6] Crowe, M. (2004). Couples and mental illness. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19:3, 309-318.

As a charity, it takes a lot of effort to keep DAD.info up-to-date and relevant.

If you feel that we've helped you in some small way please consider texting DAD10 followed by a donation amount of either £5 or £10 to 70070*

*Your donation via text may be eligible for Gift Aid. You may be contacted on the mobile number you used to give you the opportunity to add Gift Aid to your donation. If you are sent a link to a page to submit your details, as with any mobile browsing, you may incur charges from your network provider when visiting that page. If you are asked to text those details, then a standard network message charge (based on your service provider rates) will be incurred.

Hide comments (0)

Comments

  • No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Friday, 14 December 2018

PLEASE NOTE: If you have a specific question for DAD.info or for other dads, please post it on our Forum.

We may use your email address to respond to you about your comment. View our Privacy Policy for more details.

support