6 Challenges of Dating With High Functioning Mental Illness

dating with mental illness

Are you aware that around 20% of the population suffers from a mental illness?

We can all agree that the world tends to be a challenging place, but people who have a mental illness have to work harder to keep up. Oftentimes they have debilitating symptoms and no resources that allow them to level the playing field.

Regular dating is frustrating enough, but dating with a high functioning mental illness can feel impossible at times. Would you like to understand the world of dating with mental illness better? Read on to learn about six common challenges that people face.

1. Some Days Are Better Than Others With Mental Illness

For many people, their mental illnesses are like a bag that they reach into every day without knowing what they’re going to pull out. Not only is this randomness exhausting for the person who’s affected, but it can also have a negative impact on their partner. They need to learn how to go with the flow if their partner is having a hard day and needs to cancel plans that they’ve both been looking forward to.

We’ve all been taught that healthy relationships should be 50/50 when it comes to give and take. Some people misconstrue this by believing that every day should be an even split. Even in relationships where mental illness isn’t a factor, some people are only going to have the energy to give 20/80 or 100/0.

Both partners need to be invested in each other’s well-being and be ready to put in extra effort when either one needs extra help.

2. It Can Be Hard for Partners to Understand

Empathy is a beautiful skill that allows us to understand how a person could be feeling even if they aren’t going through similar things as them. Even if someone has the most empathetic partner out there, there can be a big learning curve if they aren’t familiar with their specific mental illness. This learning curve could be jarring enough to end the relationship before it has a chance to flourish.

For example, forgetfulness is a common symptom that people with ADHD experience. Their mentality can often be chalked up to “out of sight, out of mind.” It can be hard for a partner to not get offended when their significant other never texts them first or shows up late because time slipped away from them.

This is why it’s helpful to be open about all of your symptoms and try your best to explain when you hurt your partner unintentionally.

3. Building Trust Can Be Hard When Dating With Mental Illness

Some people with mental illnesses may not want to be open about their symptoms and experiences early in a relationship because they’ve been burned so many times in the past. While lots of great work has been done to educate the public about mental health, there still is a bit of residual stigma. Since mental illness can dictate lots of different aspects of a person’s actions and personality, it’s challenging to truly connect on a deep level.

While you reserve the right to protect your privacy and choose when you want to be vulnerable with someone new, you may have more success when you share little things. You’ll become a better judge of when it’s time to open up more and deepen the relationship if it shows potential.

4. People With a High Functioning Mental Illness Have Unique Boundaries

High functioning mental illnesses can be quite confusing to the average observer. If someone watches a person conquer a public speech, then they might not understand why they don’t want to go to a party or another social event. What they don’t observe is the many hours that person with anxiety practiced to avoid having a panic attack during their presentation.

Everyone is entitled to their own boundaries to protect their well-being. However, people with a mental illness should try to be patient and explain why certain boundaries exist if their partner is confused at first. Then the partner must honor those boundaries to respect their partner even if they still don’t fully get it.

5. There Could Be Barriers in Communication

Have you ever noticed that someone is a phenomenal texter, but they seem like a different person face-to-face or vice versa? Mental illnesses can have a huge impact on the ways that people communicate.

There are also issues with the way that people use problematic language as well. It can be offensive when people say things like “don’t be so crazy” or “that was so OCD of me” when they don’t have OCD. If there are ever any issues, then both partners need to be open to learning and evolving.

6. Dating in the Traditional Ways May Not Be Possible

After learning about all of these other issues, it’s easy to understand how traditional dating methods don’t work. Planning certain types of dates won’t work if a mental illness prevents someone from having a good time.

This is why many people have been turning to dating sites for disabled people to make more meaningful connections with people who understand their struggles. Everyone can feel like they’re in a safe space where they can avoid lots of these common pitfalls.

Have You Been Interested in Joining Disabled Dating Sites?

Dating with a high functioning mental illness is difficult, but you shouldn’t give up hope if you’ve had bad experiences. Learning new ways to connect with others who can understand you will make you excited to put yourself out there again. Patience, open communication, and respect are the key ingredients of any great relationship, with or without mental illness at play.

Are you curious if a disabled dating site is right for you? Special Bridge is striving to create an app that creates a positive, welcoming community for people from all walks of life. Learn more about our app so you can get ready to join.


  1. Ryan Breniman

    November 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    I am high functioning and run a company but I am severely disabled. I think I’ve been on your site before but people have gotten mad that mean? Or they’ve gotten jealous in the chat rooms because I’m exactly that, high function. I know there’s someone out there for me but I don’t know where to find them.

  2. kresslerray9gmail-com

    November 21, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    I am high functioning but have a learning disability. It’s so hard to find someone who is faithful and willing to just be in one man/woman relationship. There’s got to be someone out there for me.

    • Jamie

      November 22, 2022 at 1:31 pm

      I’m dealing with that too I’m so sorry

  3. purplestars

    December 3, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    I’ve been struggling with being “high functioning” all my life. I have both extremes, with some extraordinary abilities that very few people have, but also significant disabilities doing things that most people can do easily. People say “but you’re so smart, how can you have a disability?”. I used to work for NASA/JPL building spaceships, but then I had to go on Wikipedia to look up what a cow is.


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