Maintaining Friendships When Living With a Mental Illness

April 9, 2015 Tracey Lloyd

Maintaining friendships when living with a mental illness can be hard. Here are some tips on how to live with a mental illness and maintain friendships

Making and maintaining friendships when living with a mental illness takes effort, as it does for everyone. Maintaining friendships with a mental illness requires attention, sharing and emotional honesty which are some areas affected by symptoms of mental illness. Those who live with conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder may need to put extra effort into keeping their friendships healthy.

The Importance of Maintaining Friendships in Mental Illness

The first time I was hospitalized for bipolar mania, I had to complete a discharge plan to help maintain my health and prevent relapse. The plan called for identifying close friends and family members that would help me with my disease. I was supposed to alert the people on my list if I felt bad or experienced warning symptoms or just wanted to talk about how my disease impacted my life.

Maintaining friendships when living with a mental illness can be hard. Here are some tips on how to live with a mental illness and maintain friendships

At the time I was horrified at having to write down the people in my support system. This was after I'd first been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I'd chosen to explain my disease to my friends in as curt a way possible: "I'm in the hospital. I'm bipolar. Everything is going to be fine. Can you bring me some tampons?"

With as little sharing as I could muster, I mentioned taking medications and looking forward to going back to work, as though nobody would be inconvenienced by my diagnosis. As you can imagine, my friends took no part in my mental health recovery because I did not allow for it. Instead of sharing my moods and feelings with my social circle, I withdrew into whichever emotion plagued me.

Be Honest With Your Friends When You Have a Mental Illness

After years of living with depression and bipolar disorder, I've learned how to incorporate friendships into my mental illness coping skills. Almost everyone who knows me knows that I have a mental illness -- even those who don't don't completely understand know my diagnosis and respect my needs to discuss it at times. I have a group of friends that are personally affected by mental illness -- either their own or that of a family member -- and that group gets my most honest assessment of my mood, how my therapy is going and any symptoms I have.

I've formed another group of friends who, though only affected by mental illness through me, have the emotional capacity to understand my feelings, ask questions about my diagnosis, and tolerate my mood swings. These friends don't necessarily relate to what I feel, but I know they care enough about me to try to make me feel better. I would not have such honest friends in my life had I not been honest enough to disclose details of my disease to them.

With all of my friends, I'm certain to tell them how my disease affects them. If we have plans and I need to cancel because I'm not feeling well, I tell the truth about feeling depressed or not thinking I can handle a crowd. With this kind of honesty, my friends don't think I'm blowing them off or just being flaky, that there's a legitimate reason for my absence.

Certainly, there are consequences to too many cancellations or other friendship killers. After all, a friendship goes two ways. It shouldn't serve only the person with an illness. But it's important to remember that maintaining friendships when living with a mental illness is possible when you work at it.

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APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2015, April 9). Maintaining Friendships When Living With a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 13 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

Dr Musli Ferati
April, 22 2017 at 2:47 am

Socials aspect of living are of crucial importance for global mental functioning, even we have many daily difficulties through common interpersonal relationship. So, it is of substantial meaning to create and maintaining friendship support system, as crucial help measure to dealing by healthy way with any mental disorder. Indeed, each interpersonal relationship is overloaded with respective challenges and problems, as well. So, is with friendship relations, when any participant is mentally ill. However, it is advisable to remember that friends indicate the most helpful step to overcome fatal consequences and repercussions of respective mental illness. In this direction, honest and objective attitude toward the the mental disorder is successful approach to prevent the harmful outcomes of any mental disorder. Hiding and innate ignoration of any mental disorder is wrong way to dealing with any diificulties of concrete mental disorder. In conclusion, it ought to seek close friends, whose help and emotional support is of crucial meaning on definitive prognosis of respective mental illness.

April, 20 2017 at 10:04 am

having a daughter with major depressive disorder and dependant personality disorder I admire and appreciate the few friends who have stayed in touch with her.She self isolates most of the time.Her bad times are basically in bed for a week.When she is ok,she will accept invites but never turn up.Please read,read and read some more.As her mother,her dad and I feel like we have been wrung out.Everybody needs a friend.I pray very hard for all of you who suffer some form of mental illness.The silent torture,is the saddest thing.

April, 8 2016 at 10:52 am

I've successfully worked this into my mental health plan. Unfortunately, my daughter-in-law's illness involves delusions and she doesn't believe she is living with disorders. Rather, she ascribes her symptoms to cause and effect. I wish she'd be willing to learn about the importance of having a plan and then create/follow the plan. Until then, we lose valuable time with our grandchildren and her delusions make her think we're pulling away rather than that she's pushing us away.

michael castillo
April, 17 2015 at 6:21 pm

I need support. I am deeply suffering from watching my soul mate suffer from bi polar mania and adhd. I will never leave her. I am so used to her up and down which are extremely unpredictable. My loved ones tell me to leave her but I wouldn't in a million years. She doesn't take her meds as she should. There is no reasoning with her and denies her condition. I cant leave her. There is extreme good in her. I am a college student majoring in psychology and I can't focus on school anymore due to I don't know when she go into turbo mode., I have been seeking counseling on this matter and she doesn't know it. No matter how much I try to negotiate with her, she will always think she has no condition. It's eating me up inside and out and I put on a mask in front of my colleges at school. She is very delusional and sometimes I want to agree she is right about what she believes at that paticular moment but I still refuse to. She don't take her meds as she should and I will never leave her because it's not her fault. I love her and abandening her is not an option. I need help so despeately. It is getting to a point were I just want to just give up. But I won't. It's for better or worse. can you help me with a little advise to comfort me?

April, 15 2015 at 4:18 pm

I have a few close friends who I cherish from my early teen years that know all about me and accept me anyway. For that I am truly grateful. My best friend who I've known since grade school is more like a sister than a friend. She was my contact when I was in hospital the last time. A number of her family members have also been touched with mental illness as well
But I've learned the hard way not to burden them all the time with my problems if I want to keep them in my life. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 3 years ago but was symptomatic for years prior. So far I've managed not to scare them off. I try my best to be there for them also because I realize that healthy relationships need to be a two way street
I've learned it can be helpful to write down what's going on with me sometimes. That way I don't burn out relationships as much as I used to with my neediness. When I'm having a hard time I can always look back through my journal to better days and know that there will eventually be light at the end of the tunnel

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