It's Not You, It's Me: How Mental Disorders Affect Relationships, And How Individual Counseling Can Help

Posted on: 22 January 2015

Sometimes, couples therapy is not enough because there are very real psychological issues present in one or both partners. Thus, even though the mental illness might be one of the primary causes for relationship contention, couples therapy might not be the best venue to address and treat individual mental illnesses. If you are diagnosed with a mental disorder, you should consider adding individual psychological therapy to your relationship counseling regimen.

Here are three examples of how mental illnesses affect relationships, and how individual therapy can help you and your partner make strides in your couples sessions:

Negative Past Experiences

Often, the events that happened to you long before you entered into your current relationship will negatively interfere with how you and your partner function together. When a past event affects you to an extent that it interferes with your daily activities--such as having flashbacks of the event, avoiding emotions or situations that remind you of the trauma, and feeling unreasonably tense,  or angry--you are quite possibly suffering from clinical post-traumatic stress disorder.

If diagnosed, you will likely need individualized psychological therapy that will help you not only manage your condition, but also bring improvements to your couples therapy sessions.

Past events need not inhibit day-to-day activities for them to raise their ugly heads in your current relationship, however. The things you experienced and witnessed, particularly during the formative childhood years, can affect the way you communicate with your partner, deal with conflict, and view intimacy.

For example, having a parent who unashamedly cheated on your other parent might lessen the importance that you place on intimacy. Even though couples therapy will give you and your partner the opportunity to explore how this affects your relationship, individual counseling can help you focus specifically on this issue.


Researchers have found that people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, are twice as likely to have their marriages end in divorce as those without this condition. If you have ADHD, you might notice that your partner takes your symptoms personally. Though you might not realize it, if you are forgetful, easily distracted, and impulsive, your partner might misinterpret those symptoms as signs of your waning interest, respect, and love.

During couples therapy, you should raise these issues so that you can become more mindful of how your behaviors affect your partner, and your partner can better understand the reasons behind your symptoms and work with you. Yet, ADHD is a very real psychological disorder, and seeking individualized therapy can help you better manage your symptoms and their impact on your relationship.

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and seasonal affective disorder, can wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy relationship. If you have a mood disorder, you are probably irritable, critical, often withdrawn, and unpredictable. Your partner likely feels rejected and frustrated because of these symptoms, even if you are not directing these moods toward your partner out of malice.

Thus, addressing and treating the root of the mood disorder through individual therapy can help your couples sessions because, in many cases, mood disorders are best treated with medications. This is because mood disorders often stem from the actual chemical balance in your brain. If your mood disorder is the result of drug or alcohol abuse, individual therapy sessions can help you recover from your addiction as well.

To learn more, contact a professional like Sharon O'Connell, MA for more help.