Bipolar disorder can crop up in a variety of ways. There are as many bipolar disorder experiences as there are bipolar people, and these encounters range from wonderful and exciting to perplexing, disappointing, and devastating. For example, your partner might have bipolar disorder if they had debilitating periods of sadness followed by high excitement and activity periods. So, in this case, how do you deal with it while living with a bipolar spouse?
Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by cycling manic and depressive episodes. The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, but it is thought to be the result of a combination of genetics, environment, and brain structure. For those that live with bipolar disorder, or someone who struggles with it, the symptoms can be frustrating and have a serious impact on relationships.
It can be difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder, as symptoms tend to mirror other disorders and may not be consistently present. Because of this, it can sometimes take years to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms include:
- Racing thoughts and rushed speech
- Easily distracted and has trouble focusing
- Excessive optimism and self-confidence
- An exaggerated view of their abilities and qualities
- Rash and impulsive behavior
- Poor decision-making and hasty business decisions
- Excessive money-spending and shopping sprees
- Irresponsible choices in driving
- Sexual promiscuity
- Illusions (holding untrue beliefs)
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real)
Another factor to consider when determining whether or not a person has bipolar disorder is their childhood. Environment can play a role in the onset of bipolar symptoms and behaviors. They may present the following symptoms and behaviors:
- Career struggles
- Suspension from work
- Social isolation
- Drug and alcohol use
- Frequent misunderstandings
- Inability to finish projects
- Reckless behavior
- Extreme defiance
- Poor social skills
- Controlling behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Remember that adults with bipolar disorder may have had a childhood in which they were aware that their moods and behaviors differed from those of their peers, resulting in the feeling of being different, disconnected, or outcast. Thus, they are more likely to develop poor coping skills, which may be problematic for them as adults.
Tips for Caring for and Living with a Bipolar Spouse
While living with a bipolar spouse can be highly challenging, there are ways to survive and thrive. Here are some tips for caring for and coping with a bipolar spouse:
Take a deep breath and a step back when things get tough. Living with a bipolar spouse can be challenging. However, try to remember that this is a mental health disorder, not a person, and things will get better.
Build a support system
Caring for a loved one with a disease can keep you focused on their needs, but you also require support for yourself. Participating in a support group for family members of bipolar patients can help you, and so can working with a therapist. Family and friends who understand are also great to have around.
Find the humor
Laughter releases feel-good hormones. If you can find things to laugh about, it will help you feel better overall. Taking a moment to find something to laugh about, or feel grateful for, can help ease tensions and push “reset” on a difficult moment.
Make treatment a priority
People who get treatment for their bipolar disorder and consistently take their medication tend to have better outcomes than those who don’t. However, manic episodes may make those with bipolar disorder feel like they’re fine and do not need medication — or treatment. But stopping prescribed medications suddenly can make bipolar symptoms worse. When living with a bipolar spouse, it is important to remind your spouse or loved one that they should continue treatment even if they feel fine.
Focus on the positive
Marriage to a bipolar spouse is difficult at times. It is important to remind yourself that there is a lot of good around the more difficult moments. While you should avoid masking hard feelings, studies have shown that focusing on something positive can reduce stress and improve your overall health.
Look for triggers
If your partner or spouse seems more prone to depressive or agitated episodes, it may be worth trying to identify and resolve potential environmental triggers. Perhaps they are spending too much time on social media or watching the news. Or maybe there is a difficult anniversary coming up. Whatever the case might be, noticing cues can help you identify problem areas and avoid them when possible. Additionally, if a trigger can’t be avoided, knowing what it is can help you take the steps you need to take care of your own mental health during difficult periods.
Open the door for communication
In all relationships, communication is key to maintaining health and trust. Being able to express your needs is important for self-care. Additionally, ensuring that your partner is able to tell you what’s going on — mentally, emotionally, and physically — helps reduce the likelihood of negative consequences. This is especially true when you are living with a bipolar spouse.
There may be difficult days and weeks, but communication during and in between bipolar episodes is essential to managing the stressors that accompany them.
Bipolar Disorder Treatment in Florida
Knowing what you need to do to support your partner without becoming consumed by their depression or mania can be challenging. Bipolar disorder is manageable, but it takes effort. All loving relationships require work, and being with someone who has bipolar disorder is no exception.
If your spouse requires professional assistance, it is important that you talk to a certified mental health care provider to find the best treatment option for them.