Dating a Person with Bipolar Disorder

Living with bipolar disorder is in itself a challenge; but trying to live with someone who has it can seem both difficult and incomprehensible at times. You can find your relationship too swinging between emotional extremes. However it is not entirely impossible to date a person with bipolar disorder if you keep certain points in mind.

Be sure of your priorities

If you are still not into a relationship with a person having bipolar disorder, consider long and hard if you want to. The bottomline is that bipolar disorder is a type of mental illness and despite large options in treatment and therapy, a person affected by it will never be able to offer you the kind of emotional and psychological support that a completely healthy partner can. If you begin dating a patient of bipolar disorder, you are bound to feel that there are three people in the relationship – you, your partner and the disease. You may be required to give more and expect less to the relationship which over time can prove to be exhausting and unsatisfactory. So if you are still not seeing this person seriously, consider whether you will be able to get emotionally involved with someone who requires long term treatment and support.

Be informed

At the same time however, there are thousands of people with bipolar disorder who are leading normal and healthy lives. With regular treatment and medications, it is entirely possible to keep the condition in check and if you find that someone with bipolar disorder enriches your life with love and meaning, there is no reason why you should hesitate dating him or her. In such a situation the first thing you need to do is gather as much information about the illness as you can. Also known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a mental condition mental disorder marked by dramatic changes in mood. A person affected by it may feel on top of the world - the "manic" phase - and then suddenly plunge into depression, without the influence of any outside factor that would warrant such a drastic change. Severe episodes of mania can produce psychotic symptoms, like hallucinations or delusional beliefs. These episodic moods can last for weeks or months, or for just days or hours, depending on the type of bipolar disorder. Usually bipolar disorder is treated with mood stabilizing drugs, such as lithium. Anti-seizure medication can also help stop rapid mood swings while atypical antipsychotic medications can be used when anti-seizure drugs don't work. While you may not need to administer medicines to your partner, knowing about medications for bipolar disorder will not only help you to support him/her better but also be prepared for adverse side effects of the drugs. Many anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications for instance have a dampening effect on the libido; so as a partner if you are aware of these adverse effects, there will be less strain on your relationship.

Learn to recognize the phases

Anyone who is suffering from bipolar disorder will swing between emotional extremes of elation to depression. If you learn to pick out the signals marking the emotional variations, you will be able to understand him/her better and realize that their moods and actions have got nothing to do with you. For instance when a person is in the depressive phase, he/she will be generally disinterested in regular activities, be lethargic and even irritable. On the other hand the typical high phase may be characterized by intensity of emotions and sensory experiences. Some bipolar people feel like they can do anything they set their minds to, no matter how impractical or dangerous. Your partner may experience increased libido, impatience, sleeplessness, creativity or even forgetfulness. During these phases, you need to be patient and cool-headed. Apart from ensuring that he/she is taking their medication, you need to offer the right kind of support depending on the particular phase they are in. When your lover is feeling depressive, be kind and affectionate and assure them of your support. On the other hand during the high phase, you may be required to monitor their actions so that they do not endanger themselves or even your own safety.

Respect yourself

Even though persons suffering from bipolar disorder cannot control their moods, they can still control their actions. Let your partner know that he/she is responsible for his/her actions and that you will not tolerate any abusive behavior, cheating, illicit drug use, no matter what the excuse. This will not only ensure your own emotional and physical well-being but that of your relationship as well. On the contrary if you begin making excuses for your partner’s abusive behavior and put up with it endlessly, not only will there be nothing positive in your relationship but in fact, you may end up as an emotional and physical wreck yourself.  You should be neither bullied into staying with someone nor be made to feel guilty about looking after yourself. If you find yourself clinging to a relationship for any reason other than love, clearly you are being emotionally manipulated and it may be time to leave.

Get professional help

Bipolar disorder is anything but a minor mental condition. Even though it can vary according to type and severity, a person cannot get well on his own. Correct diagnosis and treatment are not only essentially for people affected by the disorder but also for those living with them. Thus you will have to ensure that your partner is regular with his/her check-up, medications or therapy. In fact if you are in a serious relationship with this person, you may find counseling a great help yourself. Taking part in couples’ therapy or joint counseling with your partner will help you to understand more about your partner’s illness and how you can both take care of him/her as well as your own emotional wellbeing. And finally consider if you can handle your partner's bipolarity in the long term. If your partner controls her bipolar disorder well and puts little burden on you, then you can probably sustain your relationship over time.