Growing up with a bipolar parent can have a long-term impact on how you see family relationships, including parent-child dynamics. If you had an unsteady role model growing up, you might be concerned that you have what it takes to be a good parent yourself. Or you may be concerned that you’ll develop bipolar disorder yourself. Knowing you’re not alone in these thoughts and experiences can help you cope. For example, seeking information and reading “loving someone with bipolar disorder” quotes or stories can help you start to understand how others have coped with their bipolar parents.
Common Ways Bipolar Disorder Affects a Parent
Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that impacts how an individual thinks and acts. Most notably, bipolar disorder is known to cause extreme mood swings. Individuals will have “manic highs” in which they have a lot of energy and often make rash, impulsive decisions. These manic periods will then be followed by extreme lows where depression takes over and the individual can’t bring themselves to do anything. Bipolar mood swings can happen at any time and can last for up to two weeks. Without medication and treatment, these mood swings can be more frequent.
The severity and frequency of these mood swings can have a considerable impact on a family’s day-to-day life. The bipolar parent may spend all their savings during a manic episode, creating constant financial instability for the family. Or they may stop going to work during depressive episodes, resulting in the parent continuously being let go from positions. The mood swings can create a highly anxious, unpredictable household. One child recalled their experience, “If I walked in five minutes late from school [my mother] might throw a glass at my head for worrying her.”
Long-Term Effects on Children of Having a Bipolar Parent
Bipolar parent stories are often hard to hear. One woman recalled, “When I was in school, instead of paying attention to my teachers, I’d spend all day worrying about how my mom was doing — plus, I was weighed down with keeping the secret that I had a ‘crazy’ mother.”
Kids are put through a traumatic childhood, and sometimes, the dynamic continues into their adult lives. The disorders of parents can have a massive impact on their children — and these effects can be long term. Studies have shown that when a child has a parent with a mental health condition, it can harm their own mental health later in life.
Some of the most common effects for children are listed below.
As a bipolar parent can often be unreliable, it becomes hard for the child to trust others. This distrust can continue into adult life and impact future relationships with friends or partners. The child has become so used to being disappointed or let down that they’re always waiting for the “other shoe to drop” with people.
Children of bipolar parents often blame themselves for their parent’s condition. They think that if they’d behaved differently, their parent wouldn’t have been triggered into another mood swing. Even as an adult, this self-blame can continue.
Because growing up with a bipolar mother or father can lead to constant uncertainty, many kids become hyper-focused on following rules. Some kids report that their bipolar parent often imposed arbitrary restrictions.
Even if the rules aren’t coming from the parent, the child may start to instill rules independently. They may think that if they just do everything “the right way,” they can prevent future bipolar episodes. As an adult, this can translate into intense controlling issues or even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Depression or Anxiety
After years of growing up in a volatile, unpredictable home environment, the child can develop depression or anxiety. These conditions can continue into adulthood, especially if the child continues to have contact with the bipolar parent.
How to Resolve Trauma Caused by a Bipolar Parent
First, it’s important to note that having a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder doesn’t immediately make someone a bad parent. Plenty of individuals get on the proper medication and stay on it, allowing them to lead a healthy, functioning life and be well-rounded parents. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
If you had a traumatic childhood due to growing up with a bipolar parent, it’s not too late to get help. It will take some time and work, but you can overcome your trauma. Some of the critical steps you may need to take are:
- Analyzing your current relationship with your bipolar parent now that you’re an adult. If your parent continues to cause you stress, trauma or any harm, it might be time to take a step back from the relationship. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you decide this is the best path for you. It’s vital that, after a childhood of taking care of your parent, you finally start prioritizing yourself.
- Seek counseling. Therapy is highly beneficial for every adult. For someone who’s been through a traumatic childhood, counseling can help you understand and cope with your trauma.
- Consider joining a support group. Finding a community of people who’ve been through your experience can help you feel less isolated. At these support groups, you can find connections with people who’ve been through a similar situation and understand the complexities of it all. You also may learn from others how they’ve coped and moved forward with their lives.
- Get your parent help. If your bipolar parent isn’t on medication or receiving some form of treatment, do what you can to convince them they need help.
What Parents With Bipolar Disorder Can Do to Mitigate Damage
No one can go back and change the past. Still, that doesn’t mean parents can’t try to make things right with their children today. The best thing a bipolar parent can do is acknowledge the mistakes they’ve made, show concrete efforts to get help and consistently take medication. Additionally, if your child sets new boundaries for you, you must listen and respect those boundaries.
Whether you’re the child of a bipolar parent or are a bipolar parent yourself, you can seek help. Many professional treatment facilities offer treatment programs for mental health conditions. These programs can prescribe medication in conjunction with individualized therapy for the patient and family counseling sessions.
FHE Health is one of the top facilities in Florida that offers extensive mental health treatment. Our trained staff provides quality, medically integrated personalized treatment for those suffering from behavioral health disorders, including bipolar disorder. You can move forward from bipolar disorder. Call us today at (833) 596-3502.