Repairing Relationships Damaged By Mental Illness

April 23, 2015 Tracey Lloyd

It's difficult to repair relationships damaged by mental illness. Learn how to repair mental illness-damaged relationships with friends and family.

Mental illness can damage relationships but you can repair relationships damaged by mental illness too. When you have a mental illness it can be difficult to maintain all kinds of relationships. Symptoms of unchecked mental illness are often the very factors that cause rifts in relationships between two healthy people. But it is possible to repair a mental illness-damaged relationship. As repairing your relationship with, and feelings about, yourself takes time, so does rebuilding the trust of loved ones and the closeness you have with others.

How to Start Repairing Your Relationships Damaged by Mental Illness

My last depressive episode lasted nearly two years. Over the course of that time I couldn't work and went into the hospital twice. Now that I'm headed towards recovery, I notice that my relationships with friends have suffered. I already have a tendency to isolate when I don't feel well and I rejected my closest friend's social invitations because I also had little money. I thought she understood my symptoms and that I couldn't help how I felt but my mental illness eventually had an impact on our friendship and her behavior; she stopped inviting me to do things with her, which I believed was because she didn't care enough to be my friend.

Since I have started feeling better, I have started to mend my hurt relationship with my friend. I've shared with her how hard it is for me to overcome the lethargy, the withdrawal and even the guilt I've felt during the last few years. She told me that she just wanted me to be better and felt like she didn't know how to help, which was the cause of her behavior. What I learned from her was that she might not be the friend with whom I can talk out all the details of my depression, but she certainly cares enough about me to keep in my life. I'm now more honest with my friend in hopes that we can fix our relationship to where it used to be.

Some Relationships Damaged by Mental Illness Are Difficult to Repair

It can be difficult to repair relationships damaged by mental illness. This article talks about how to do it with friends and family members.My relationship with my family is more damaged than that with my friends. My large family has more preconceived ideas about who and what my behavior should be. Therefore, when I have an episode and I don't talk to my aunts, for example, their first though is that I'm being a "bad" niece. I feel, and they exert, an incredible amount of guilt around how I should behave. That guilt keeps me from communicating with my family when I'm ill, and lingers uncomfortably in our relationships when I'm well. I always anticipate getting a guilt trip and that dread triggers my negative thought patterns.

My family's beliefs about my behavior extend to my disease as well. Some people don't want to see or hear me cry when I'm upset, going so far as telling me to stop. Some people don't believe that I have a disease, though; I don't understand what they think of my times in the hospital. Many family members just want to cheer me up and talk about other things, presumably because it's too difficult to understand my experiences. In these instances, I've sought out aunts and cousins who are capable of hearing about my illness, about my bad moods, about my feelings. I don't believe that I can really have a relationship with people who don't acknowledge my disease, so they remain family and remain outside my circle of trust. It is too difficult to live every day with a potentially debilitating illness while simultaneously worrying about how everyone in my family will react to me.

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APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2015, April 23). Repairing Relationships Damaged By Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

November, 25 2015 at 11:31 am

My partner and I both suffer from mental illness. I have borderline personality disorder and he bipolar.
We both had very reactive responses to any kind of stress- sometimes I would fly off and sometimes he would fly off.
Sometimes our reactions would build on what and how the other was reacting, causing a cataclysmic effect of massive fights, where, particularly myself, should have been hospitalised as the result of the nervous breakdowns that I had. Instead, I would create incredible amounts of drama and cause huge amounts of damage to relationships around me: friends, work, family, basically anyone I was in contact with. As a result, both his family and friends don't want me anywhere near him and my family and friends don't want him anywhere near me.
During times of separation (which are many) we have the ability to work on ourselves and stay more cantered than when we are together. At the moment, we are separated (again) and in looking at our relationship, it appears for the sanity of ALL around us, it is better we separate. But, even after all the drama we both cause, we still love each other very much.
I am wondering if anyone knows of help books that can help us out-
-repairing relationships
-building trust
- resolving stressful situations in ways that DONT cause damage
- learning to be open to conflicting situations and learn how to respond, work out solutions to the situation
We do a lot of workshops and see psychologists. I find though that sometimes we need a bit more.
Can anyone help?
This is both saddening and

