It’s constantly contemplated whether or not bipolar disorder and relationships can successfully work. I personally believe that individuals who have bipolar disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, have the same amount of risk in relationships as those who do not live with a mental illness. Here’s why:
First of all, most people who live with mental illness, myself included, tend to have a negative self-image which can make them ultimately feel undesirable and develop constant worries and fears in relationships, …but guess what? People who don’t live with a mental illness can have those very same feelings and worries in relationships and in general too. As I’ve mentioned many times before, we are never alone in the ways we feel. It’s human to have feelings and emotions, but look at it this way, people with bipolar disorder tend to feel those emotions at a different extremity and more often. This doesn’t mean that people with bipolar can’t be involved in successful or happy relationships even though there may be very difficult and strenuous times, but this is true with any couple. Same goes for the bipolar disorder and having children debate as well. As humans, even with a mental illness, we have the potential and the right to be involved in relationships and have children. The debate whether or not individuals with mental illness are capable to successfully be in relationships or have children should not be an issue. They are still capable of being good spouses and parents. Those who don’t have a mental illness have the same amount of risk of making mistakes in relationships and in parenting. We are all human.
With bipolar disorder, individuals tend to experience periods of alternating highs and lows often referred to as mania and depression (manic-depression). Some people may be wondering or are curious as to why people with bipolar disorder may struggle in relationships. Well, there may be a few factors that relate with the mania and depression that cause symptoms which can make being in relationships a bit more difficult.
Some factors (but not limited to) that may affect relationships may be:
- = advice for the partners of a bipolar spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend
-Excessive spending – Mania can cause times where those with the disorder may want to spend more money and this may even greatly affect a bank account negatively, worsen mood problems (guilt, depression, regret, sadness), and ultimately it can affect the relationship. Mania can also cause hyper sexuality, rapid and excessive speech, and irritability.
- -When the partner of a bipolar individual notices any signs of mania and/or excessive spending, he or she should take control of the money (credit cards, check books, cash, etc) and also notify their doctor and/or document the mood changes noticed just to be safe. This also applies to other types of mood changes. It helps people with bipolar to have a responsible and understanding partner who can help support them when they experience the mood changes.
-Mood swings/Anxiety – With the constant mood changes it can be very difficult to have a smooth sailing relationship without conflict. All relationships, no matter who you are, are going to experience conflict. With bipolar disorder, they often have times where they feel irritable, angry, emotional, and also have times of mania (euphoria- elevated hyper mood) and sometimes for no apparent reason or cause. Sometimes the trigger can be identified, but sometimes there are moods where everything flips the switch the wrong way seemingly without cause. There are also many moments where a person with bipolar may lash out in anger such as throwing objects, hitting, crying/screaming, and saying/yelling hurtful things. This can make for a very frustrating and rocky relationship without the right strategies to control it.
- It is important that the partner can help redirect him/her when the bipolar individual is experiencing mood swings and or obsessive thoughts. It may be helpful to have a partner that knows when to help the person struggling with mood swings or worries calm down appropriately, but also knows the times when to walk away from behaviors (attention-seeking etc). Sometimes staying around while he or she is experiencing a mood swing can also make matters worse. The key is to know when, because there are times where things could go horribly wrong. When its noticeable that the bipolar partner is starting to get irritable, is yelling/screaming, throwing things, etc, it is best to try to catch these mood changes very early to prevent it from escalating any further, if possible. There are times where they may say or yell hurtful things that may possibly make you second guess or become really frustrated or angry in your relationship. It is important to keep in mind, for the sake of the relationship and sanity, that these moments do not last forever and more than likely the bipolar individual is just having a mood swing and isn’t meaning to anger you or upset you. Sometimes a good strategy would be to ask them “Talk to me about it.”, “What’s bothering you?”, “How can I help?”, “What would make you feel better?” ,”Let’s go find something enjoyable to do.”, etc. More than likely your bipolar spouse would love your attention, know that you are listening, and they can see you care. Support is huge for those struggling to have in their lives.