People with bipolar disorder are not inherently bad or negative people. However, at times they may present behaviors that can be difficult to understand or deal with. This may cause a marriage with bipolar disorder challenging for some.
Living day-to-day with bipolar disorder can come with many different challenges. One day an individual may feel on top of the world and engage in risky, impulsive behaviors. The next, they may feel depressed and extremely unmotivated. If an individual does not reach out for support for their disorder, it can affect every aspect of their life, including their marriage. This puts a couple at risk of facing extreme hardship.
In the United States, divorce and separation rates are two to three times more likely among individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder than among the general population. This is a tragic statistic, but if the couple learns to recognize the signs, discusses the challenges, and accepts support from professionals, a successful marriage can be achieved, even in the face of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Overview
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. The condition can cause an extreme cycle of mood swings. An individual may experience frequent manic episodes characterized by high energy, excitement, and an overload of euphoria where the mind just cannot slow down. The opposite end of the spectrum, depressive episodes, can cause the individual to experience hopelessness and depression.
The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not clear. A few risk factors, such as genetics, abnormal brain structures, and a chemical imbalance in the brain, may play a role.
Recognizing the Signs
The onset of bipolar disorder usually occurs in an individual’s teen years or early adulthood. Symptoms may occasionally be present in children. Once diagnosed, the condition typically requires professional treatment for a person’s entire life.
Everyone’s experience with the condition varies, though common symptoms include:
- Employment issues
- Relationship problems with family or friends
- Self-medicating with illicit drugs, prescription medications, and alcoholic beverages
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Weight gain
- Spending sprees
- Multiple partners
- Anger and irritability
- Destruction of property
- Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
Challenges in Marriage With Bipolar Disorder
Staying committed to a marriage with a person who struggles with bipolar disorder can be emotionally challenging. If the individual does not seek professional treatment, these symptoms can intrude on their marriage.
While this diagnosis does not portend certain divorce, the relational issues caused by the disorder may cause several marital or familial hardships. This may include financial burdens, marital fights, cheating behaviors, domestic violence, control, abrupt abandonment after disputes, problems with law enforcement, broken relationships with children, disconnection, and neglect of duties. When the individual with bipolar disorder experiences episodes, their spouse may blame themselves if the condition is left undiagnosed and misunderstood.
If divorce occurs, the individual with bipolar disorder may experience worsened mental health effects. A few such effects can include extreme lows and excess stress from child custody battles, loneliness, and financial hardship.
There are challenges in every marriage, but there are often more for a couple facing problems with mental health. Learning new strategies to cope and provide support in a marriage can be highly beneficial. It is imperative to take steps to effectively manage the mania and depression that could potentially damage the quality of one’s relationship. Treatment can greatly improve the odds of having a lasting marriage.
Tips for a lasting marriage may include:
- Communicating effectively
- Gathering resources together
- Seeking professional support
- Taking time to enjoy each other
- Practicing self-care to manage stress
- Taking deep breaths to stay calm
- Recognizing and preparing for triggers
- Taking time away as needed
Support for a Successful Marriage
When bipolar disorder goes left undiagnosed and untreated, an individual’s marriage can be at risk for hardship or failure. Seeking help from family and friends, professionals, and one another can be a great foundation for a healthy relationship.
Researching mental health treatment is a positive start. Taking time to speak with a psychiatrist to understand the severity of the individual’s diagnosis can reveal opportunities for further care. Setting up sessions with a therapist to discuss an effective therapy approach and treatment plan can be a healthy decision to provide emotional relief. Individual therapy, in addition to couples counseling, can increase the chances of achieving a long-lasting marriage. Taking medications may be necessary and it is a wise complementary alternative.
Choosing to stay abstinent from drugs or alcohol is especially pertinent in situations where mental illness and relationship difficulties exist. Substance use and abuse are common among individuals with mental health conditions. However, this can lead to addiction and worsened symptoms. Finding sober activities to do together, staying active, and eating healthy can improve a couple’s quality of life as a whole.
Living day-to-day with bipolar disorder can come with many different challenges which can affect an individual’s relationships, especially with their spouse. When the condition is left untreated, the individual’s marriage may be at risk for failure. As a licensed and Joint Commission Accredited Mental Health Treatment Center, 12 South Recovery is a leader in Orange County mental health treatment. For many people, treatment with a licensed therapist is a crucial component in successfully addressing addiction and mental illness. Our team of mental health care professionals can help develop a treatment plan that best suits your condition to help you and your loved ones achieve lasting results. Call 12 South Recovery at 866-839-6876 to learn more information and get started today.