Mental illness, like other medical illnesses such as diabetes or cancer, requires personal and professional attention to its effects on mood, thinking, relationships and overall well-being. As medical evidence shows, mental illness results in more disabilities than any other group of illness, including cancer and heart disease.
However, people who survive mental illness can work, raise a family and be productive citizens. They date, marry and do anything else anyone without an illness does. So, why then are some people, including singles, afraid to date a person with depression or anxiety? Are they worried they’ll “catch” something like people who catch the flu from being in public places?
Here are a few things single people who date should consider when choosing a mate with mental illness:
MYTH: Mental illness is contagious. Mental illness is a medical and biological disease. It’s not a contagion that you “catch” from spending time with other people. Notwithstanding the effects that being around depressed or anxious people can have on our own mental and spiritual well-being, but dating or even marrying someone with a mood disorder, for example, does not necessarily create illness in us. But as with other medical diseases, there are courses the disease goes through that can be taxing on the sufferer and their loved ones, but there are periods of latency, too.
MYTH: Asking about mental health history is too personal when dating. Dating should be an exploratory and fun time. But it should also be a time for people to learn about their partners, ask questions about previous relationships, family history and personal challenges. Dating someone who suffers from a mental illness, especially one that may be chronic but not psychotic, can be similar to dating someone who struggles with other personal tribulations. The way someone acknowledges and deals with living with an illness speaks volumes to their quality of life, and ultimately your quality of life as a couple.
MYTH: People always know they have a mental illness. Adults with mental illness may not always know they have it. It can take a loving partner to gently point out what they see about a person’s mood or thought process. If you find that someone you’re dating presents with concerns of a possible mental illness, the first rule of thumb doesn’t have to be to run the other way. Be patient and see if what you’re concerned about interferes with your getting to know the person. If it does, then address what you see at an appropriate time. The gesture may or may not be well received but it will at least inform you as to whether you should proceed with that person as a serious candidate or not. Listen to your gut!
Asha Tarry, Licensed Mental Health Specialist and Owner of Behavioral Health Consulting Services LMSW, PLLC (www.BHConsultingServices.net). Follow her @ashtarry on Twitter/ Asha Tarry on Facebook and LinkedIN.