When I set out to write this article I wanted my topic to be, “Dating Someone with Bipolar Disorder”, but the fact is that it wouldn’t be all that accurate. There are several different types of Bipolar disorders and many other mental illnesses that often accompany Bipolar disorder. And, people are all different. So, instead I’m going to write about dating someone with a mental illness in general.
The first step when dating someone with a mental illness is recognizing the mental illness. There are many types of mental illnesses including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and psychotic disorders.
Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and other specific phobias disorders cause a person to become anxious when they experience certain things that trigger these episodes. While anxiety itself may not seem that serious, it can be. It increases the heart rate and can lead to panic attacks. It can also cause someone to become overwhelmed and make them do things that they wouldn’t generally do. Anxiety disorders cannot be cured, but they can be treated and a person can be taught how to cope with them.
Mood disorders such as depression, mania, and bipolar disorder affect a person’s mood and feelings. A person may have extended periods of extreme depression or mania, or their moods might fluctuate causing confusion. Most of the time mania and bipolar cannot be cured but it can be treated. Depression can sometimes be cured it but is still may can come back.
Psychotic disorders such as hallucinations, delusions, and schizophrenia cause a person to believe in things that are not real such as hearing voices, seeing things, and believing things that are not real. All of us believe things that aren’t real, but people with a psychotic disorder take those beliefs to the extremes, and often become very anxious as a result of their beliefs. Psychotic disorders cannot be cured unless they were lead on by certain stimulus such as drugs and in return go away when the drugs are out of their system. Psychotic disorders can be treated and a person can learn to reality test their delusions and hallucinations in order to recognize their symptoms and cope with them.
When someone with one these disorders has an episode and becomes symptomatic they may experience other mental issues such as anger, depression, anxiety, mania, antisocial behavior, and addiction.
Okay, now that I’ve briefly explained mental illness, the next step to dating someone with a mental illness is understanding them as an individual. Learning about them, their individual triggers, symptoms, and how to help them to cope best with their symptoms can be a very difficult but also rewarding.
This process can only be done with trial and error and can be very trying. You must keep reminding yourself that they do have a mental illness and that once you learn them better you will be able to work through it with them.
People with mental illnesses are quite capable of carrying on a normal life, but they do need help and support, something a lot of them never get. Be patient with them, and remind yourself that they do have a mental illness and they do not mean everything that they say. From experience I’ve learned that the people that they lash out on are the people they feel the most comfortable with and care about the most, so don’t take it personal and don’t lash back.
Just as they need someone to talk to in order to cope, you also need to cope. Being with someone with a mental illness can sometimes be stressful. When anyone becomes extremely stressed they become more agitated and may respond inappropriately. This can escalate things and make them worse. Everyone whether they have a mental illness or not cope with things. They may not realize it though. Many people listen to music or participate in arts and crafts as a way of coping. Some just talk to others. Some may write in a journal. It is important not only to figure out a good coping skill for the person you are dating but also for you. It is also important to talk about your feelings, and let them know when they are pushing you too far. Tell them nicely. Although it may not seem like it, they really are not trying to upset you. They are just trying to make themselves feel better and often don’t realize how much they are affecting you.
In concluding my article I would just like to restate that while it can be difficult dating someone who has a mental illness it can also be rewarding, and just because someone doesn’t have a mental illness doesn’t mean that they won’t be just as difficult.