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  • Writer's pictureLucy Warner

How Mental Health Affects Relationships

Communication Barriers

Mental illnesses can blur perceptions, hinder clarity in expressing emotions, and cause misunderstandings that build walls between partners. The nuances of tone, intent behind words, and unspoken feelings add complexity.

Articulating thoughts and emotions becomes challenging when mental health issues cast a shadow over conversations. Anxiety might translate concern as criticism, while depression could colour an attempt to connect as unwarranted pressure or anger. How something is received through the filters of personal struggle matters as much as what is said.

Open communication is the lifeline that sustains relationships when mental health conditions introduce chaos. Frustrations grow when attempts to reach out are met with withdrawal or indifference, exacerbating feelings of isolation for both parties.

Active listening goes beyond mere silence while the other speaks. It involves an attentive effort to understand the emotions and intentions behind the words. This approach fosters empathy, providing room for vulnerabilities to be shared without fear of judgment. Being heard is often half the struggle for those with mental illness.

Opening a dialogue about these barriers is a form of intimacy. It invites sharing fears, insecurities, and the tangled thoughts that mental illnesses stir up. Honest dialogue can unravel misunderstandings, soften frustrations, and reassure both partners of their place and value in each other's lives.

Navigating communication barriers demands patience, a willingness to confront uncomfortable truths, and the pursuit of mutual understanding. Professional guidance, such as therapy can aid communication skills and can provide strategies for breaking down walls built by mental health challenges.

Ideally, the journey through mental health-related communication barriers is a path walked together, where obstacles become opportunities to strengthen the bond through shared vulnerability, unwavering support, and a deepened connection born from navigating life's complexities side by side. However, the person with mental health issues and their partner can feel isolated, helpless and overwhelmed by their feelings and chose not to communicate with each other. This can lead to a deteriorating relationship between both partners. 

Impact on Intimacy

When mental health struggles enter a relationship, the intimate bond between partners is often impacted first. Conditions like depression and anxiety can dampen desire, leading to a cycle of unmet needs and widening emotional distance.

Many medications for mental health issues can decrease libido, adding a physical barrier to intimacy. The mental health challenges themselves also contribute to a lack of interest in sexual activities. For someone dealing with depression, grief, illness or anxiety, intimacy can feel overwhelming or exhausting.

 Partners might feel rejected or assume they're no longer attractive, not fully understanding the source of the shift. Conversations about these intimate details are challenging, making it difficult to articulate how mental health is affecting desires and capabilities.

These moments are pivotal for the relationship. Opening up about the struggles allows for understanding and support. Recognizing that it's the condition, not waning love, can provide relief and a foundation for navigating these barriers together. The journey requires patience and adaptability, qualities that can make a relationship more resilient. Intimacy is not just about physical closeness but the emotional connection that thrives on understanding, empathy, and mutual support.

Creating a secure space for both partners to express their needs and fears is essential. This might involve redefining intimacy, finding comfortable and fulfilling ways to connect. Seeking counselling or therapy can also help address these hurdles. Counselling can give the partner the opportunity to explore their feelings about how their partner’s mental health is impacting on their well-being as much as supporting the person with the mental health issues.

I provide a safe space to support and work with you to explore your issues to help you gain a better understanding of yourself to reflect, grow and initiate the changes you are hoping to make. Our relationship is therefore built on trust, empathy and is completely non-judgmental. I work with you at your pace, and will listen and hear you to help you gain the changes and answers you are searching for.

For more information or to book an appointment, please email me on: or call: 07385 826176


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