It’s absolutely possible to date — and be in a healthy, long-term relationship — if you’re living with schizophrenia.
“It’s possible for those with well-managed schizophrenia to have a healthy life, which can include emotional and sexual relationships,” says Ramya Mohan, a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and founder of CAPEforHealth in Manas, London.
Ahead, mental health professionals share why schizophrenia can affect your sexual and romantic relationships and offer tips for dating mindfully and safely.
“There are several reasons why a person with schizophrenia may not be interested in a romantic relationship,” says sex and relationships expert Rayan Dove.
For starters, some people find that socializing increases their likelihood of experiencing paranoia or that it sparks social anxiety, he says. This can make the prospect of forming romantic relationships much less appealing.
Schizophrenia can also cause symptoms like:
- difficulty experiencing pleasure
- decreased emotional expression
- reduced motivation
“These symptoms can make someone disinterested in engaging in activities that are necessary for forming and maintaining romantic relationships, such as going on dates,” explains Dove.
Medications used to manage schizophrenia can cause side effects that interfere with your personal life.
You may find that you’re uninterested or less interested in sex or dating for reasons unrelated to your mental health. Your romantic or sexual orientation, for example, may influence your desire or lack thereof.
There isn’t one specific approach — readiness will look and feel different for everyone. But there are a few common themes you may find helpful to consider.
1. You have a treatment plan that works for you
Schizophrenia is a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment and management.
It may be helpful to stabilize your medication regimen and consistently attend therapy before you start dating or hooking up, says Dove.
This ensures that you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally to handle the stresses that come with dating, sex, and breakups, he says.
2. You understand your symptoms and triggers
This can help you put coping mechanisms in place to manage your individual symptoms, says Dove.
3. You have a support system in place
“Having family, friends, and a therapist to talk to about your struggles and experience with dating can help you through the ups and downs,” says Susmita.
4. You prioritize self-care
“Dating can be a roller coaster of emotions, so it’s essential that you’re prepared to prioritize self-care and self-compassion while you ride that roller coaster,” says Dove.
Depending on your individual needs, consider:
- prioritizing sleep
- engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment
- using positive self-talk
- moving your body in ways that feel nourishing
- eating nutrient-dense food
- limiting alcohol, nicotine, and other substance use
5. Your therapist thinks that you’re ready
“It’s important to note that the decision to start dating should be made in consultation with a mental health professional who can help assess your readiness,” says Susmita.
There are many myths about what kind of partner someone living with schizophrenia will be. It’s absolutely possible to be a good, loyal partner.
“Having schizophrenia does not make a person more likely to engage in cheating or disregarding the boundaries of the relationship,” says Susmita.
People living with schizophrenia are not more likely to experience any “unusual” sexual behaviors, such as hypersexuality, says Alex Dimitriu, MD, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine in Menlo Park, California.
Though, as with anyone, if you experience new onset hypersexuality, it could be worth talking with a healthcare professional.
It may indicate that your current treatment plan needs an adjustment or something else needs one.
The stigma around and discrimination against people with mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, are still common today.
The stigma associated with schizophrenia can make it challenging for individuals living with the condition to feel confident and secure in their romantic relationships, says Dove
“Many also worry that potential partners will judge them or reject them because of their illness,” he says.
So, how can you deal with that stigma? In short, by believing that you deserve care. The following can help with this:
- educating yourself about schizophrenia
- working with an informed mental health professional
- staying devoted to your self-care routine
- joining a support group
- following your treatment plan continuously
You don’t owe anyone an explanation or discussion about your mental health, but it may be helpful to talk about it if you feel comfortable doing so.
This can help you find a partner who embraces you and is willing to learn about your condition, support you through your symptoms, help you follow your treatment plan, and so much more.
“It’s important to be open and honest with potential partners about your diagnosis and how it may affect your relationship,” says Dove. “This can help build trust and understanding and ensure that all parties are on the same page.”
When you have that conversation is up to you. Some people choose to have it right away, as a person’s response can tell you a lot about the worthiness of your time, attention, and care.
Other people choose to wait until they establish a baseline level of trust with partners.
“It’s important to share your story with your partner in a way that respects their needs and allows for an informed decision about the relationship,” says Mark Joseph, a person living with schizophrenia who has been in a healthy relationship with his wife for more than 10 years.
Here are some ways you might bring it up in person:
- ”In the name of continuing to get to know one another, I’d like to share that I have schizophrenia. It’s well-managed, I’ve been symptom-free for years, and my care team has given me the green light to date. I know that can be a lot to take in, so I’d love to answer whatever questions you might have.”
- ”A few dates back, I mentioned that I had a period of life that was particularly tough. Now that we know one another better, I want to share that the reason is that I received a schizophrenia diagnosis. I know there’s a lot of stigma associated with the condition, so I’d love to give you the opportunity to ask any questions you have.”
- ”Something I like to share with people that I’m getting to know is that I received a schizophrenia diagnosis when I was [X] years old. My condition is well-managed, I’m symptom-free, and I’ve been in a number of romantic relationships since receiving a diagnosis.”
You can also start this conversation through text. This also gives you the opportunity to send along reading materials, TikTok videos, or YouTube channels that can help educate your partner.
Keep in mind that this will likely be an ongoing conversation.
“My wife and I had several conversations about my diagnosis before committing to each other,” says Joseph. “We also discussed our expectations of each other, which allowed us to get to know each other better.”
“A therapist or psychiatrist can play a crucial role in helping an individual with schizophrenia successfully live, which may include navigating the dating world and maintaining healthy relationships,” says Susmita.
Your clinician can teach you about schizophrenia and discuss how it can affect your relationships, ways to communicate effectively, and tips for maintaining healthy boundaries. They can also help you with the following:
- evaluating your symptoms, treatment status, and overall well-being to determine whether you’re ready to start dating
- managing any medication side effects that may affect your sexual activity, desire, or body image
- identifying red flags in potential partners
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.