Loving a Manic-Depressive: 6 Tips for Spouses of People with Bipolar Disorder

Manic-depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder, is a condition that’s manageable with effort and medication. If your spouse has this disorder, try these tips.

Nearly 2 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of the manic-depressive condition known as bipolar disorder. For those who fall into that number, problems with dating and marriage are highly likely to occur.

That doesn’t mean that those suffering from bipolar disorder will be unable to hold healthy, functioning relationships. Read on to learn more about the effects of bipolar disorder on romantic relationships, and how to navigate the challenge as a couple.  

What Is Manic-Depressive Bipolar Disorder?

In order to support a spouse or significant other with Bipolar Disorder, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the condition. The National Institute of Mental Health places Bipolar Disorder in the category of a manic-depressive illness. This means the brain will experience unusual shifts in mood, energy, and self-perspective at a rapid pace. 

It’s important to know that there is a wide spectrum of intensity when it comes to bipolar disorder. Some episodes may seem barely noticeable or may be written off as mood swings or simply the person’s character. While others will experience bipolar disorder to a degree that prevents them from carrying out normal day-to-day tasks.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

While researches have not found a specific cause of bipolar disorder, there are risk factors that have been correlated to the condition. These risk factors may include an immediate family member that has suffered from the condition, high-stress levels (that are typically brought on by physical or sexual abuse, or neglect) or substance abuse.

Some studies have also found that while bipolar disorder has the same affects on men that it does with women, women are three times more likely to experience rapid mood swings.

1. Know the Signs

There are a number of signs and symptoms that can determine if an individual is experiencing bipolar disorder, these symptoms may include:

  • Rapid speech, disoriented thoughts
  • Being unable to concentrate, easily distracted.
  • A sudden boost in optimism or self-confidence
  • An inflated send of self
  • Rash business decisions
  • Excessive spending
  • Sexual addiction
  • Clinging to delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disconnect
  • Drug and/or alcohol use
  • Becoming Socially Withdrawn
  • Strong Defiance
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • Myths of Bipolar Disorder

2. Be Supportive to Your Spouse

There is currently no cure for bipolar disorder. However, there are treatment options for those suffering from bipolar disorder, that can reduce manic episodes and allow the individual to better control their symptoms. The treatment choice will often be determined based on the severity of the case.

Treatment options may include medication such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, or antipsychotics. Since everyone’s chemical make up is slightly different, it may take several tries until the right combination of medication is prescribed. Medication may also be partnered with psychotherapy in an effort to help the patient recognize and better manage their triggers.

3. Relieve Stress within the Marriage

If you are committed to making your marriage a successful one, there are some tips that can be used to survive the good and bad days of a marriage where bipolar disorder is present. These tips include:

  • Remembering to breathe
  • Building a support group of those in a similar situation
  • Taking time to get away
  • Remember to laugh and use humor as a tool
  • Be stern about enforcing medication
  • Remember the reasons why you love them
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Don’t be afraid to ask how they’re doing
  • Always keep the lines of communication open

4. It Starts with Dating

Even if you’re not married, Bipolar Disorder can be a challenge when it comes to dating. The symptoms are often a block in the dating world, considering that in the initial stages of dating people are still in the process of making a good first impression. In these cases, honesty is key.

It is important that both parties are aware of the condition, what it entails, what can make it better and what will make it worse. While this may not be first date conversation, once you feel a mutual attraction and the chance that the relationship might lead to more than may be time to have a talk.

5. Working Through Bipolar Disorder as a Couple

If dating makes into marriage, it’s important to know that the hard part isn’t behind you. While acceptance and support are one of the most important factors of any successful relationship where mental illness is present, keep in mind that coping with bipolar disorder will be a lifetime journey for both parties.

It may help to seek out couple counseling, reading books on marriage and bipolar disorder, or taking courses on effective fighting. If a timeout must be had, it’s always better to temporarily part ways to allow each other to cool off, however, the spouse suffering from bipolar disorder must be of sound mind or in the care of someone who is. 

6. Mistakes to Avoid

In the same way, you want to focus on certain aspects of healing, there are some pitfalls you’ll want to avoid to ensure a healthy relationship. Avoid:

  • Eating processed food, dairy, or other foods known to affect mood.
  • Using triggers as a weapon in arguments
  • Belittling Bipolar Disorder
  • Insisting it’s something they can “get over”
  • Ignoring warning signs
  • Enabling them in not taking their medication or sticking to their treatment plan.

In Sickness Or In Health

All successful marriages require accepting the other as they are and choosing to love them anyway. In the case of those with manic-depressive episodes and bipolar disorder, love and support must be a daily choice.

It’s important to remember that this process takes two. The spouse with bipolar disorder must be willing to actively seek out treatment and stick to their treatment, while the other spouse must be willing to fully support their significant other without holding their mental illness against them. With the right steps and routines in place, it is entirely possible to have a healthy, loving and functioning marriage with someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Written by Anna Holt

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