Romantic Relationships in Early Psychosis

Research Type

Consumer/Patient Level Research


  • Kelsey A. Bonfils, BS
  • Michelle P. Salyers, PhD
  • Kyle S. Minor, PhD


This study investigates the role of romantic relationships in the lives of individuals experiencing early psychosis.  For those early in the course of a psychotic illness, interpersonal relationships have been identified as a top goal, yet there is a paucity of research examining the role of romantic relationships.  In chronic psychotic illnesses, there is evidence that engaging in romantic relationships can improve quality of life.  Additionally, most individuals with chronic psychoses are interested in intimacy, but perceive barriers to achieving this goal, and feel little support from the service system.  Social relationships have been investigated both in early and chronic psychotic disorders, and results indicate that social deficits begin early, consumers with mental illness tend to have smaller social networks, and social support may be important for functional outcomes.  Despite all the evidence indicating the importance of interpersonal relationships, only one published study investigates romantic relationships in individuals with early psychosis.  In this study, participants saw themselves as isolated and feared stigma from others, but perceived romantic relationships as desirable goals.  Our study aims to build upon these findings by interviewing up to 40 individuals with early psychosis utilizing grounded theory methodology.  Though the primary aim will be to elucidate the role of romantic relationships in these individuals’ lives, additional areas of interest include how services could address consumers’ needs in this area, how consumers perceive the change in their social and/or romantic lives since developing psychotic symptoms, the differences in views on romantic relationships as consumers age, and how consumers with early psychosis prioritize their life goals.