Single with a mental health problem?

Worried you’ll never meet anyone? Scared your mental health condition is the cause? You’ve come to the right place. We asked Dr Aaron Balick, BBC Radio 1 psychotherapist, to give us some practical tips on overcoming your dating fears.

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Feeling singled out?

I’m scared my mental illness makes me unattractive

If you’re single and having trouble meeting someone it’s common to focus all your insecurities and anxieties onto the one thing you believe is ‘wrong’ with you. Whether you feel too fat, too thin, worry your nose is too big or think you’re unattractive because you’ve got OCD, the thought process is the same – you’re telling yourself over and over again that this is the one reason you’re single.

“The danger is you imagine you’re going to be rejected before you even try to meet someone,” says Dr Aaron Balick, psychotherapist for BBC Radio 1. “It’s like you’re rejecting yourself. This reduces your chances of meeting someone because you’ll make yourself less available.”

The secret is changing the ‘dominant conversation’ in your head so you stop viewing your mental health as all there is to your personality and character.

“Remember that for you, your mental health issue is foreground because you’re always thinking about it. But don’t assume that’s going to be the case for the person you fancy. They’ll see the whole person, not just the condition, so let them make up their own mind,” he says.

But I keep being rejected! Surely it’s because of my mental health?

If your mental health problems dominate your thought processes it’s natural to believe rejection is down to your condition. Instead of leaping to conclusions, try to keep an open mind. Perhaps they’re just not ready to meet anyone, or maybe they’re having a sudden freak-out because you remind them too much of their ex.

“Rejections is tough, but you have to put yourself in the way of rejection sometimes in order for anything to happen,” says Dr Aaron. “On the other hand, you don’t have to totally put yourself out there. You can hedge your bets – this is what flirting is for. Gauge the situation: are they flirting back, what’s the quality of the banter like, are they leaning in? This way, you don’t stand to lose too much if they’re not interested.”

I’m scared to meet anyone in case they find out about my condition

Again, this worry is often centred on the fact that you’re identifying yourself with your mental health problems and forgetting there’s more to your personality than that.

“Some people will be prejudiced,” says Dr Aaron. “But others will be willing to see the whole package. Recognising the other parts of your own personality will help others to see you as a whole.”

I hate leaving the house, how can I meet anyone?

“The internet comes in very handy here,” says Dr Aaron, “but be careful about using it as a crutch. It’s easy to stay in a forever-distant relationship where you never meet, so it’s important to think carefully about what steps you’ll take to go about meeting an internet romance in person – in a safe way, of course.”

“Remember, you don’t need to just use dating sites,” he adds. “Chatrooms or social networking sites where you can just hang out and meet like-minded people are a great way to ease off the pressure.”

Revealing the real you

When it comes to explaining your mental health to a person you’ve only met online, it’s a good idea to gauge levels of trust first and think about how much you want to reveal.

It’s better if you talk about what it’s like to be you, rather than just naming your ‘disorder’. “That way people won’t make assumptions, and they’ll empathise better,” says Dr Aaron. “So say things like ‘I might seem very confident online, but in person I can sometimes be quite nervous and shy’, instead of ‘I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder.’

I’m single and don’t really feel like I want to meet anyone. Why do I feel like this?

“There’s no law that says young people have to be in relationships,” says Dr Aaron, “though it can feel that way sometimes because of all the pressure. The question to ask yourself is whether you’re happy being single, or whether you’re avoiding meeting someone because you’ve been hurt and abandoned in the past, and so you’ve decided you don’t trust others any more,” he adds.

“This brings us back to the internal dialogue you’re having and the fact you may need to change the ‘conversation’ in order to change your views. Most important is to have an open mind and be honest with yourself.”

Do what feels comfortable and not what you think is expected of you. Some people want a physical relationship, others want to be in an intimate relationship, but just don’t want to have sex. There are no rules; how you date is entirely down to you.

Next Steps

  • Mental health can affect your love life in many different ways. Share a story or playlist on The Mix's Madly in Love campaign about how you or your partner's mental health condition has affected your relationship.
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 21-Jan-2016