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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a big part of mental health I’d like to bring awareness to is relationships. Funding is often not provided, and insurance often does not cover couples counseling because it doesn’t appear as important as other mental health issues. Most often attention around mental health is focused on conditions such as depression and PTSD, and their links to suicidality. I think couples’ issues are as important and cause many of the same symptoms.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship in which you struggled with conflict or connection issues then you know it can be all-consuming. The anger, frustration, and hurt you feel can occupy your mind all day. Relationship conflict can have a significant negative impact on mental health. The Gottman institute has studied couples extensively and has found relational stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness. It can also damage self-esteem and make it difficult to trust others. In some cases, relationship conflict can even lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and headaches.
Several studies have examined how relationships can affect our mental health leading to developing depression, anxiety, and PTSD from their relationship issues. I have also experienced this effect when working with couples. I have seen their functioning decline and their motivation disappear. Some victims of affairs in the relationship can develop severe self-esteem and body image issues that will continue to affect them for the rest of their lives. Victims of domestic violence may also develop PTSD and difficult trust issues. Those in toxic relationships may also be prone to developing addiction issues as a way to cope with the stress they experience.
According to the Institue for Family Studies,a couple’s issues can affect their children’s mental health in several ways:
- Watching parents in conflict can be scary and stressful for kids.
- Poor communication modeled in parent relationships teaches kids to communicate poorly.
- Parents’ relationship directly influences the relationships their kids will have.
- Domestic violence can lead to trauma/PTSD in kids who witness it.
- Children of parents in conflict are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
- Children of parents in conflict are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, such as fighting, bullying, and destroying property.
- Children of parents in conflict are more likely to have lower grades and drop out of school. They may also have difficulty learning and retaining information.
If you are struggling with relationship conflict, it is important to seek help. There are a number of resources available to help you manage conflict and improve your mental health. These resources include:
Therapy can help you understand the root of your conflict and learn to communicate more effectively and set healthy boundaries. To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory