How To Date Someone With Mental Disorders

One in five adults in the United States has a mental illness of some sort, so it’s hard to find someone who isn’t affected. The second thing to know is, just relax. Mental illnesses in functioning adults run a broad range from someone who’s a little too invested in matching socks in the laundry to those with out-of-control hallucinations, but most can be managed with therapy.

Most of those with mental disorders show symptoms between ages 14 and 24. In the United States nearly half of adults surveyed reported some disorder in their lifetime. Within that group, 28 percent experienced symptoms of an anxiety disorder, 24 percent had symptoms of an impulse control disorder,  20 percent experienced symptoms of a mood disorder, and 10 percent experienced a substance abuse disorder. Those with substance abuse issues are very likely to have a mental health disorder as well. 

Having a Relationship with a Former Convict

Many people wait up to six months to tell a romantic partner about their mental health issues, and men are less likely to disclose a diagnosis (about 50 percent of the time) than women (over 70 percent of the time).

If your partner has been in jail and you suspect a mental disorder, it’s a good idea to discuss his or her treatment plans when release day is scheduled. It’s stressful to return home with the expectation of getting a job and re-entering society. Symptoms like withdrawal from friends, extreme mood swings, changes in appetite, and inability to concentrate, to cope with stress, or relate to people all may arise and test your relationship.


Avoid placing stigma on the disorder or the topic of mental health. If your partner is open to discussing his or her issues those conversations should be encouraged so that you’re up to date on flare-ups or difficult times. Being unaware of a partner’s issues can be damaging to a relationship as communication and interactions become stunted by the “elephant in the room” such as a period of depression or manic behavior.

How to Structure a Relationship

Mental disorders encompass a wide range of behaviors and can be as benign as slight depression to as serious as post traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms can be alleviated somewhat by an understanding, involved partner.

Have a conversation about symptoms, triggers, and stressors, and find out what he or she has done for treatment. Your partner may be able to describe the highs and lows of their experiences with the mental disorder as well as how you can help or participate. Knowing that he has a therapist or takes medication or practices meditation to alleviate symptoms will provide helpful clues to what your relationship will look like and what sort of lifestyle will be possible. For instance, if your partner suffers from an addictive disorder perhaps vacationing at a casino resort isn’t the best idea. Likewise if post traumatic stress is the issue then avoiding triggers like loud noises (rock concerts), or confined, congested spaces (cities, subways, airplanes) will be helpful.

Taking the long view


It’s best to consider the mental disorder a part of your partner’s personality rather than a temporary issue because it’s likely to resurface many times over a period of years. Some periods will be harder than others, and the same devices, medications, or time frame may not apply the second or third or fifth time around. Experts suggest letting go of any timetable for symptoms to run their course, or judgemental behavior such as expectations that your partner will conquer this episode quickly and bounce back.