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10 Things You MUST Know When Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder

In the Oscar-nominated movie, ‘Biutiful,’ Javier Bardem’s character, Uxbal, is dealing with several issues – terminal cancer, a past full of bad decisions, immense guilt and – an ex-wife, Marambra. Now, you’d think that an ex-wife is the least of his troubles, but in this case, she is a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder, which also leads to some bad choices on her part like alcoholism, promiscuity, and obviously, bad parenting. Yet, one of the most poignant moments in the movie is when Marambra breaks down in front of Uxbal and admits that she can’t care for the kids. The scene clearly shows how Uxbal is still very much in love with her, but knows that he can’t make it work, mainly because he doesn’t know how to deal with her condition. This scene from Biutiful is one of the most painful moments in movie history, and is a very apt description of what one goes through when in love with a person who shows signs of bipolar disorder.

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Imdb

Suggested read: What compels women to stay in abusive relationships

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness, characterized by extreme mood swings. For this reason, it was also known as manic-depressive illness, due to the fact that a patient suffering from it tends to oscillate between periods of extreme happiness and hyperactivity (mania state), and periods of feeling low or depressed (depressive state). Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease with no apparent cure, although it can be managed to a great extent with proper care and the right combination of drugs.

Most of us have ups and downs in life, and while we feel all gung-ho on some days, some others may have us feeling lower than usual. However people with bipolar disorder have much more extreme mood swings that are too intense to be considered normal. Symptoms of bipolar disorder may appear anytime but are most commonly diagnosed during a person’s late teens or early adulthood, and also tends to run in families. Here are some more facts about bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world
  • Nearly 2.6% of Americans have bipolar disorder
  • Women are three times more likely than men to have quick mood cycles
  • Women with bipolar are also more prone to depressive episodes
  • Nearly one in five patients of bipolar disorder commits suicide

Some famous people with bipolar disorder include Demi Lovato, Carrie Fisher, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kurt Cobain, and Marilyn Monroe.

Signs of bipolar disorder

signs of bipolar disorder

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Bipolar disorder is characterized by the two extreme states of mania and depression, but these can appear in varying degrees, and can sometimes even occur together. Common signs of a manic stage are:

  • Having very high energy
  • Needing very little sleep
  • Diminished appetite
  • Talking fast
  • Increased creativity
  • Being very productive; completing several assignments in one night
  • Feeling overconfident and with fewer inhibitions
  • Risky behavior, like doing drugs/alcohol or something illegal
  • Spending too much

Signs of a depressive episode include:

  • Feeling extremely hopeless
  • Very low energy; difficulty to even get out of bed
  • Extreme guilt and lowered self-confidence
  • Loss of interest in previously interesting activities
  • Decreased ability to focus on a task
  • Feeling irritable
  • Suicidal tendencies

In hypomania, the patient experiences both manic and depressive episodes simultaneously, in which case a combination of these symptoms may appear together.

Having a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Flickr

Now that you know what a bipolar disorder patient’s life looks like, you might wonder how a relationship with such a person will look like in the long run. Well, the short answer is that it’s going to be different, and certainly not easy. Attempting to have a successful relationship with someone who has bipolar isn’t something for the weak-hearted. Statistics show that 90% of marriages with bipolar individuals tend to end in failure. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you try to show them your best side, but with bipolar patients, it may become difficult to separate their true selves from their manic/depressive selves. Any relationship requires work, especially after the honeymoon phase, but when a bipolar person is involved, the effort involved goes up to another level.

But then, love is never logical and relationships are always difficult. Loving someone with bipolar disorder is anything but boring, and that was probably what attracted you in the first place. The key to having a successful relationship, then, is learning to manage the condition and not letting it defeat you. So here are 10 things you absolutely need to know when you’re in love with someone who exhibits signs of bipolar disorder.

Suggested read: The dos and don’ts of dealing with a depressed partner

10 things to know when loving someone who has signs of bipolar disorder

1. Gather all the information you can

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

The first thing to know is… everything! Gather all the information you can about bipolar disorder – from books, websites, doctors or other people in the same situation. There are different types of bipolar disorder, so be sure to get educated on your partner’s specific condition. Knowledge is power and when you understand the illness in more detail, you are better equipped to handle it whenever a mood swing comes on. This will also help you in case you feel that your partner’s current treatment is insufficient and you’d like to explore other options. It is said that bipolar patients consult at least 3-4 doctors and spend about eight years in treatment before they get a proper diagnosis and the right combination of drugs that can help them.

2. Accept that you’ll have to find a new normal

At the very outset, you need to acknowledge the fact that your partner is quite different from your exes, and usual relationship guidelines will not apply in your special case. Accepting this fact and preparing to find a new normal for the two of you is crucial for the relationship to continue. It will not do to dwell upon the past or to imagine how things would have been ‘if she didn’t have bipolar.’ Being with a bipolar person will teach you to live in the present moment; enjoy it when it’s good, and wait for it to pass if it isn’t. A positive frame of mind will take a lot of stress off both partners in the relationship.