May, 2 2015 at 5:39 am

Danielle, if your baby girl is on infant formula with iron change her to one without iron. Iron upsets a baby's stomach and if their iron levels are good, as most are, the supplement isn't needed. I had the same problem with my first child who projectile vomited the entire contents of his feedings several times a day which caused no end of distress to us both. I made his pediatrician aware of this at every visit but since my son was in the 150% for length and weight the Dr saw it as not a problem. The day he was a year old and we switched him to regular milk was the day all of that stopped! By then his sweet character had dissolved into an eternally unhappy stressed child most of which has continued into adulthood. When my second son was born and we came home from the hospital with him, he was severely constipated to the point at 3 days old he had developed double hernias which required surgery at 6 wks (iron also causes constipation which was also a problem with my first son). I immediately took him off the iron enhanced formula and put him on the same soy-no iron my older son had been on and he had no more digestive issues. I hope you see this as this is a most over-looked problem that pediatric doctors ignore though the solution is simple.

April, 29 2015 at 5:43 pm

Good advice but what about when the people one is trying to make amends with have absolutely no interest in working it out? This is what I've encountered. I went through a severe depressive episode and at one point I became psychotic and paranoid. As a result I burned many, many bridges with pretty much everyone I knew. When I began to surface from this horrid experience I found myself living in a new town, no supports and everyone I knew refused to speak with me. I've since rebuilt my life with an entirely new, albeit smaller, group but I have a lot of regret over how things went down up to that point. This may be my own experience talking but I think many are unwilling to empathize with something as foreign to them as psychosis. It's too stigmatized and it scares people. I believe depression and negativity is the same. Everyone knows what "sad" is but true despair is something many cannot handle seeing.

Teresa Cook
April, 29 2015 at 5:16 pm

Can you please give me the titles of this book and also of the book you wrote for girls? I would like to read the book "repairing relationships damaged by mental illness and I would like to find the one you wrote for girls but I could not make out the Title. I also hope you win!!!

April, 29 2015 at 9:03 am

I'm in a relationship with a man who is bipolar. I understand bipolar in general, due to having been misdiagnosed with it when I was 18. I did my research then and have researched since too. My main issue is he is VERY angry right now. We have a 10 week old baby girl, and my son who is 10, and his 11 year old daughter as well. All 3 children live with us 24/7. Our daughter is VERY colicky and has acid reflux, and kids have been bickering a LOT. We just got his daughter in November when her mom passed suddenly. He has been off meds for a few years now. What can I do to have him less angry? I get scared sometimes...

Brooke R.
April, 28 2015 at 12:45 pm

My relationship with my husband is suffering so bad, that today he said he can't handle my mental illnesses anymore. I'm petrified and don't know what to do. Because of my severe depression, anxiety, and bi-polar, it is very difficult to hold a full time job. So not only am I stressing out about losing my husband because of my illnesses, but then I have to worry about how the heck am I going to make it on my own.

April, 24 2015 at 3:34 am

Hello. I am dealing with the exact opposite but don't know where to post. I actually am in a relationship for a year with a man who is madly in love with me although I don't have the same feelings. I do care about him but don't love him per se. I want to end the relationship and have tried several times but I know I send him mixed messages. I say one thing, tell him it's over and then cave and go back to him. Problem is I don't want to hurt his feelings and feel bad for him and his circumstances because he has no other support systems. I know he will be devastated so right now we are on a "break" so I can "work on myself to do what I need to love myself". I have no intentions of "going back to him" although he truly believes we are soul mates and I will be back. I don't know how to handle this? I have been a people pleaser all my life and don't like to hurt anyone. I also have severe anxiety issues, PTSD, Bipolar Depressive Type 2 and Binge eating disorder. I know this relationship isn't healthy for me I just need help/advice on what to do. I am new to this site so please let me know if I should be posting somewhere else..Thanks in advance for your help,.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Deltra Coyne
April, 24 2015 at 8:14 am

Thank you for reading, and for sharing Tammy. Over here at the blogs, unless stated otherwise, we're regular people trying to manage our own or our loved ones' mental illness. That said, I can't tell you what to do other than to do what's best for you and your recovery. You can't live for your boyfriend because you feel bad about his situation. You can only love him, or like him, to the point you can. Maybe your therapist or other professional can help you sort it out. Yours is a sticky situation, and I wish you the best of luck with sorting it out.

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