How Does Schizophrenia Impact Relationships?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2015), approximately 2 million Americans suffer from schizophrenia.
Do you know anyone who suffers from schizophrenia? If so, is that person in a romantic relationship with someone else? Has this condition negativity affected the schizophrenic’s ability to maintain healthy, long-term relationships? If so, you have come to the right place. Why? Well, because this article will help you better understand the link between schizophrenia and romantic relationships. To fully understand how schizophrenia affects romantic relationships, you must have a solid grasp on schizophrenia, in general. So, what exactly is schizophrenia? Well, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (2015), schizophrenia is a severe, disabling, chronic brain disorder that causes a wide-range of life-altering symptoms. Most, if not all, schizophrenia symptoms are exhibited through the sufferer’s thought processes and behaviors.
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The severity of the symptoms can range from mild or moderate to extreme. A person, who is schizophrenic, may experience delusions and hallucinations (i.e. based on jealously, paranoia, love, hate, anger, etc.). In addition, he or she may be unable to speak clearly and coherently, and/or take care of his or her hygiene (i.e. bathing, getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, etc.). This person may also have a difficult time attending to daily tasks, such as: paying bills, cooking, caring for children, driving, shopping, etc.). The exact cause of this condition is unknown; however, many scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and researchers believe that biological factors (i.e. viral infections while in the womb, low pre-birth oxygen levels, brain chemistry imbalances, and/or brain structure abnormalities), genetics, and environmental elements influence the development and progression of schizophrenia.
Is there more than one type of schizophrenia? Yes, there are actually three types of schizophrenia: disorganized (disorganized speech, thought processes, behaviors, and reactions), paranoid (the feeling of being persecuted by others), and catatonic (decreased or non-existent motor activities). It is important to understand that having a romantic relationship with someone, who suffers from schizophrenia, is not easy. In fact, it takes a high level of understanding, empathy, tolerance, patience, and love. Why? Well, because any relationship issues that arise are intensified when one or both of the partners are mentally ill. Fortunately, it is possible to have a happy, stable relationship with a schizophrenic individual.
How? Well, by making sure that the condition is properly monitored at all times, and that the partner is following his or her doctor’s prescribed treatment plan. Moreover, if possible, the non-schizophrenic partner should look into support groups for people living with schizophrenia and loved ones. Thankfully, this article will help you better understand the link between schizophrenia and relationships, so you will know what to expect, if you or a loved one enters into a romantic relationship with someone with this condition. Listed below are the ways that schizophrenia can affect romantic relationships:
Unpredictable Behaviors & Depression
A schizophrenic partner may exhibit wild, highly unpredictable/erratic behaviors. Most of the behaviors will arise suddenly, without warning; however some people may experience a slow decline in function. Moreover, the emotional “highs” and “lows” that every couple experiences at one or more times in their relationship are more noticeable (pronounced) when one or both partners are schizophrenic. Furthermore, a schizophrenic partner may lash out or accuse his or her partner for no apparent reason. This occurs most often when the condition is not being properly monitored and/or the schizophrenic has stopped his or her medications and treatments.
So, how is intimacy affected when one or both partners in a romantic relationship have schizophrenia? Well, truth-be-told, there is a chance that a schizophrenic’s sex life may be affected. Why? Well, because the medications commonly used to treat the condition can negatively affect fertility, libido (sexual desire), and sexual function. More specifically, schizophrenics can experience a decreased interest in sex all together. If you or someone you know is in a romantic relationship with a schizophrenic, and experiencing a loss of interest in sex or an inability to perform sexually – contact a physician or psychiatrist. It is important to note that if sexual performance is affected as a result of the schizophrenia medications or the condition itself, most couples are still able to experience some level of sexual interaction, such as: cuddling, spooning, foreplay, etc.
Although most people do not feel comfortable referring to their significant other as a “burden,” being in a relationship with a schizophrenic can sometimes feel that way. The non-schizophrenic partner should not beat himself or herself up. It is normal to feel frustrated, irritated, sad, and/or anxious when caring for and loving a schizophrenic partner, especially when the healthy person is responsible for helping his or her partner care for himself or herself (i.e. bathe, cook, perform household chores, care for children, dress, etc.). Moreover, if the schizophrenic partner is unable to keep a job, or save money, it may put added stress on the relationship.
In other words, the healthy partner may be responsible for obtaining steady employment and paying the bills. Furthermore, a schizophrenic partner may be “socially awkward” and have a hard time understanding social cues, which can be quite taxing on the non-schizophrenic partner. In some cases, these limitations can cause misunderstandings and arguments. The good news is that the non-schizophrenic partner is not alone - there are people who can help him or her. In addition, psychologists can teach these couples better problem-solving and communication strategies, which can help maintain the foundation of their relationship.
In order to have a stable, happy relationship with a schizophrenic partner, it is imperative that the healthy partner be supportive towards the ill partner as he or she commits to treatment. It is equally important that the mentally ill partner follow his or her doctor’s prescribed treatment plan. The healthy partner’s task is to simply be supportive and loving. He or she is also responsible for making sure the schizophrenic continues to take his or her medications, go to doctor’s appointments, etc. If possible, include close friends and family members in the schizophrenic’s support network.
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Brichford, C. (2015). Schizophrenia and relationships. Everyday Health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-and-relationships.aspx
National Institute of Mental Health. (2015). What is schizophrenia? Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml
Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2015). Understanding schizophrenia. Help Guide. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-signs-types-and-causes.htm
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