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How Mental Health Affects Intimate Relationships…  

Maybe Without You Even Realizing It 

Struggling with your mental health and wellbeing can be immensely isolating. People who struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues can run the risk of thinking that their mental health only affects them and can shut out the impact on other people in their lives.  

You might think: “So what if I’m stuck in my own head a lot or find it difficult to get out of bed sometimes? It doesn’t matter and it isn’t hurting anyone else.

Before delving into this topic, we want to make our intention with this blog clear: it is not aimed to shame people for having mental health issues or for the fact that those issues may influence their relationships with other people. It is simply to raise awareness of the fact that it can and often does. This blog is aimed at helping you detect some of your potential emotional blind spotsEssentially, you can’t change something if you aren’t aware of it. If you are consumed with pain, it can be difficult to see how you may be affecting other people, and how your pain may be clouding your mind and getting in the way of what is important to you.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t taking care of yourself, your relationships and connections with other people will likely be affected as well in a variety of ways, some more extreme than others. Ideally, the motivation to take care of your mental health should come from within yourself. However, simply acknowledging that having healthy intimate relationships requires you to take care of yourself, can provide some external motivation as well. Click here to read more about how mental health psychological factors influence intimate relationships.

Intimate Relationships & Mental Health 

Intimate relationships don’t solely refer to relationships that are sexual in nature. They are relationships in which you share your deeper emotional self. With this inclusive definition, intimate relationships can include family members, your inner circle of friends, maybe even some close coworkers or gym buddies

It includes whoever is meaningful to you.

So how does your mental health affect these relationships? It affects them because mental health issues often lead you to act unlike yourself or can get in the way of your inner peace.  When you’re in a dark place, you might not see the difference between your mental health condition/symptoms and your true self, but they are there making themselves known to the circles around you.  

Ways that your mental health can influence your intimate relationships

  • Your Emotional Regulation
  • Isolation
  • Irrational Thoughts
  • Irritability 

These common signs of mental health struggles can subtly (or not so subtly) affect your connections with other people. We will break down these 4 of them for you in more detail below.

Emotional Regulation  

If you feel like your emotions are all over the place, you’re not alone. However, sometimes when you’re experiencing extreme highs and lows it can be difficult for well-meaning people to help you. You can absolutely get support from those around you, but ultimately, working hard to regulate your emotions falls on you. Relying on other people to help ease symptoms of your anxiety or depression, for example, may seem like it brings you comfort in the short term, but it’s more empowering and sustainable to work to manage uncomfortable feelings by yourself. This way, you’ll be equipped to manage symptoms as they arise, regardless of other people’s schedules. It may take some time to get it right and find out what works for you.

Suggestions for emotional regulation
  • Stick to a regular sleeping schedule
  • Limit caffeine
  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Do something you’re passionate about (writing, music, hiking, etc)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Structure your day 

Isolation 

When you’re feeling poorly it can become all too easy to isolate. And if your friends give you grief about it, they may not be the type of friends you want around anyhow. However, limiting your isolation tendencies can work to shorten the length and intensity of mental health symptom episodes. If you’re not up to going out of the house, you could talk on the phone, text, chat online, or participate in online forums relevant to how you’re feeling. Contact with other people can help to bring you back into what’s in front of you instead of focusing on potentially upsetting negative thought patterns. You may actually end up distracting yourself enough to enjoy something while going through the motions.

Irrational Thoughts 

Irrational and negative thought patterns are indicative of mental health flare ups to be sure, and they can really be detrimental to relationships. How? Because they can lead you to believe that your friends don’t really like you, that your significant other is cheating and that your family doesn’t want you around; despite all the evidence to the contrary. You could ask for reassurance from a loved one and then still not believe it when they give it to you!

Oftentimes irrational and negative thoughts are more so about underlying insecurities than the actual situation at hand. For example, needing reassurance that your partner wants to be with you after they spent a night out with friends is more about the fact that you believe yourself unlovable at the moment rather than anything your partner did or didn’t do. Recognizing what is brewing beneath irrational thoughts can help you to overcome and challenge them.

Irritability  

This is a tough one. It’s easy to be irritable when you don’t feel well. You may find yourself getting snappy with those around you and things that normally wouldn’t bother you are driving you bonkers. If this is the case, it is sometimes helpful to be honest about it. Be transparent with those you care about that you are struggling and give yourself time outs if necessary.  

What are some other ways in which you see your mental health impacting the relationships with the people you care about? Do you make impulsive financial choices? Or does it impact your ability to communicate with people around you?  Take 5 min to brainstorm some recent scenarios where this has come into play. Then, instead of using selfblame, take another 10 min to explore ways in which you can prevent or address these in the future. Be specific, identify people, situations, impact and options

Seeking Additional Help 

If you’re concerned that your mental health status may be influencing your relationships and you want to work to take better care of yourself (and by doing so, taking better care of your relationships), schedule an appointment with an Angelus therapist today. We can help you to formulate an action plan to safeguard against your mental health negatively influence your relationships while you simultaneously work to get back to where you’d like to be.  

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services

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