The Effects of Bipolar Disorder on a Relationship

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Relationships are complex. When two people are in a relationship, they must learn to respect each other’s point of view, even if they do not always agree. When two people come together in a relationship, they bring parts of themselves and their past with them. Relationships require a lot of give and take and an endless supply of love and patience. Sometimes that patience is tested to the limit; especially if one of the people in the relationship has bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings, ranging from risky episodes of mania, to severe bouts of depression. People who have bipolar disorder suffer from depression that renders them unable to get out of bed. The manic phase leads to recklessness, inability to sleep, extreme irritability, and extended periods of feeling “high” or overly stimulated.

I Can’t Believe You Did That!

A person who has bipolar disorder is unpredictable and impulsive during the manic phase. He may go on a shopping spree and clean out the joint bank account without telling his partner. He may pull in the driveway in a brand new car, or max out all the credit cards. Some bipolar sufferers make sudden, irresponsible decisions, such as quitting a job or buying airline tickets to Venice because they were on sale. This irresponsible spending leads to enormous stress and even financial ruin for both people in the relationship.

Please Get Up, I Need You

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder is equally disruptive to a relationship. The victim of bipolar disorder experiences incapacitating depression. He cannot see beyond his sadness, and becomes physically and mentally unable to function. He may stay in bed for days, become unresponsive, or even suicidal. The partner in the relationship is left to manage the household, the kids, and life’s daily challenges until the bipolar sufferer snaps out of the depressive state. This can cause anger, resentment and a feeling of hopelessness for both partners.

I Won’t Tolerate Your Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Many bipolar sufferers abuse drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt to relieve their symptoms, especially if they refuse to take prescribed medications. It doesn’t take long for a partner to become exasperated with the substance abuse. Threats are made, tears are shed, and bags are packed to leave. The scenario plays out repeatedly, as the cycle of abuse continues, and the frustration builds.

The Last Straw

Uncontrollable anger is a dangerous and frightening component of bipolar disorder. When a person with bipolar disorder loses all sense of reason, excessive verbal abuse and domestic violence can be the result. If a relationship reaches this stage, it is usually just a matter of time until the dissolution of the relationship occurs.

If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, seek the help of your physician or trained mental health professional. Help is available for people who are victims of this serious mental disorder and their families. Don’t give up hope. A simple phone call can be the first step to a new beginning.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "The Effects of Bipolar Disorder on a Relationship," in, March 6, 2016, (accessed August 11, 2022).