Survey Reveals The Biggest Struggles For Couples & Mental Illness


There are struggles on the path to recovery, but hope for the future as well.

A new survey of mental health experts conducted by YourTango reveals what mental illness diagnoses are most likely to shake a marriage to its core. What tops the list? Addiction (to things like sex, drugs and alcohol), at a whopping 90 percent, as well as personality disorders (like antisocial, avoidant or borderline) at 82 percent, and mood disorders (like depression or bipolar disorder) at 68 percent.

Why does addiction rank so high on the list? As one expert explains, a lack of understanding and awareness is the biggest detriment. "Most people don't even know about borderline, or histrionic, or avoidant disorders. Most people don't know 'when' a fun drinker has become an alcoholic."

However, it is important to be vigilant when addressing mental health challenges. As another expert notes, "Getting professional help as soon as possible, when problems are becoming symptomatic, is critical."

How can couples work toward healing in light of such big challenges? An overwhelming amount of experts suggest counseling, both individual and couples, to put the marriage back on the right track. 50 percent agree that the single most important step married partners can take is to attend couples counseling together, and 68 percent agree that the healthy partner plays a significant role in their spouse's healing process.

YourTango Expert Hadley Earabino explains how to lend a helping hand while taking care of your own health and wellness: "[Healing] means not getting attached to ideas about what you think your spouse 'should' do. Clean up your side of the street and detach with love. That's the key," Earabino says.

How do you detach with love? Attend therapy yourself! 86 percent of experts agree it's critical the healthy individual address their own needs in tandem with working toward healing with their partner. Almost 50 percent also recommend learning as much as you can about the diagnosis, so you can make informed decisions about how to deal with problems and issues that may arise as a result of the illness.

What can a therapist or counselor help you with? Keeping the lines of communication open is important as well. As one expert explains, "developing a routine, non-confrontational method of communicating is VITAL in helping families work through and heal from mental illness."

Expert Barbara Schiffman agrees: "If emotional or mental illness impacts one person in a relationship or family, it is vital for each person — i.e. lovers or spouses, children and also other family members — to be honored and involved as well."

What else did the survey uncover about mental illness and married couples? Here are some of the most noteworthy findings:

  • 15-30% of married couples struggle with mental illness – that’s as many as 3 in 10!
  • 49% of experts report that in the face of a new diagnosis, the biggest mistake couples make is not seeking professional support. 
  • 62% of experts agree that healthy spouses can "mirror" unhealthy symptoms. 

YourTango is proudly extending a helping hand to those affected by mental illness with their upcoming content-driven campaign, Living & Loving With Mental Illness, from August 26 – September 6. Additionally, those seeking further help can browse YourTango’s extensive network of mental health professionals who offer a wide range of services.

Don’t forget to join an open Q&A session with mental health professionals on August 29 from 3-4PM at

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