Coping Strategies for Partners of Bipolar Patients

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No relationship is easy all the time, but if you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who is affected with bipolar disorder, you could face more struggles than the average couple. Bipolar disorder can be nearly as traumatic for the partners of those with the disorder as it is for the patients themselves. Even though you love your partner completely, it’s normal to feel frustrated and depressed when they’re feeling low and even to question your relationship at times.

Challenges of Partners of Bipolar Patients

Even when the patient is seeing their psychiatrist, taking care of themselves and taking their medication, their partner can face a wide range of challenges. Because individuals with bipolar disorder can have mood swings quickly, it can be difficult for both them and their partner to anticipate and respond to the swings appropriately.

In some instances, when the bipolar patient is in their manic phase, the partner can become addicted to the rush. The patient is usually very energetic, motivated, productive and often euphoric, which the partner may love after seeing their loved one so depressed. In other cases, the mania causes the patient to become irritable and self-absorbed, causing the partner to feel alienated.

The ups and downs of bipolar disorder can also disrupt a normal household routine. In a 2005 survey of people with bipolar partners published in Bipolar Disorders, more than half of the participants reported that their partner’s illness had reduced their socializing, required them to take on more household tasks, forced them to take time off of work and caused financial worries.

In either a depressed or manic state, the patient may go through sleep changes, weight gain or loss and difficulty functioning at work due to absences or poor concentration. These clues usually tip the partner off that they are in the midst of a mood episode.

Coping Strategies for Partners of Bipolar Patients

Fortunately, it is entirely possible to have a good, functioning relationship and a healthy marriage with a person who has bipolar disorder. There are options for coping, but both partners have to be committed to doing whatever it takes to make the relationship work. Knowing both parties are willing to work on things and compromise will be reassuring and make the tough times easier to endure.

Scheduling therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, both as individuals and as a couple, will be incredibly beneficial. Each partner needs and deserves the chance to vent freely in private. But since strengthening the relationship is a team effort, couple’s therapy will help build communication and trust.

Also, each partner should seek out a support system through their family and friends. The people closest to them will be understanding of what they’re going through and will want to help. Going out with a close group of friends or relying on the comfort of family will help ease the burden you both face. Carve out time in your schedules for yourselves, time with others, and most importantly, time for each other.