Supporting a loved one as they suffer from mental illness requires a great deal of patience and sacrifice. A study found that couples with a partner facing mental health issues are more likely to separate or divorce compared to those without such issues.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill and you fear for your own safety, making the difficult decision to leave them may be in your best interest. Physical and emotional abuse, addiction, or a refusal to seek treatment are all valid reasons for walking away. However, intense feelings of guilt and uncertainty can make it difficult to finalize matters, resulting in a drastic effect on your own mental health as well.
This article will help you decide when to walk away from someone with a mental illness, discussing the signs of a mentally ill person, options to explore before walking away, and what factors to consider before finally deciding to leave.
What Are the Signs of a Mentally Ill Person?
During the early days of a relationship, a mentally ill individual may be able to conceal the symptoms of their illness. This could lead to instances where the person they are dating is left feeling repeatedly confused and hurt due to their behavior.
Recognizing if your partner is mentally ill will allow you to take care of such situations more effectively, ensuring the well-being of both individuals in the relationship.
Below are some of the signs of a mentally ill person:
- Antisocial behavior: Suddenly withdrawing from friends and family to spend time alone, as well as losing interest in activities that previously brought joy.
- Outbursts of anger: Yelling, cursing, or becoming violent towards those around them in response to seemingly small inconveniences.
- Poor self-esteem: Statements like “you’re too good for me”, or “I’m a failure” being made repeatedly, indicating that the individual has a poor opinion of themselves.
- Long bouts of sadness: Spending two weeks or more in a state of depression while unable to stop crying.
- Changes in sleep patterns: This includes both sleeping too much during the day or being unable to put the mind to rest for even a couple of hours.
- Unhealthy coping habits: Dealing with stressful situations through the use of drugs, alcohol, or binge eating.
What Is It Like To Live With Someone Who Has a Mental Illness?
Living with someone who has a mental illness can be best described as an emotional rollercoaster, with the healthy individual feeling confused, lost, and overwhelmed. Depending on the specific mental health condition, its severity, and how well it is managed, the impact of sharing a roof with someone suffering from a mental health disorder may vary. Below are some of the challenges individuals face in this unique situation:
- Constant Emotional Turmoil: Living with someone who has a mental illness may be unpredictable, resulting in this recurring fear of what to expect. You may find yourself experiencing increased feelings of worry and anxiety every night before reaching home, wary of the scene that will greet you.
- Burden of Responsibility: In many relationships, the severity of the mental illness is such that one partner gradually becomes the responsibility of the other. This includes taking care of treatment, managing finances, and even assisting with daily tasks. With time, such an arrangement may lead to an unequal partnership, with one individual feeling overwhelmed and alone.
- Communication challenges: Mental health conditions often affect an individual’s ability to communicate effectively. Many patients with mental health disorders find it difficult to express their needs or voice their feelings, resulting in them being misunderstood. This can lead to arguments between a couple living together as one person has to continuously check in on the other to ensure their needs are met.
Options To Explore Before Walking Away
Leaving someone you once loved is not an easy decision and one that should be taken only after you have exhausted all efforts toward making the relationship survive.
If you’re contemplating when to walk away from someone with mental illness but are unable to reach a decision, you may consider exploring some options as a last resort.
Encouraging Professional Treatment
Research published by Cambridge University concluded that around 60% of adults suffering from a mental health condition in the US and Europe do not receive treatment. Taking into account the experiences of 900,000 people all over the world, the study cited the stigma of mental illness to be one of the top reasons to avoid care.
If someone feels shame about their mental health condition, having a spouse or partner guiding them toward options for recovery can make a big difference. One of the best ways to start treatment is through online therapy. This option is convenient, with the added advantage of anonymity to help your partner feel at ease. You can also encourage them to participate in support groups or rehabilitation services if needed.
Another option to explore before leaving someone with mental illness is couples counseling. Although this is a highly beneficial form of therapy for any couple struggling with their relationship, it is known to be particularly helpful when a mental health condition is involved.
Couples counseling provides both partners with a safe space where they can express their feelings related to certain aspects of the relationship. Each individual can discuss their fears, needs, and grievances with their significant other directly, while a licensed therapist observes and offers much-needed insight.
Such a step can help couples overcome some of the challenges brought forth by one individual’s mental illness, possibly strengthening their bond and hence saving the relationship.
Is it Okay to Leave a Mentally Ill Partner?
If you feel as if staying in a relationship with a mentally ill partner is affecting your well-being, It is perfectly fine to prioritize your health and walk away.
In the beginning, you may feel a great amount of guilt for making this decision. After spending so long living with your partner, it is natural to start feeling responsible for their well-being even if it was negatively affecting your own. However, it is important to remember that just because someone is suffering from a mental health condition does not mean they are the only one deserving of your efforts and time.
When Should You Leave Someone With Mental Illness?
If you feel as if the life of you or your children is being threatened at any point in your relationship, it is important to leave as soon as possible. Safety should be regarded as the number one priority.
Below are some instances where walking away is the best decision:
If your partner’s condition causes them to raise their hand at you, it is a clear sign that you are not safe while living with them. This includes actions like throwing objects, damaging property, making threats or being physically violent with you or your children. In such cases, separation is crucial to ensure no one in the household gets hurt.
Mental abuse can be just as hurtful as physical abuse, particularly if it is coming from someone you love. If your partner guilt-trips you, is controlling about your life, or uses you as an emotional punching bag, it may be time to consider leaving before matters escalate.
Addiction to Drugs
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 4 adults with severe mental health issues also suffer from substance use disorder. This dependence can result in both you and your partner’s well-being being threatened. If your partner’s addiction to drugs, alcohol, and other intoxicants is spiraling out of control, creating some distance between the two of you may be paramount for your safety.
Refusal of Treatment
You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. If your partner is adamantly refusing to seek treatment for their condition, the challenges you will face together may only increase with time. Though you may feel guilty, the decision to walk away can prevent you from sacrificing your mental health in the future.