When to Walk Away from Someone with Mental Illness?

Bhavika_P Things to Know
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Have you been with a person who is mentally ill? If so, knowing some important things about how to care for them is essential. However, it is also necessary to know when to walk away from someone with mental illness.

Mental health is equally important as physical health. A mentally ill or unstable person is never said to be a healthy person. Mental health conditions cannot be the only reason for walking away from a person.

A hunger is built in the mind to walk away only when the problems you face due to that mentally disturbed person cross every limit. Even though you are urged to walk away, you cannot do it for your reasons. These reasons vary from person to person.

When you try to help them, you should also think about yourself. You should know when to walk away from a mentally ill person for your own sake. It is good to help a person heal, but not at the cost of your mental peace or physical health.

1. Mental Illness and Relationships

Loving and understanding a person wholeheartedly, be it your parents, spouse, children, or friends, who is also a mentally ill person requires tremendous effort. Despite your every effort, you get very little happiness from them, or your efforts can be ignored.

The reasons behind the mental health disorder vary from person to person. They include childhood abuse, social isolation1, social discrimination, financial conditions, grief, stress, and physical illness.

This post will help you understand how each factor affects the person and the individual trying to help them.

How Mental Illness Affects Relationships

1.1. Childhood Abuse

The mind and heart of a child are the vulnerable parts of childhood. Abuse at a vulnerable age is said to leave long-term effects on their life. The abuse can be physical, mental, or even social. Depression, anxiety, nightmares, behavioral change, and self-harm are some of the effects the abuse can have on a child.

Childhood abuse leaves wounds on a child not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Cuts and bruises on the body are not the only form of abuse. Abuse is not only meant physically. Mental abuse leaves more unforgettable trauma than physical abuse.

Physical abuse leaves scars not only on their body but also on their mind and heart. Sexual abuse leaves them guilt-ridden for seeking pleasure in an act for which they didn’t have consent.

Emotional abuse and neglect go hand in hand in this scenario. Hurling abusive words at an innocent child or blaming them for no reason leaves them traumatized. Similarly, neglecting their presence and depriving them of their much-needed care and affection depresses them.

1.1.1. Effects of Childhood Abuse

Childhood Trauma and the Brain | UK Trauma Council

Physical abuse in childhood leads to anxiety and phobias2. Whenever a new person approaches the affected individual, the mentally ill person finds it difficult to trust them. For example, a small action like suddenly raising your hand for some other person scares a mentally disturbed person.

A childhood filled with emotional abuse leads to many mental health conditions. Some of them are depression, self-doubt such as feeling worthless, and self-harm. A child’s mind is very vulnerable, like a glass that can easily break with sharp words.

Ignoring a child and depriving them of their desired care and affection leads to many issues. The child feels unloved, worthless, unimportant, rejected, and undesired. An adult who has experienced childhood abuse finds it difficult to mingle with people.

1.2. Social Abuse

Social abuse takes many forms, which include social isolation and social discrimination. Isolating a person from family, friends, or community is considered social abuse. It means the victim is shut down from any social network.

Social abuse mostly takes place due to discrimination or spiritual beliefs. Neglecting a person because of his/her skin color is known as Racism3. It is a disguised form of social abuse.

Discrimination in society is due to several reasons. However, the most prevailing reasons are financial status or the caste system4. Economic status is crucial in deciding the respect you get in society.

The worst scenario of social abuse is neglecting a person due to spiritual beliefs. Ignoring someone just because they are considered a bad omen5 is a traumatizing experience.

In some parts of the world, the child who survives after the death of the mother during childbirth is considered a bad omen. This eventually leads to child abuse and social abuse, leaving the person to be traumatized for life.

1.2.1. Effects of Social Abuse

Experiencing social discrimination at any point in life leaves scars on the person’s mind. Social abuse in the form of bigotry, racism, caste system, or financial status makes the person feel unworthy. The affected individual finds it challenging to trust himself.

Once self-doubt arises within the individual, it affects every aspect of their life. Social isolation is a brutal form of social abuse that is disguised as something normal. An isolated person finds it challenging to build a conversation with a stranger.

Discrimination | Anne Frank House | Explained

1.3. Bereavement

Losing someone close to you due to death is termed as bereavement. The loss of a loved one who is close to your heart leaves back an emotional trauma.

Deaths are inevitable and are sometimes expected. Even though it is expected, the emotions it stirs in you are the same as those of an unexpected death.

People experience a lot of emotions when they lose their loved ones. Some are denial, confusion, shock, sadness, anger, humiliation, and guilt. These are common reactions to death. However, not all are strong enough to overcome them, or they don’t have the support to move on.

1.3.1. Effects of Bereavement

Grieving the loss of your loved one is the outward expression of your pain. Yet, not everyone is expressive. People who struggle with expressing themselves do not express their feelings of grief also. This eventually leads to mental illness.

