Can I Recover From My Husband’s Psychosis?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I don’t know how to recover from my husband’s psychosis. My husband was psychotic for about a year. It began shortly before our marriage (I attributed his behavior to stress – he owned a business that has since failed) and continued through the birth of our child. The psychotic episode was almost certainly spurred by his use/abuse of prescribed amphetamines (70m Vyvanse a day, 20m Adderal “as needed”) but the psychosis persisted for several months after he stopped the meds.

In addition to his business failing, I lost my job due to frequent absences attributable to his psychotic episodes, and insurred substantial debt. I may lose my house as I’ve had to relocate for work and may not be able to rent my home. He verbally abused all of my closest friends, whose friendships I subsequently lost, and even assaulted me one night, for which I had him incarcerated.
He is substantially recovered now (no voices, the paranoia’s dropped, less referential ideation) but I find his behavior odd, and it angers me. Actually, it enrages me. He worships me, but I am not sure if it is because I am his lifeline (his mother’s very selfish) or if he genuinely loves me. It doesn’t matter, anyway, because I am repulsed by him. I would say that I hate him except that I feel too sorry for him to hate him.

Should I even try to repair this situation? If so, how? Is bailing on him unfair? Sometimes when I think of all he has cost me I feel like I am going to fly into a thousand pieces I become so angry.
How do I recover from my husband’s psychotic episode?

A. What happened to your husband was an accident, just like a car accident. He was taking prescribed psychiatric medications under the direction of a physician and he became psychotic. He did not purposely become psychotic. The damage caused by his psychosis has been extreme in your life and his but that was never his intention. It seemed his intention was to try and receive help. The outcome was not within his control.

When someone is in a physical accident they suffer from the consequences of the accident and the family also suffers. It is not unusual for someone to feel the way that you do. Commonly mental illness is viewed in a different light than physical illness. This may be because physical illnesses are seen as not being within one’s control. Mental illness, on the other hand, is often perceived as being controllable.

Here is a very common scenario: An individual reveals to his or her family that he or she is depressed. The family responds: “get over it, “just snap out of it,” “it’s just a phase” or “you are just looking for attention.” There’s often no support. The implication is that the family believes that mental illness is controllable; after all, their suggestions are for the individual to take control. Alternatively, if a family member revealed that he or she was just diagnosed with cancer or had their hand cut off in an accident, in most cases the family would respond with sympathy and empathy.

It is important to keep in mind that one does not choose to be mentally ill. It is not appropriate to be angry at someone for being mentally ill. An individual has no control over the development of mental illness.

Among individuals with schizophrenia, for instance, part of their illness causes them not to be able to recognize that they’re ill and subsequently many don’t take their medication. Family members become very angry that their loved one doesn’t recognize their illness and refuses their medication. The reality is that the illness robs many individuals with schizophrenia of their ability to realize that they’re ill. Anger in these situations is perfectly understandable but it’s misplaced because no one chooses to be mentally ill.

You say that your husband has changed. He is also improving. It may be simply a matter of time before he returns to the man that you married. What happened to him was tragic for him and also you. You are both victims of his illness.

You married him for some reason. There was something that you loved about him. He has changed; people often do so in a relationship. When your partner is no longer the person that you married, many people reevaluate their relationship and some choose divorce. Your husband has changed because of his mental illness. He is no longer the man that you married. He may return to the person that you married but he may never again be the same. Marriage is a commitment. Some believe that is a lifelong commitment. Some believe that the commitment extends beyond this life and into eternity. Others believe that marriage should only continue until you become dissatisfied and they fully see divorce as a part of life. Divorce is a moral decision. Each of us must make that decision.

Before considering any major changes to the relationship I would strongly suggest that you seek counseling. Therapy can help you navigate your situation and also assist you in dealing with your intense feelings of anger. Click on the find help tap at the top of this page, to help you locate a therapist in your community. Please take care. I wish you the best.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Apr 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Can I Recover From My Husband’s Psychosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/04/13/can-i-recover-from-my-husbands-psychosis/