3. Keep track of triggers

When you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder, it helps a lot to keep track of the triggers that may initiate a manic or depressive episode. Stressful life events like unemployment, pregnancy or the loss of a loved one are known triggers. There are also lower level triggers such as lack of sufficient sleep, arguments, alcohol, a change in season or some medications. By keeping a close watch and tracking the time and circumstances of your partner’s manic and depressive episodes, you’ll soon be able to find a pattern. This information is very valuable as it’ll help you avoid such situations, or at the very least, prepare for them in some way.

4. Find out reliable stress release methods

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

The best way to relieve a manic or depressive episode is obviously to nip it in the bud. That’s where knowledge of the triggers comes in handy. The next obvious choice for most people is the drugs their doctor has prescribed for such incidences. But it has been seen that bipolar patients may also find some relief in other ways, like listening to a certain kind of music. This kind of therapy isn’t a substitute for treatment, but you can try to find what works for your partner. It could be a long walk, painting, journaling or something as simple as taking a nap. Electronics like the TV or computer are not recommended, and may even exacerbate the condition.

5. Don’t force cheerfulness

signs of bipolar disorder

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The worst thing you can do when dating someone with bipolar disorder is to trivialize the issue or force them into cheerfulness during a depressive episode. Bipolar patients have very limited control over their mood swings and although your intentions may be good, they’ll only make things worse. There is no point in trying to rationalize why your partner shouldn’t feel depressed; it doesn’t work that way. They are not responsible for their illness, but you are responsible for how you react to their mood swings. Just be there calmly and ask if they need anything. If they’re ranting, just listen without interrupting. This will help to build trust in your relationship and will prevent the episode from getting out of hand.

Suggested read: Setting boundaries in an addictive relationship

6. Don’t make it all about the illness

Okay, so you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder, but that doesn’t mean that you focus only on the ‘disorder’ part of it! If you spend all day saying things like, “That’s enough coffee for today” or “Did you take your meds?”, you’ll soon fall into the role of caregiver and patient, rather than two partners in a romantic relationship. Don’t forget to have fun, go on dates together, and plan weekend getaways. Many couples dealing with one partner’s bipolar end up having no social life and living in their own little world. As long as you have understanding friends, you don’t need to shun the world and live like a hermit! Take your partner out and enjoy, taking care to avoid triggers or leave if you sense an episode coming.

7. Get your finances in order

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Flickr

During a manic episode, many people are known to spend exorbitant amounts of money, buying things they can’t afford and even selling off their valuables. This is a state of lowered inhibitions and risky behavior, so if your partner is prone to such states, you’ll need to be careful with respect to your finances, whether individual or jointly owned. Most people are shocked at what they’ve done once the mood passes, so that would be a good time to put down some kind of system. It could be some kind of delayed order processing or by avoiding spending with cards – just ensure that everyone is on board with the arrangement before putting it into action.

8. Stick to a routine

One of the triggers for manic or depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder is a deviation from their regular routine. Sleeping and eating at the right time is particularly important for people with bipolar disorder, and you’ll have to arrange your routine around theirs to prevent any kind of episode. Make sure that there’s some kind of activity involved as exercise, which is known to be beneficial for people with bipolar. Don’t change their diet too much as well, although it’s best to slowly taper off processed or junk food.

9. Take care of yourself

signs of bipolar disorder

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

When you’re in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, it’s easy to let it become all about them. But your needs are important too, and make sure that you take care of yourself too. It’s quite likely that your partner realizes all that you do for them and want you to be well too, so it’s a win-win! Sleep and eat well, drink lots of water, work out, and meditate or pray to release stress. Take time out to do the things you love doing, like reading or watching your favorite TV show. Remember, you need to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting your companion!

10. Enjoy the beauty of bipolar

Earlier in the article, we mentioned some famous people with bipolar disorder. There are several more, and listing them all out would take ages! You’ll find that bipolar people can be immensely talented, and they see the world with different eyes and this view can be refreshingly new for regular people. Their manic phases are usually accompanied by surges of creativity and they often produce some wonderful art during such times. Don’t miss out on these wonders – they’re gifts unique to your special partner!

Suggested read: Deepika Padukone shares her personal battle with depression and anxiety

Loving a person who exhibits signs of bipolar disorder is no cake walk, but it’s no dull ride either. And when you make that extra effort for your partner, your love takes on new meaning, and becomes something divine! This quote by Lao Tzu perfectly sums up a relationship of a non-bipolar person with someone who has the disorder: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Featured image source: Flickr

Article Name
10 Things To Know When Your Lover Has Signs Of Bipolar Disorder
Dating someone with bipolar disorder poses a different set of challenges. Here are 10 things to know when your lover has signs of bipolar disorder.
Fabida Abdulla

Fabida Abdulla

Fabida is an erstwhile Software Engineer and current Freelance Writer cum stay-at-home mom to her boisterous 6-year-old. In between all the writing, baking, nagging, reading, and cuddling, she manages to blog a bit about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes. []