Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition affecting a person’s functioning in multiple areas. One way that schizophrenia can negatively affect people is in terms of interpersonal functioning.
So, how does schizophrenia affect relationships? Learn information about schizophrenia and relationships, as well as how to support a partner with this mental health condition, below.
Symptoms of schizophrenia
Before jumping into what you can expect from schizophrenia relationships, it is important to understand the symptoms of this mental health disorder.
Schizophrenia is classified as a psychotic disorder, and as such, people experience the following symptoms of schizophrenia:
These are irrational beliefs that a person maintains, even when provided with evidence that the beliefs are not true. For instance, a person may believe that they have special powers, such as the ability to read minds.
This often involves hearing or seeing things that are not actually present.
Disorganized speech: A person with schizophrenia may speak in a way that others cannot understand because they shift rapidly from one topic to the next.
3. Catatonic behavior
Behaviors that fall under this category include lack of speech, strange movements, sitting still for long periods, or other movements that are generally perceived as strange.
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia include a lack of motivation and a lack of interest in major areas of life, including relationships. A person with negative symptoms may also show a lack of emotion.
To meet the criteria for schizophrenia, a person must experience dysfunction in major areas of life, such as work or relationships, and evidence of a mental health disturbance must be present for at least six months.
15 ways how schizophrenia affect relationships
If you’re dating or married to someone with schizophrenia, you may be interested to learn how schizophrenia affects relationships. Consider the 15 ways below:
1. Difficulty with household duties
A person with schizophrenia may have difficulty reading social cues, such as hints that you want them to help with household chores.
They may also struggle to pick up on the fact that you’re upset with them for not helping. This means they may need direct instructions about what is expected.
2. Problems with sex
Schizophrenia can cause people to lose interest in pleasurable activities, including sex. You may find that there is a lack of intimacy in your relationship.
You may not always understand the behavior of your partner. Remember that schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, which can lead to delusional and paranoid behavior that may not always make sense to you.
6. Communication challenges
A relationship with a person with schizophrenia may mean communication does not always go as planned. You may try to have an effective conversation but cannot follow your partner’s advice.
This can also mean that when you try to address relationship problems or conflict, your partner has difficulty even having a conversation.
7. Financial difficulties
Having schizophrenia can make it difficult for a person to maintain a full-time job, and your partner may even need to rely upon disability benefits to support themselves.
This means that if you’re married or in a long-term relationship with someone with schizophrenia, your partner may not be able to contribute significantly to household finances.
You may be relied upon to be the breadwinner, or you may have to provide significant financial support because disability benefits are rarely enough to cover all major living expenses for a family.
8. Medication issues
Antipsychotic medications can be very helpful for people who live with schizophrenia, as they can make symptoms more manageable. However, they can also come with significant side effects.
Living with a schizophrenic partner can mean helping them to manage medication side effects. You may also have to encourage them to continue taking their medication or remind them to take it daily.
The unfortunate truth is that people may have a negative attitude toward people with mental health conditions like schizophrenia.
You may experience judgment from others if your partner has schizophrenia, and family members may even question your choice to have a romantic relationship with a person with schizophrenia.
10. Difficulty with emotions
You may find that your partner will shut down emotionally if you try to discuss an important topic with them. They may also have difficulty understanding your feelings or expressing their own.
Sometimes, hallucinations and delusions linked to schizophrenia can lead your partner to become paranoid.
They may accuse you of somehow “being out to get them,” or they may become distrustful of your intentions. Learning to cope with these accusations can be a challenge.
Romantic relationships can be challenging for people who live with schizophrenia. They may lack romantic interest, or they may not understand romance.
In a relationship, this can mean that your partner isn’t good at being romantic. They may have difficulty expressing affection or communicating a romantic desire to you.
13. Added stress
Coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia can be difficult for you and your partner. Being in a relationship with someone who experiences a severe mental health condition can add additional stress to your life.
Research suggests that the partners of people with schizophrenia tend to perceive an average to a high amount of problems within the relationship.
See the following video for more on “How does schizophrenia affect relationships?”
How to deal with a schizophrenic partner
Now that you know the answer to “How does schizophrenia affect relationships?” you may be wondering what to do next.
If your partner has schizophrenia, there are things you can do to cope with the challenges that come along with this mental health condition. First, you need to remember not to take their behavior personally.
Remember that your partner has a serious mental health condition, and their behaviors reflect this.
You may feel they do not care for you or are not interested in spending time together, but this is not because of anything you have done wrong. It is because of the way their mental health condition affects them.
