Question

Bipolar Disorder

How can bipolar disorder affect relationships?

A Answers (3)

  • AJulie A. Fast, Psychology, answered
    When you fell in love with your partner, you probably didn't expect that bipolar disorder would play such a large role in your relationship. Maintaining a loving relationship has enough problems as it is, without having to deal with bipolar disorder and its troubles as well. It's normal that you might feel cheated, angry, sad, or worried. You didn't ask for this. This is not your illness, and yet you must live with it every day. The emotions this reality causes can be intense.

    For someone in your situation, intense feelings are completely normal, but they may feel out of control to you. Bipolar disorder—especially when it's untreated—can be like an uninvited, unwelcome guest. It can affect your ability to travel with your partner. Sex often becomes extremely complicated. You may lose your social life, or you may become stressed and depressed yourself. This can lead to a lot of emotions you may not want to feel, but the fact of the matter is this: they are often part of being a partner of a person with unmanaged bipolar disorder.
  • AMuffy Walker, Mental Health Nursing, answered on behalf of International Bipolar Foundation
    Bipolar disorder does not just affect the diagnosed person. Marriages are stressed to breaking points, siblings feel left out or slighted, friends may be ignored, and parents may harbor feelings of guilt or helplessness. All relationships are challenged in one way or another.
  • ASheri Van Dijk, Psychiatry, answered
    Relationships are affected in all sorts of different ways when you have bipolar disorder. To begin with, most people who have not had prior experience with bipolar disorder don't understand the illness and the impact it has on your behavior. They may tend to attribute blame where symptoms have actually been at fault. This is not to say that when you have bipolar disorder all your behaviors are excused by your symptoms. But there is a point at which you become much less able to control yourself, or the desire to control yourself lessens and you become disinhibited because of the mania. So one impact on relationships can be that a lack of information results in a lack of understanding on the part of the person you're in the relationship with, so the person gets fed up with you and leaves.

    A second problem arises from the behaviors themselves. For example, a spouse may have lived with his partner who has bipolar disorder for many years and has always been able to understand and cope with it. The breaking point may come, however, when the spouse with bipolar disorder begins engaging in behaviors such as sexual promiscuity, gambling, or substance abuse, that are unacceptable to the nonbipolar spouse, even though he is aware it is part of the illness. Understandably, when a person's life or quality of life is at risk, even if it's largely a result of the illness, he must take care of his own safety.
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