Sex & Relationships

Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend Is Less Likely to Support You If You Have This Mental Health Disorder

Women with schizophrenia receive the least amount of relationship support.

Relationship Difficulties: Young couple having problems
Photo Credit: Stokkete

This article was originally published at Revelist.

Some mental health disorders are getting more love than others—literally. 

For people struggling with mental health issues, having healthy romantic relationships is especially crucial. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a good relationship can provide much-needed social support, while a bad one can quickly make things worse. 

To get to the bottom of what a healthy relationship looks like, PsychGuides recently surveyed more than more than 2,000 Americans about mental illness and love. Sixty-four percent of those surveys reported struggling with some type of mental disorder, from depression to substance abuse issues.

The majority of respondents with mental illness said their partner provided support — but how much support varied widely based on gender, and the type of mental illness.


Almost three-quarters of the women, and about half of men, told their partners about their mental health concerns. While men were less likely to reveal their disorders to their partners, they were also more likely to feel supported if they did. The researchers say this may indicate a greater willingness among women to help partners cope with their mental health issues. 

Women did report getting support from their partners, but mostly for more common illnesses, like anxiety and depression. Women with schizophrenia — the least common disorder among respondents — reported the least amount of support from their partners. 

This may be because few people fully understand a schizophrenia diagnosis, much less how to support someone who has it.

Men reported getting the most support for disorders like ADHD, panic disorder, and PTSD. Men with anger management problems, eating disorders, and sex addiction received the least support. 

The researchers suggest this is because disorders like ADHD are less likely to impact a significant other, while disorders like sex addiction have a negative stigma that can directly impact the relationship.

Photo: PsychGuides

Disorders like ADHD received similar amounts of support from both women and men, but support for other disorders proved very dependent on gender.

While women with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorders received some of the least support, men with these disorders reported some of the most. Most women with eating disorders said they received support from their partners, while most men did not. 

This finding mirrors that of a Northwestern University study from 2009, which shows how mental health stigma varies by gender. The researchers found that when people read about mental health patients who were “gender-typical” (a woman with depression and a man with alcoholism,) their sympathy increased. When the disorders were flipped, and the woman suffered from alcoholism while the man was depressed, sympathy decreased.

Our gender stereotypes, it seems, affect how we interact with those with mental illness — our romantic partners included. 

This article was originally published at Revelist.



Emily Shugerman is a writer for Revelist. Her work has also appeared in Ms. Magazine. 

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