Communicating with a person who is suffering from mental health illness can be difficult for both sides. This is because those suffering from mental illness often have extreme difficulty communicating exactly how they feel. This difficulty may stem from years of bottling up their emotions or being unable to explain their emotions in a way where other’s understand. The unwillingness to open up often makes it difficult to make the surface connections needed to form these long lasting relationships. On the other hand, those who are on the opposite side of the relationship may also have difficulties communicating because they aren’t used to the type of communication. For both sides, here are five ways people with mental health illnesses communicate differently:
We analyze everything. Possibly due to our past experiences, we often have a tendency to overanalyze EVERYTHING. This may come from our past tendencies of trying to analyze ourselves. When a person suffers from mental illness they spend months attempting to understand themselves. We analyze our thoughts, our emotions, and our reactions to everything around us in an attempt to help understand why we sometimes feel the way we do. We do everything in our power to gain introspection and will not stop until we find an answer to every question. This over analyzation sometimes leaks into our interpersonal life when it comes to peer relationships. We may measure your every move in a relationship and assign more meaning to it than is actually present.
We can be very cautious. The smallest cues may mean more than you think. When a person with mental illness speaks, you need to listen. They often have an extremely difficult time telling others the entirety of what they feel out of fear that they will not understand. Because of this we will continually give you pieces of ourselves until we know you can handle us in full. The smallest parts of information if listened to will lead to the real, whole person.
We are not outsiders. Be open and honest about how you feel. We aren’t going to have a break down simply because you want to discuss something we did yesterday that annoyed you. And we won’t lock ourselves in a dark room every time you fail to agree with our opinions. We are well aware of our mental illnesses, however this doesn’t mean we want to be treated like someone who cannot handle what others can. Sometimes walking on eggshells when you are around us can hit us harder than any words ever could. We can notice when people are treating us differently, and often it makes us feel even more alone. We struggle with so more abnormal factors in our life that being treated normal, like everyone else, benefits us.
Like any other human being, we are a lot of work. Communication with us will not always come as easily as it does to others. When communicating with us you have to be willing to take things slow and be continually understanding. Our emotions may not always be parallel to our emotions. We may push you away, when we really want you close or we may come off as overly clingy, when in reality we just have issues communicating. If you put in the work to develop the relationships, the benefits are huge.
Feelings linger and hit deep. We may act confident and not let our feelings show very often because we are so used to being tough and taking care of ourselves, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Regardless, when we feel things, we feel them deep. These emotions last longer and are more intense than they are for others. A fight that you may be able to get over within a few hours may replay in our heads for days on end.
Although communicating and forming relationships with people with mental illnesses may be difficult for everyone involved, it can be rewarding. So take the time to listen and learn. Be patient and respect boundaries and you just may be in for the best relationship yet.
By: Caitlyn Farr, Anxiety In Teens Contributor