Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Marriage as a Perceived Panacea to Mental Illness in India: Reality Check

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Marriage as a Perceived Panacea to Mental Illness in India: Reality Check

Article excerpt

Byline: Ashish. Srivastava

Marriage is a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. In India, there is a tremendous social and cultural pressure to marry. It is of paramount importance to discuss the relationship between marriage and mental illness in Indian scenario as marriage is perceived to be a panacea to mental illness by many. This review aims to explore whether marriage contributes to mental-health problems; whether it has a protective role; what effect it has on pre-existing mental illnesses and its outcome in major mental illnesses.


Marriage, as defined by "The Oxford Dictionary" is a formal union of man and woman, by which they become husband and wife, i.e., it is a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. It is a social commitment with multiple emotional, social and occupational demands. Marriage is a socially acceptable way to satisfy the basic human need for sexual gratification. It thus forms the basis for procreation and building up of family. Other reasons for marriage could be legal, emotional, economic, spiritual and religious. [sup][1],[2] Marriage is an important institution in human society and particularly so in Eastern countries, including India. In India, it is almost compulsory for every individual to marry and "settle down." Not being married is considered a stigma, particularly in case of women whereas being married translates into elevation in social status. Marriages in India have certain distinctive features viz.

*It is usually an arranged relation between two families with little scope for personal choices. [sup][2] *There exists patriarchal ideology and the husband is considered head of the family and breadwinner. [sup][2] *Women have social pressure to accept a position subservient to males, to control their sexual impulses and to subordinate their personal preferences to the needs of the family and kin group. [sup][3] *There is a strong social and moral compulsion to continue the relationship despite facing difficulties/problems in the marriage. Divorce is frowned upon in the traditional Indian society.The relationship between marriage and mental health can be explored in several ways. Few important dimensions to this issue are as follows: *Marriage as a stressful life event which can lead to development of mental-health problems. *Effect of marriage on mental health of men and women in the direction of protecting them against mental disorders. *Effect of marriage on pre-existing mental illness, e.g., Psychoses, alcohol use disorders. *Outcome of marriage in major psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

Can Marriage Cause Mental Health Problems?

Marriage may be stressful for vulnerable people, which may lead to development of mental-health problems. Major mental-health disorders may be the cause or effect of marital discord. [sup][1] Several studies have shown that marital stress is associated with a range of psychiatric diagnoses. [sup][4] Certain personality traits and disorders like dependence, passiveness, aggression, histrionicity, paranoia and obsession, especially when aggression is a marked feature, have a high incidence of severe marital discord. [sup][5]

When compared to well-adjusted couples, divorce seeking couples have a high psychiatric morbidity, with more neurotic traits. [sup][1] Studies in male neurotics showed that inability of wife to escape from husband's constant neurotic behavior may contribute to her marital tension. Eventually separate outlook of both spouses may lead to independent and separate activities and further increase conflicts and gradual alienation. [sup][6],[7] Specific situations related to married life-like anorgasmia, impotence, discovery of extramarital affair, problems with children, an announcement of intent to divorce can be the major trigger to psychological problems. [sup][1] Studies show greater distress among married women as compared to married men. …

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