The loss of their spouse or child is primarily the most terrible experience. A person who is around all the time is suddenly missing, and that invokes mental disturbance. Losing a person due to suicide leaves back shock, confusion, guilt, and anger. This eventually disturbs every person related to them.

Bereavement  - What It Is & How Long It Takes To Heal

Apart from all these reasons, there are many which affect an individual’s mental health. It is difficult to bring them out of their shell and have any relationship with them. Even Though it is vital to be with them, it is also essential to prioritize yourself.

The truth is that someone with mental illness often requires self-care. They will not be healed until they try to seek support from a family member or their support system. It is highly beneficial for their mental health condition to maintain a healthy relationship with close friends and family members.

However, when these healthy relationships threaten you, you must move away for your safety and safe space. There is nothing to feel guilty about prioritizing yourself. Ultimately, they would realize the challenges you faced to be with them.

2. When to Walk Away from Someone With Mental Illness?

If you are with a mentally ill person, it is essential to know a few things about how to take care of them. However, it is also necessary to prioritize your safety and mental health. You should know when to walk away from someone with a mental illness.

Just because someone is mentally disturbed, you cannot walk away from them. But if their issues affect your mental health, then it is your cue to make a decision. Mental illness brings out the worst side of a person and eventually makes them abusive.

5 Do

2.1. When they are Physically Abusive

People with mental disturbance tend to develop anger issues. When they are not in their right conscience, they become physically abusive towards people around them. This is a way for them to vent their anger.

It will harm the individual trying to help him/her physically and emotionally. When you fear for your life in the presence of a mentally disturbed person, then it is essential to walk away.

Physical abuse doesn’t only include slapping, kicking, or choking you. If you are forbidden to eat or sleep, then it is also considered a physically abusive action. Trapping you in a secluded place or abandoning you in unfamiliar places is also considered to be physically abusive.

Using your fears against you is the worst way to abuse you physically. For example, if you are afraid of driving at an irrational speed, but they drive dangerously when you are with them to harm you.

This abuse doesn’t require any measure. Don’t hesitate to walk away if you feel insecure and unsafe around them.

Physical Abuse and Its Long Term Effects

2.2. When they are Emotionally Abusive

How much ever you love a person, it is essential to prioritize your mental health before dealing with them. Apart from foul language, there are many ways in which you experience emotional abuse.

When you put in your efforts, but they don’t recognize it and instead criticize you, it leaves a scar on your mind. Demanding unreasonable things and abusing you for not doing them leads to fights with them.

When they are unable to cope with their fears, they try to humiliate you using your fears and insecurities. Expecting you to spend your whole time with them, and when you don’t do it, they hurt you physically.

You are not intended to have an individual opinion. Mingling with other people other than them makes the mentally disturbed person aggressive. They blame you when anything goes wrong to hurt you.

When your tears and concerns are neglected, it eventually affects your mental health. If you experience the above scenarios, leave the relationship with the person.

8 Ways Emotional Abuse Traumatizes You

2.3. When they Refuse to Seek Professional Help

People with mental illness do not realize it initially. Some people, even when they know it, they refuse to seek professional help.

Seeking help from mental health professionals is mandatory. It is okay if their mental disturbance doesn’t affect their day-to-day life. However, if it affects their life along with those related to them, it is mandatory to seek professional treatment.

When the individual refuses to seek professional help and continues to affect your well-being, it is time to decide.

There are many therapists out there to help mentally ill people. Yet, if they refuse to seek mental health treatment, then start maintaining healthy boundaries. These healthy boundaries should not affect the parties involved. There are many treatment options, and self-care is one among them.

Loving someone with mental illness is a huge thing and requires a lot of effort. Prioritizing your mental health before them is not a crime. Learn to say no when you feel uncomfortable with them. It is essential to know when to walk away from someone with a mental illness.

5 Signs Someone

3. Something to Takeaway

Mental health conditions do not arise in a day. They are the result of pent-up frustrations, stress, and trauma. It is not a crime to be with a mentally disturbed person. However, it is a crime to let go of your mental health for them.

People who suffer from mental illnesses have experienced abuse at some point in their lives. Nevertheless, they, in their insane state, behave the same way to their loved ones to relieve their pain. This requires immediate attention from mental health professionals.

Being there for them to heal them is good, but do not become their punching bag to relieve their stress. Learn to walk away from them when your life is in jeopardy.

  1. Rohde, Nicholas, et al. “Estimating the mental health effects of social isolation.” Applied research in quality of life 11 (2016): 853-869. ↩︎
  2. Marks, Isaac M. Fears and phobias. Academic Press, 2013. ↩︎
  3. Paradies, Yin. “Racism.” Social determinants of Indigenous health. Routledge, 2020. 65-86. ↩︎
  4. Hoff, Karla. “Caste system.” World Bank policy research working paper 7929 (2016). ↩︎
  5. Cahill, Timothy F. “Bad Omens.” Journal of Legal Education 62.3 (2013): 22. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Sanjana

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