Marriage is tough enough when both parties are of sound mind. Add mental illness to the mix, and your marriage can be a real mess. It can be hard to navigate the challenges of marriage when one person is dealing with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Mental illness is associated with a higher chance of divorce and less likelihood of remarriage.
Mental illness is a major cause of divorce. In fact, the outcomes of studies show that preventing the effects of common mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders would lead to more than 6 million fewer divorces. The disorders studied include simple phobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive disorder.
This is concerning, as marriage remains one of the strongest social ties in the United States. When a marriage ends, it comes with a lot of effects. While mental illness can put a damper on your marriage, it does not have to lead to divorce. By knowing the signs of mental illness and effectively managing treatment, you can help your marriage and even thrive.
Signs of Mental Illness
The first thing you can do to help your loved one is understand the signs of mental illness. Common signs include:
- Excessive sadness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Extreme anger or irritability
- Extreme mood swings
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Isolation from friends
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts
Feelings Associated With Mental Illness
Mental illness is a disorder that needs to be taken seriously. When one spouse has it, it affects them both. It can also affect children and lead to strong feelings such as:
- Isolation. When one spouse has a mental illness, it is common for both spouses to feel isolated. That is because life with a mental illness is different. It makes it hard for people to understand what you are going through, causing loneliness and isolation. This also makes it challenging to build a support system, which is very helpful when you’re going through something like mental illness.
- Grief. If your spouse has a mental illness, you will likely feel some degree of grief as you mourn what your marriage once was. The symptoms of mental illness can come and go, so both spouses are having to process the diagnoses, the symptoms, and the stress.
- Shame. Mental illness has a stigma attached to it. You may feel ashamed about it, whether it is you or your spouse that has it. Mental illness places a heavy burden on both spouses, and either one or both may feel as though they are to blame.
- Withdrawal. If your spouse has a mental illness, it can be hard to feel close to them. You are likely feeling stressed out and even exhausted from dealing with it. You may feel like withdrawing from your spouse, which can lead to a lack of intimacy. You definitely need to be patient and find ways to keep your marriage strong.
Helping a Spouse With Mental Illness
If your spouse has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you need to learn how to help them. It can be a frustrating situation with numerous challenges. Mental illness can make life difficult, but with a little effort and patience, you can make your marriage work and avoid being a divorce statistic. Here are some things you can do to help.
- Learn more about mental illness. One of the best things you can do is learn more about your spouse’s mental illness. Each disease is different, so it is important to do research so you can understand the symptoms. This will help you better understand the illness so you are more prepared. Be sure to seek the advice of healthcare professionals as well as trusted websites.
- Focus on communication. Communication may be difficult when your spouse has a mental illness, but be sure to ask them what they need. Do not do anything different just because there is a mental illness involved. Communicate the same way, but avoid being an enabler or therapist.
- Take time for your marriage. Try to maintain the good parts of your marriage. Spend time with each other, express your love for each other, and help the marriage grow. Work on your marriage every day.
- Practice self-care. While you may be focused on caring for your spouse, your health is the most important. By taking care of your physical and mental health, you can be more present for your spouse. Engage in activities that make your mind feel at ease, such as reading a book, exercising, spending time with friends, or relaxing in the bathtub. By doing things you enjoy, you feel less stressed out and are able to be a better caregiver.
- Get support. Do not feel like you are alone as you struggle to come to terms with your partner’s mental illness. There are thousands of others who have been through the same thing. By joining a local support group, you can get sympathy and advice. There are groups out there who can provide other support as well. Go online and search for resources in your area.
Seek Legal Help
Mental illness can greatly impact a marriage. While it does not have to lead to divorce, it often does because it takes a lot more effort to make a marriage work.
Considering a divorce? Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help. Navigate your divorce with ease with our help. Schedule a consultation today by calling (954) 398-5712 or filling out the online form.