Why is it difficult to deal with a loved one with bipolar disorder?

Keep in mind that, beyond the behaviors their chemical imbalances create, adults with bipolar disorder endured a childhood where they sensed their moods and behaviors were not the same as those of most of their peers. As a result of this sense of difference or disconnection, they developed coping strategies that often ended up doing them a disservice eventually.

Disconnection: When young people with bipolar can't understand or predict others' moods and behaviors, they cope by withdrawing. Usually, they interact with one or very few people who can meet their needs.

Controlling Behaviors: When you can't predict someone else's behavior, one way to feel safe is to learn to control others. Control is a subtle art, and often controlling people have been practicing it for decades. A portion of the bipolar population becomes "controlling." This at first can show up as a talkative, outgoing bent, but soon suggestions and discussions become manipulative. Examples of controlling statements include:
  • "Why would you do that?"
  • "Does that really make sense?"
  • "Only an insecure person would think that way."
These habits can be so ingrained they may never be rectified.

Drug/Alcohol Abuse: The feelings someone with bipolar disorder experiences can be so overwhelming, the only way out is with street drugs. A significant proportion of those who abuse alcohol and narcotics have an underlying mood disorder, particularly bipolar disorder and depression.

Overspending: While in a mania or hypomania, someone with bipolar disorder can find all sorts of reasons to rationalize spending gobs of money on whatever their hearts desire. Those who treat their bipolar disorder often let their spouses control the money, particularly when they recognize a mania coming on. This may involve the other spouse keeping the credit cards or even the car keys.

Irritability: People with bipolar disorder and even those with depression can experience uncontrollable irritability. A spouse often serves as an outlet for their overwhelming anger, but so can children, other drivers and other family members.

Grandiosity: The imbalance of chemicals in the brain can cause those with bipolar disorder to have inflated images of themselves. They may feel they're more talented or more psychic than most. They may posit that they're needed to take care of governmental or worldwide problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.