Obstacles to romantic relationships in early psychosis

Tania Lecomte1, Amal Abdel-Baki1,2, Anouk Latour-Desjardins1, Rowena Pillay1; 1University of Montreal, 2Clinique JAP, CHUM, Montreal

Most young people with psychosis wish to engage in romantic relationships, though young men in particular report difficulties in a finding a romantic partner following a first episode of psychosis. Our team has conducted two studies to better understand this phenomenon. The first study involved comparing 23 single men with early psychosis (EP) and 31 single men without psychosis (or any reported mental disorder) as well as 29 men in the community engaged in relationships. Results suggest that EP men had greater attachment preoccupation (correlated with high self-stigma), and performed fewer social interactions and intimacy behaviors than men in couples. They also reported poor self-confidence, similar to single men without psychosis. The following study involved qualitative interviews with 12 young men with EP who have been in a romantic relationship at least once. Thematic coding revealed that those who were more active romantically appeared to be further along in their recovery according to Andresen’s model. Intimacy appeared to be an abstract concept for many, possibly explained by social cognitive deficits and childhood sexual trauma reported by some. Obstacles to engaging in relationships involved fear of feeling invaded (too much proximity), lack of experience in dating, sexual problems and other medication side-effects, self-stigma (fear of rejection), not feeling ‘well-enough’ or confident enough, wishing to accomplish other things first (e.g. find work, live independently), and awareness of some social skills deficits. Most mentioned feeling more confortable with sexual intimacy rather than emotional intimacy. These results along with possible intervention targets will be discussed.

Topic Area: Psychosocial Interventions

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