Once you realize that you shouldn’t take your partner’s behavior personally, you can learn how to deal with a schizophrenic partner.
To cope with your partner’s mental health condition, it is helpful to develop a strong support group of friends and family members who understand your situation and are available to listen when you need to talk.
You might also consider joining a support group for loved ones of people with mental health conditions.
In these groups, you can learn from others experiencing similar challenges and share your feelings in a safe setting.
Finally, it would be best if you practiced self-care. Make time for your hobbies and interests, and care for yourself with regular exercise and proper nutrition.
Taking time to relax and meet your needs makes you better able to cope with the challenges that come with living with a schizophrenic partner.
Mental health conditions and relationship challenges
Relationships can be challenging whether a person has schizophrenia or another mental health condition.
Dating or marrying someone with a mental health condition means you will be exposed to the symptoms of their condition.
Mental health conditions interfere with life functioning, making it difficult for people to communicate, express emotions, or develop satisfying interpersonal relationships.
They can also make it difficult to perform successfully at work, adding a layer of stress to relationships.
The good news is that treatment is available, and you and your partner can learn to cope.
Five tips for supporting your partner with schizophrenia
You’re likely to find that your relationship with a person with schizophrenia improves if you take steps to support them. How can you achieve this? Consider the tips below.
1. Learn about their mental health condition
Taking time to learn about schizophrenia gives you a greater understanding of what your partner is experiencing.
This allows you to empathize with them and gives you a better idea of what you can expect, so their behavior and symptoms are not as surprising.
2. Encourage them to seek treatment
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition but is manageable with quality treatment. Encouraging your spouse or significant other to stay in treatment is one of the best things you can do to support them.
3. Advocate for them
Sometimes the mental health care system can be difficult to navigate. Be prepared to advocate for your partner’s best interests.
This may mean tracking their symptoms so you can talk to a doctor about the best medication or treatment plan for your partner’s needs.
4. Help them develop a support network
It’s important for people who live with schizophrenia to have a support network of friends, family, and community resources.
Your partner may not be apt to reach out on their own, so it can be helpful if you encourage them to seek support or help to link them to sources of support, such as a support group or vocational rehabilitation center.
5. Remain empathetic
Sometimes your partner’s mental health symptoms are frustrating or difficult to cope with, but it’s important to avoid arguing or being cold. This also means that you shouldn’t try to talk them out if your partner is experiencing a hallucination or delusion.
The truth is that when someone with schizophrenia experiences hallucinations and delusions, these experiences are very real for them. Instead of arguing about a hallucination, for example, you can say something like, “That hasn’t been my experience.”
If you’re asking, “How does schizophrenia affect relationships?” the answers to the following questions may also be helpful:
1. Can a relationship survive schizophrenia?
A severe mental health condition like schizophrenia can make relationships more difficult. However, with ongoing treatment, individuals with schizophrenia can enjoy committed relationships.
It’s also important for partners to have an understanding of schizophrenia and the effect it has on relationships so that they can be prepared to offer support and understand that their significant other’s behavior isn’t something that should be taken personally.
2. Should you leave someone with schizophrenia?
There is a significant stigma surrounding mental health conditions like schizophrenia, so you may automatically assume that you should leave if your partner has schizophrenia.
Ending a relationship just because someone has a mental health disorder isn’t fair and adds to the stigma surrounding mental illness.
There’s no reason to leave someone just because they live with mental illness because people with mental health conditions can have successful relationships.
However, if you’re in a relationship with a person with schizophrenia, and they are not seeking treatment, it may be very difficult to manage their mental health symptoms.
If your partner with schizophrenia is not seeking treatment and their behavior creates significant stress, you may have to leave the relationship.
You should not feel obligated to stay in a relationship where none of your needs are met, especially if your partner does not seek treatment to alleviate symptoms like bizarre behavior.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that leads to hallucinations and delusions, bizarre behavior, and difficulty showing emotions.
These symptoms can make it difficult for individuals with schizophrenia to maintain relationships.
However, with effective treatment, and a little understanding from their partner, a person with schizophrenia can have healthy, successful relationships.
It’s important to understand that being in a relationship with a person with schizophrenia may mean shifting some of your expectations regarding romance and communication, but this doesn’t mean the relationship is destined to fail.
If you’re in a romantic relationship with a person with schizophrenia, it’s important to learn about their mental health condition and support them in seeking treatment. You may also benefit from couples counseling to better understand each other.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.