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 investigated 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 has investigated 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 a desirable goal.  The purpose of our study was to build on previous research findings by interviewing up to 40 individuals with early psychosis and elucidating the role of romantic relationships in these individuals’ lives. Additional areas of interest included 1) how services could address consumers’ needs in this area, 2) how consumers perceive the change in their social and/or romantic lives since developing psychotic symptoms, 3) the differences in views on romantic relationships as consumers’ age, 4) and how consumers with early psychosis prioritize their life goals. This study utilized grounded theory methodology to analyze interviews.