Social life and relationships with psychosis
For young people, being socially active is important for mental wellbeing, and plays a role in developing and maintaining friendships, pursuing interests and hobbies outside study, and getting on in work. But psychosis can interfere with this and make it harder to make friends. When people started feeling unwell, because of the nature of their psychotic experiences, socialising, and even just being out of the house, could feel like an impossible challenge. Psychosis could impact on, or happen alongside, low mood and low self-esteem and people often felt isolated, unable to talk to others about what they were experiencing or that friends and loved ones didn’t understand what they were going through. Some people struggled to trust others, or had experienced stigma first hand. Becky said, “You don't wanna see anyone, especially if you feel like everyone's against you”. Sam had friends who didn’t understand what she was experiencing and thought she was “crazy” and a danger to others.
Socialising could put people in positions that made them anxious or even create triggers for a psychotic experience. Hannah finds that scary images trigger her visions. This can affect her in many ways and restricts what she can do: for example she has never been to one of the big theme parks because some of their rides are based on horror imagery, and she didn’t go to a friends’ paint balling party because she worried that the masks might trigger a psychotic episode. Recreational drugs and alcohol
A few people whose social life involved drugs or heavy drinking felt this may have contributed to their first experiences of psychosis. Luke, who was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, said that he had a lot of energy to socialise when he started a new job in the city, but he was “always the last one out”, drinking more than others and he began to have delusions. Luke said, “There's so many control points in my life now, which sometimes I resent. I'm 21, and I've got to control how much I drink, can't just go out and have a session”. Fran and Green Lettuce had used recreational drugs socially leading up to the start of their psychotic experiences. Many of their friends still used drugs and drank to excess and it could be difficult to be around them. Relationships
A few people we spoke to had been in or were in a relationship, but others were not or didn’t want the added pressure. Being in a relationship could be a source of support. But people recognised that their experiences of psychosis added an extra layer of challenges. Luke, who recently broke from a 4 year relationship which was very up and down, worries about telling future girlfriends about his experiences of bipolar disorder. Some people worried that anyone who was in a relationship with them would have to go through the ups and downs of their psychosis with them. Lucy avoids being in a relationship because she thinks it would be easy to expect the other person to “fix” the problems in her life which might put too much pressure on the relationship. But Becky feels more positive. In the past she has blamed others for the way she was feeling and thought if they loved her they would “put up with” her whatever she did. She thinks she lost a lot of relationships because of that and now tries not to expect too much from others in a relationship. She thinks, though, that it’s important to have someone who is willing to try and understand you and not judge you for what you do. Being in a bad relationship could be detrimental and contribute to people being unwell. Nikki said that, as with friendships and relations with family, when people don’t understand what’s going on it puts a strain on things. Dominic was with a girl for a year and she was abusive towards him. He thought it was just “normal”, but when he left the relationship he felt “even more messed up” than when it started.