Bipolar disorder is a challenging mental health condition to navigate, and bipolar relationships impact both partners.
If you suspect you or your partner may be living with bipolar disorder, find out how to address this mental health condition. Consider the available treatment options and when it may be time to leave a relationship rather than continue working through the issues together.
How Common Is Bipolar Disorder in the United States?
Approximately 2.8% of American adults had bipolar disorder in the last year, making it a prevalent mental health condition. However, while this figure represents the portion of the population that’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there are many individuals who are undiagnosed or have been misdiagnosed.
According to a survey from the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (DMDA), 69% of people with bipolar disorder are initially misdiagnosed. And one-third or more went undiagnosed for up to a decade or longer. This is because many patients seek diagnosis exclusively for the depressive symptoms of the disorder, making it common for health care professionals to initially diagnose the person with depression.
Why You Shouldn’t Try To Diagnose Your Partner
If you or your partner is experiencing symptoms consistent with bipolar disorder, it’s critical to seek professional help and not attempt to diagnose the condition on your own. Self-diagnosing bipolar disorder is dangerous because there’s a chance the person may have a different condition.
Suggesting they have bipolar disorder when they don’t can also invalidate the experience of those with the condition and can worsen the stigma surrounding mental health. Additionally, it can be hurtful to your partner to suggest they have a mental health disorder when there may be other reasons for their behavior.
What Are Bipolar Relationships Like?
While ups and downs are natural in any relationship, being involved with a partner who has bipolar disorder can be especially emotionally challenging. You may not know what to expect from them one day to the next, which adds to your stress. To be supportive of your partner, you need to understand the type of bipolar disorder they have and the typical symptoms. The most common types are:
Bipolar 1 is a more severe disorder defined by manic episodes that may require hospitalization for the person’s safety. They may experience hallucinations or paranoia or act recklessly without a sense of consequence.
If your partner is exhibiting unusual behaviors like excessive gambling, promiscuity or drug use, these may be signs of a bipolar manic episode.
Individuals with bipolar 2 still experience mania, but it’s less extreme. Their manic episodes may include a decreased need for sleep, rapid speech or increased energy.
In both bipolar 1 and 2, these manic episodes are contrasted by periods of depression. These may include symptoms such as:
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability and frustration
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
How Bipolar Disorder Impacts a Relationship
Learning to recognize bipolar disorder relationship patterns may help you take action to maintain your relationship. Those in a bipolar relationship may experience:
- Frequent arguments over inconsequential topics
- Infidelity during manic episodes
- Lack of interest in sex during depressive episodes
- Erratic behavior that’s distressing for children in the family
- Erratic behavior that affects a partner’s ability to hold down a job
How To Address Bipolar Disorder as a Couple
If you’re wondering, “My gf or my bf is bipolar, what can I do?” there are ways to work through the disorder as a couple. If you’re committed to your partner, it’s possible to support them as they deal with their mental health condition. To help, you can:
Attend Couples Counseling
Couples counseling can be a useful tool for maintaining a healthy relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder. It can be especially helpful when the condition is first diagnosed or when you’ve been emotionally hurt or offended by your partner’s actions. Counseling can help you understand how the condition contributed to their behavior and set goals for how you can move forward together.
Involve Yourself in Their Treatment
Ask your partner if you can be involved in their treatment so you can understand what they’re going through and provide better support. Do the research and educate yourself on bipolar disorder so you can recognize its symptoms.
If you attend sessions with your partner and their psychiatrist, you may be able to provide insight into mood changes and learn how to recognize when a manic episode is occurring.
Take Care of Yourself
To be able to support your partner, you need to take care of yourself first. Prioritize your own physical and mental health by engaging in activities that make you happy. You might take fitness classes or attend individual therapy sessions to discuss how you’re feeling about various aspects of your life.
Knowing When To Leave a Bipolar Relationship
Although it’s possible to support bipolar women and bipolar men in relationships, there may come a point when you need to step away for your own health and well-being. It may be time to say goodbye if you’re:
- Feeling burnt out
- Sacrificing your life goals and ambitions for your partner
- The one putting all the effort into the relationship and getting nothing positive in return
If you’re the partner with bipolar disorder, there may be circumstances where you need to put your mental health first rather than trying to make a relationship work. This may be necessary if your partner:
- Is belittling or stigmatizing you for your mental health condition
- Doesn’t understand your condition or want to support you
Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder
Once you’ve received a professional diagnosis, there are various treatment options available for bipolar disorder. To be diagnosed, you need to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, rather than your family physician. To receive a bipolar diagnosis, you must have experienced at least one manic and one depressive episode.
If you think you or your partner may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, your doctor can perform various tests to rule out other medical conditions. They can then refer you to a mental health professional for a psychiatric assessment and official diagnosis.
Treatment options for bipolar disorder often include a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Medications used to treat bipolar 1 and 2 range from mood stabilizers to antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Begin Your Journey Toward Wellness
If you or your romantic partner is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, help is available. Whether you need outpatient or inpatient care, our compassionate team at FHE Health is here to assist you on your journey to recovery and mental wellness. Call us today at (833) 596-3502.