How to Maintain Friendships When You Have a Mental Illness

May 25, 2024 Mahevash Shaikh

Maintaining friendships is no easy task, and it's all the more difficult when you have a mental illness. I should know; I struggle with double depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and many of my friends have mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). That said, it is possible to sustain friendships even when you live with a mental illness. Here's how my friends and I do it. 

Tips to Maintain Friendships When You Have a Mental Illness

1. Talk About Your Mental Health Issues

This tip is the hardest to implement but is essential for maintaining friendships when you have a mental illness. Whenever you feel the time is right, discuss your mental health journey with your friends. Let them know about your issues and how they affect your life. Doing so will help them to be patient and understanding when you behave differently due to your mental health condition. For example, when depression hits me, I tend to stop texting my friends and make no plans to hang out. When I explained this to my best friend a few years ago, she learned to stop taking my absence personally. Thanks to this knowledge, she now checks in on me when I've been silent for too long instead of assuming I am disinterested in being her friend. 

2. Set Clear Boundaries

Boundaries are a must in any relationship, and they are particularly crucial when maintaining friendships with a mental illness. Be clear with your friends about what you can and cannot do. While planning to meet with a friend after a long time, I state that I would probably be anxious about seeing them. As a result, I cannot handle crowded and noisy places; they will only worsen my anxiety. My boundaries help them understand my needs, and together, we pick a low-key venue to keep me at ease. 

3. Stay Connected Digitally

When in-person meetings feel overwhelming -- and they often do for me -- stay in touch digitally. Just like me, one of my friends struggles with depression frequently, so we barely hang out in person. However, she makes it a point to share memes and music occasionally, and so do I. This way, our friendship is alive even though we spend little one-on-one time.  

So there you go -- you now know my tried-and-tested tips to maintain friendships when you have a mental illness. Give them a shot and see what works for you. Remember: you will inevitably lose some "friends" when you open up about your mental health issues. Don't let this stop you because, at the end of this process, only true friends will be a part of your life. After all, fake friends are the first to flee when the going gets tough.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2024, May 25). How to Maintain Friendships When You Have a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

May, 30 2024 at 1:39 am

Great advice!

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