How Mental Illness Affects Relationships

Approximately 50 million Americans struggle with at least one mental illness that negatively affects their mood, behavior, and thoughts. This instability can strain their relationships and increase the likelihood of their partnerships failing by 20 to 80%. If you or your partner struggles with mental health, you must understand how much it influences your relationship. 

Love is patient and kind, yet it may not always be enough. Mental health issues can interfere with most romantic relationships, and you should know when to address them before they start affecting your partner.  

The Impact on Relationships 

When you or your partner are not feeling well mentally, that emotional distress can interfere with your relationship and cause hurdles that may distance you from each other. To mitigate these adverse effects, you must recognize the following indicators: 

Communication Issues 

Communication problems are the number one cause of disputes in a relationship. A recent study suggests that 67.5% of marriages end because of communication issues. However, many confuse it with talking more rather than understanding. You can speak your thoughts as much as you want, but they will only make a difference if your partner is receptive, and vice versa. 

When someone is struggling mentally, communication becomes a more significant challenge. These individuals may be unable to articulate their emotions as they feel overwhelmed by them. Or simply not feel like talking. In these moments, showing your support becomes crucial. However, navigating around someone’s mental illness is a delicate procedure.

Despite your best intentions, you may hurt your partner’s feelings or have trouble understanding each other. How can you solve your relationship issues if every attempt leads to an argument? In such cases, you can seek help. This is where relationship issues therapy can play a vital role.

Relationship issues therapy provides a safe and supportive environment for couples to address their concerns, enhance communication, and work towards healthier, more fulfilling relationships. A trained therapist can facilitate productive discussions, offer guidance, and help both partners better understand each other’s perspectives.

A therapy positively impacts the relationship of 70% of couples who get treatment, as therapists teach techniques to strengthen your bond over multiple sessions. These involve:  

  • Helping identify unconscious self-sabotaging tendencies 
  • Developing a specialized treatment plan to help achieve your relationship goals
  • Learning effective conflict resolution and communication strategies 
  • Helping set healthy boundaries
  • Teaches you and your partner to trust each other 

Speaking in front of a professional can help you evaluate your relationship issues objectively and make each person feel heard. Therapy can also help with the following effects that mental illness can have on your relationship:


People push others away when struggling with mental health because they fear feeling judged or misunderstood. They try to protect themselves by isolating themselves, which may worsen their mental health. It is an epidemic faced by 58% of American adults. Data from 2021 also highlight the harmful impact loneliness has on mental health. It was reported that 85% of adults experiencing mental health challenges felt alone.

Either way, feeling lonely in your relationship can be detrimental to it. You don’t have to be alone for the loneliness to sink in. Instead, you can feel alone in a crowded room. The experience can vary from person to person. However, here are some common signs of someone feeling lonely in their relationship:

  • They isolate themselves from their partner
  • They constantly feel like their partner doesn’t care about them
  • They worry about being the last person their significant other talks to about things
  • They doubt their partner cares about them
  • They require a lot of attention

It’s normal sometimes to feel a bit lonely. Yet, everyone should aim to deal with it healthily. You should be honest about your feelings and talk to your partner. Remember that though your partner cannot satisfy your needs, you can still ask them for what you need. They might appreciate it.

Challenges with Intimacy 


People with a mental illness are more likely to develop intimacy challenges, as 80% of people struggling with their mental health have experienced negative impacts on their sex life. These issues include: 

  • A loss of libido 
  • Feeling self-conscious or unattractive 
  • Adverse reactions toward physical contact 
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Seeing intimacy as an obligation 
  • Avoiding being emotionally vulnerable 
  • Difficulty communicating needs 

Different types of mental illness can make you or your partner wary about physical and emotional closeness. If someone has suffered from abuse, intimacy might be triggering. Or if they’re depressed, then sex might disinterest them. However, it is important to communicate these feelings and ask your partner for whatever they feel comfortable with. 

Moreover, talking to a therapist may help you dive deeper into your subconscious fear of being too close to someone, as it usually stems from childhood experiences. It can help identify different types of attachment styles that include the following: 


These individuals may not have always had reliable caregivers, which made them develop a fear of abandonment. They tend to cling to their partners and give too much of themselves in a relationship to ensure their partner stays. People with an anxious attachment style may also have a more negative view of their attractiveness and sex. 


Someone with an avoidant attachment style has closed themselves off from relying on others, as their primary caregivers were never available. These individuals are not ready to commit because they use withdrawing to protect themselves. They may run away from conflicts and regularly distance themselves as a form of self-preservation. People with an avoidant attachment style might tend to avoid sex altogether.


These individuals are a combination of avoidant and anxious attachment styles. They both crave and fear a relationship. A person with a disorganized attachment style may view sex as a tool to resolve conflict and engage in emotionless sex. They are also more likely to develop sexual addiction. 


These individuals are trusting and can fully commit to closeness in a relationship. They have a sense of autonomy and can communicate their needs. In therapy, you can develop this attachment style by learning how to build self-esteem and evaluating your emotional needs from your relationship.

When you and your partner recognize your attachment styles, you can start working on solving the root cause of your issues. It can help you better understand each other’s behavior and improve your relationship. However, knowing your partner’s attachment style does not guide you to confront them. It would help if you left any treatment or diagnosis to professionals.


Having a partner who is struggling with their mental health may be challenging. However, understanding their illness and how it affects your relationship can help you identify and work on toxic patterns. Every relationship has problems, but working through them makes it worthwhile.