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Bipolar Disorder and Relationships: How to Survive

written by: Ivy N. McQuain MBA • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 4/15/2011

Bipolar disorder is treatable and your relationship can survive if you are willing to take the steps to learn how to cope being in a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder.

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    Bipolar Disorder and Relationships: Introduction

    Bipolar disorder — sometimes called manic-depressive disorder — causes mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. And millions of Americans are trapped in this unpredictable cycle of emotions. Bipolar disorder and relationships typically do not go hand in hand because of the outward and inward violence people go through on a day-to-day basis.

    A person suffering from bipolar disorder symptoms can easily go from nice to mean, from happy to depressed. Some have these mood swings in a day while others over a period of time. According to a study conducted by Luis Gutiérrez Rojas, a member of the Research Group of Psychiatry Research and Neuroscience at the University of Granada 50 percent of bipolar patients suffer some type of work, social and family disability.

    Families have been torn apart because of the mood swings of a spouse, child, or other family members. Oftentimes non bipolar relatives feel guilty and at fault for not helping or knowing what to do to help.

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    Ways to Cope

    When one person in a relationship suffers from bipolar disorder other people in the relationship suffer. Some of the challenges often faced when dealing with someone with bipolar disorder include, lack of communication, lack of understanding about the illness, inability to cope with the disorder, lack of trust, frustration and anger. Not to mention the countless arguments, fighting, name calling and maybe even physical abuse during manic episodes. Challenges during depressive states include feelings of guilt, defeat, loneliness or frustration. Either way bipolar disorder deeply erodes the foundation of any relationship especially if medication or treatment is not used.

    Fortunately, there is help for couples, family members and friends willing to stick it out and help their loved one cope with bipolar disorder. According to The Mayo Clinic there are several ways to cope and support a loved one with bipolar disorder:

    • Learn about bipolar disorder. Education about bipolar disorder will empower and motivate families to stick to treatment plans and help with understanding what their loved one is going through.
    • Join a support group. Support groups for families of people with bipolar disorder offer a way to connect to others who face similar challenges.
    • Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways to help everyone in the family channel their energy, such as hobbies, exercise and recreational activities.
    • Learn ways to relax and manage stress. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, or other relaxation techniques can be helpful.
    • Stay up-to-date with medications and other treatments. It can be a challenge to get someone suffering from bipolar disease to take their medicine but learning about the drugs, their side effects and other treatments will help build a routine and schedule.
    • Consider therapy sessions. Therapy sessions are beneficial regardless of whether a mental condition is present or not. For those involved with a person with bipolar disorder, attending personal therapy sessions can help release frustration.
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    Resources

    Bipolar disorder is a treatable mental condition; unfortunately, many Americans suffering from it do not seek the proper treatment. They toggle between states of depression or mania and cause undue stress to family members, loved ones and spouses. Bipolar disorder and relationships can work together if all parties are willing to find out about the illness and go through appropriate treatment plans together.

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    References

    University of Granada. 2011. Half the patients with bipolar disorder suffer work, social or family disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.physorg.com/wire-news/63458007/half-the-patients-with-bipolar-disorder-suffer-work-social-or-fa.html.

    WebMd. 2011. Bipolar Disorder Guide. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-treatment-care.