Navigating the dating scene is tricky for anyone — but how is it different when you have a mental condition like bipolar or schizophrenia?(Illustration: Erik Mace for Yahoo Health)Christina Bruni seems to have it all.
And while dating is a minefield already, doing so with a mental condition requires a serious dedication to honesty, communication, and — like Bruni says — an open mind.
After all, some stats reveal that in marriages where one person is depressed, the divorce rate is nine times higher.
And if one person is bipolar, the divorce rate can be 90 percent, Stephanie Buehler, Psy D, a psychologist and sex therapist, tells Yahoo Health.
But Bruni, who wrote Left of the Dial: A Memoir of Schizophrenia, Recovery, and Hope, emphasizes that like a physical disease or a personality trait, mental illness is only a part of someone.
Indeed, “a mental illness shouldn’t be someone’s identity,” agrees Hilary Bye, a social worker at Mc Lean Hospital’s On Track program, which treats 18-to-30-year-olds going through a first episode of a psychotic disorder. This is just one part.” There are a multitude of factors at play when it comes to making a perfect romantic match that have nothing to do with mental illness.
(As Bruni says, “The lack of a guy in my life has nothing to do with my schizophrenia diagnosis.”) But for many people with mental illness, the stigma is very real — and can have an impact when it comes to finding a partner.“People bring in all sorts of biases and challenges they face into relationships,” Karen Swartz, MD, the director of Johns Hopkins’ mood disorders clinic, tells Yahoo Health.
“But when people are deciding things about bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, for example, based off of a few very inaccurate portrayals, that leads to stigma.” Bruni says she doesn’t expect others to truly understand what she’s been through, so she accepts the stigma.
“I’m not scared of anyone who would stigmatize me,” she says.
“But if a guy’s not compassionate, he’s not in my target market.
The truth is, I’m more successful in life than narrow-minded people will ever be. “Most people with mental health conditions have the potential of having very happy relationships,” Swartz says.
“You can have a family and a partner — it’s not that you have this experience and you’re doomed forever.” (Illustration: Erik Mace for Yahoo Health)But first someone has to address certain unavoidable factors — like when and how to tell your partner about a mental condition, and how treatment (including medication) can impact sex life.