Hiding Mental Illness From Your Partner or, Unhealthy Relationships 101

September 15, 2011 Tracey Lloyd

Hiding your mental illness from your partner may give you a respite from explaining it, but it doesn't make a healthy relationship. I'll never do it again.

My last boyfriend had no clue that I suffered from depression. Some people may find that difficult to believe, but it's actually very easy to mask your feelings and symptoms. In my case, it was very easy to choose a partner from whom I could hide the truth and, therefore, to prevent myself from having a healthy and successful relationship ("Dating with Depression: How Can I Hide My Depression?").

I met Henry on a matchmaking website - isn't that where all of us find dates these days? Henry was everything I thought I wanted: smart, over 6' tall, ambitious, funny, sweet, and a good kisser. We had fun talking or having dinner with my friends. In retrospect, I'm not sure Henry has good friends since he talked more about work acquaintances than personal interactions. But I ignored it because I was happy to have a boyfriend after being single for quite a while and besides, I was enjoying myself.

Accepting Abandonment to Hide Mental Illness

After about 8 months, Henry and I started having problems, and by "problems" I mean that I had a problem with our relationship. When I'm dating someone, I expect him to call and make time to see me. An Internet entrepreneur, Henry was always working, even during the weekends we spent together. On Saturdays, he’d wake up and go right into his home office, barely registering my presence. I figured, he didn’t ask me to leave, so he must want me around.

Then I lost my job and withdrew into a slight depression. Friends, though unaware of my diagnosis, noticed the change in my behavior and expressed concern; Henry retreated into his work and rarely communicated with me.

Hiding Mental Illness Is Easy If Partner Is Emotionally Unavailable

The next time we were together, I realized that even when Henry looked at me, he didn't notice me, not really. He’d seen me take meds for months, but wasn’t curious enough to ask about them. Maybe I wouldn’t have told him that they were antidepressants, but it would have been a good conversation starter.

Then I remembered an incident early in our courtship. We were together when I learned about the suicide of a high school friend and I cried after getting the news. He’d looked at me from across the room, like tears and grief were foreign concepts. At the time, I attributed Henry’s awkwardness to the fact that our relationship was so new. Then when he ended our relationship via email – that’s right, email – I accepted that the finer points of interpersonal dealings were beyond Henry’s understanding.

In Hiding Mental Illness, I Got Less Than I Bargained For

On some level, I knew that I’d continued to date Henry precisely because he wasn’t attuned to my feelings. I knew that I could keep my secrets and he’d be none the wiser because he didn’t really want to know them . . . and I didn’t want to share them. Now, thankfully, I know that to be healthy and to have a healthy relationship, I need to be open and expect openness in the men I date. Maybe I'll put that on my newest Internet dating profile and find a boyfriend who's more emotionally available than Henry. Here's hoping.

APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2011, September 15). Hiding Mental Illness From Your Partner or, Unhealthy Relationships 101, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

December, 1 2015 at 6:28 pm

Bipolar scares pelope, they don't want to go any further. I feel like the stigma will be there for ever. I stopped trying to talk, trying to educated because pelope can't get beyond the visuals of an unpredictable crazed person. Id like to see it improved for the better, not in my life time. Even Jesse Jackson Jr who was diagnosed at the prestigious hospital Mayo of Rochester doesn't say a word. I can't even be treated there because y have to have bookoo bucks and I live in the state what does that tell you. Money talks, the rest walk which is most with mental illness.

June, 28 2015 at 2:44 am

Many mentally ill citizens feel the need to hide behind their diseases, without others knowing, while those who are known as having a physical disease, where although it is uncomfortable, no one objects to a person telling them they are physically sick. For example, a person will say, “I have a cold,” or a person who has the flu will say, “I have the flu.” Those who have mental illnesses, however; do not run around and state, “Look at me, I have major depressive disorder!” or “I am so obsessive-compulsive” because many know the negative connotation that comes with having such an illness.

Deltra Coyne
September, 19 2011 at 4:55 am

Thanks, everyone, for sharing.
Good luck to you, NT, with your recovery. I think you definitely want to check out the resources on HealthyPlace on abusive relationships, they'll definitely help you maintain the positive perspective you've already got.
Katherine - good thing he's an ex! I find that when people leave our lives - even if we don't know it at the time - there's usually a good reason for it!

September, 17 2011 at 1:06 am

I myself was an abused wife. My husband at the time would hit me and tell me if I had not made him mad it would not have happened. He broke my ribs,bruised me, locked me in closets, put me down in front of others, called me names and told me no one else would want me because I was worth nothing. He refused to let me cook, clean or do anything. Be cause he said I was not smart enough. This also happened in front of my sons. The beatings got worse so I had to leave. Now my life is better. I am going to collage and in a good relationship. My advice to you is to leave and get help repairing your self esteem. I can tell you from experience that it takes a long time but in the end it is worth it. You are worth more than letting a man beat you. If you stay it will never get any better no matter what he promises you. It is not your fault for what he is doing. I always thought it was my fault but learned through therapy it was not. He needs help for his problem. Unless he helps himself you cannot help him. I know it is painful to think of a life on your own but it gets better. The love of friends and family can help you. Good luck.

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