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Written by:Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Published On: July 14, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Reviewed On: July 14, 2022

Updated On: July 17, 2023


Dating is challenging, no matter who you are or who you pick as a partner. However, for people in relationships with one of the nearly 1% of the population who struggles with schizophrenia, dating can be exceptionally challenging.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition hallmarked by unpredictable emotions, hallucinations, and delusions. While dating someone with this disorder can sometimes be difficult, learning as much as you can about schizophrenia can help shape your relationship in a meaningful way.

Keep reading to learn more about the challenges that come with dating someone who has schizophrenia.

Before Diagnosis

Symptoms of schizophrenia tend to manifest when a person is in their late teens into the 30s. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than men. Schizophrenia tends to be progressive, meaning it gets worse as time goes on. For this reason alone, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as symptoms first appear. Treatment will ensure the best outcome and the most likely chance that rewarding, healthy relationships are possible in the future. The challenging part is that people with schizophrenia often don’t realize that they need help.

Understanding schizophrenia symptoms

The key symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, which involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t real (although they seem real to the person experiencing them).

Experiencing delusions is another common symptom that involves believing things that aren’t real — for example, believing you’re the President of the United States. Delusions can also involve believing scenarios that aren’t based on fact, like thinking something happened that didn’t.

People with schizophrenia can also:

  • Have difficulty showing emotions
  • Might withstand emotionally or socially
  • Have a hard time expressing themselves
  • Find it hard at times to process what they’re told
  • Have abnormal movements
  • Speak in disorganized patterns
  • Maintain odd or unhealthy eating and sleeping habits

“One of the most common symptoms that is often ignored or misunderstood is disorganized speech. It can be seen as a result of other issues, but is not always connected to schizophrenia.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

Ways to support your partner when symptoms begin

If your partner begins to exhibit signs of schizophrenia or any other mental health condition, it’s important to support them. If you think their actions are bizarre, they’re likely having difficulty coping also.

The best thing you can do is have them evaluated by a mental health professional who can diagnose them and recommend a treatment plan. We can’t say often enough that early treatment of schizophrenia is essential for the best outcome.

After Diagnosis

The time after a schizophrenia diagnosis can be scary for you and your partner. Learning effective ways to help them is the best support you can provide right now.

3 Ways to support your partner after schizophrenia diagnosis

There are dozens of ways to help someone with schizophrenia, but a few strategies will be more helpful than others.

  • Fight (or at least acknowledge) the stigma. Unfortunately, mental health conditions — especially serious ones like schizophrenia — carry a stigma in our society. Acknowledging this with your partner, and letting them know that you support them unconditionally, can go a long way in boosting their self-esteem and helping them stay with a treatment plan.
  • Learn as much as you can about their condition. Educating yourself about your partner’s condition means you can be a better health advocate for them. It can also help you in general, as when you have a better understanding of what they’re going through, you’ll be able to lead with compassion, not frustration or misunderstanding.
  • Be empathetic. Keep in mind, especially when things are really challenging, this is difficult for them, too. Bring empathy to any conversation you have about their mental health.

“Educating yourself and joining online or in-person support groups can be helpful and good ways to support your partner. Remember that they act the way they do due to their diagnosis and that your support can make a true difference.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

How Schizophrenia Can Affect Your Relationship

Any mental health diagnosis complicates a relationship. However, a diagnosis of schizophrenia can make communication and meeting each other’s needs even more difficult. The good news is that with a diagnosis, you can put a name and a cause to the symptoms your partner is experiencing. Then, you can work together to get them the treatment they need to improve and strengthen your relationship.

Challenges you may face

Schizophrenia can present several challenges in a relationship. Knowing these upfront, and being able to understand them, means you can hopefully avoid frustration and keep things calm and in perspective. For example:

  1. Financescan be challenging if your partner cannot work because of their diagnosis.
  2. Communication, always critical in a relationship, can be complicated by hallucinations and delusions or by your partner shutting down emotionally.
  3. Medicationused to control and ease symptoms of schizophrenia can cause mood swings, unexpected behavior, and changes in libido. Often, it takes a while before a mental health team finds aschizophrenia medicationthat works well for someone.
  4. Treatmentcan often bring out unresolved feelings and childhood trauma that can be difficult for both partners to deal with.

How to manage the challenges

There are several ways you can successfully navigate the challenging aspects of a relationship with someone who has schizophrenia.

1. Work on your communication skills. Good listening skills are essential to any healthy relationship. That’s especially true when you’re involved with someone who has paranoid schizophrenia. Listen to what your partner is experiencing, but also be sure to communicate your own needs. It doesn’t have to be all about the person with the condition.

2. Be patient. Medication can cause a myriad of symptoms, especially while your partner’s mental health team is trying to find the right combination. Symptoms and stress from treatment can cause moodiness, disrupt sex drive, and make your partner act impulsively. Try to be patient.

3. Don’t let your partner stop treatment to work on your relationship. Early treatment and therapy for schizophrenia are essential for a long-term positive outcome when dealing with schizophrenia. Assure your partner that you can take on the challenges of treatment (or other treatment options) and that you’ll be there for them throughout the process.

4. Suggest couples therapy. Dating someone with schizophrenia can present a few more challenges than some other relationships might. You can find mutual support for the both of you when you start couples therapy. If nothing else, it might show your partner you’re committed to the health of your relationship.

“People diagnosed with schizophrenia struggle to start relationships and show their emotions. That can make it difficult for them, and later on for their partners, due to the lack of emotional response. Talking to a mental health professional about ways to overcome this issue can help a couple in many ways.”

Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

Getting Support in Your Relationship

The good news if you’re dating someone with schizophrenia is that there are many resources available designed to help both the person diagnosed as well as those who care about them.

Your partner’s mental health team can point you towards good support groups in your area.

You can still have a rewarding relationship when you’re dating someone with schizophrenia. It helps if you’re able to educate yourself, so you’re prepared for the unexpected, and getting support is always a good first step.

Talkspace is an online therapy platform that aims to make access to mental health care simple and affordable. We have skilled therapists available to help you and your partner successfully manage any condition or challenge in your relationship, including schizophrenia. There isn’t a cure for schizophrenia, but with the right tools and coping skills, you can learn to maintain a healthy, mutually rewarding relationship with a loved one with schizophrenia. Talkspace can help.

See References

Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Cynthia Catchings is a trilingual licensed clinical social worker-supervisor, mental health consultant, professor, and trainer for federal law enforcement agencies. Cynthia has over 15 years of experience in the mental health profession. She is passionate about women’s mental health, life transitions, and stress management. Her clinical work, advocacy, and volunteer service have focused on working with domestic violence survivors and conducting mental health research in over 30 countries.

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