Bipolar Disorder: How to Support a Spouse with Bipolar Disorder
By: Isabelle Siegel
Bipolar Disorder is characterized by alternating manic (“elevated, expansive, or irritable mood”) and depressive (“depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in life”) episodes. The disorder causes significant suffering for the individual diagnosed, as well as his/her loved ones. It can be extremely difficult to support a partner or spouse with Bipolar Disorder, but it is possible with the right mindset and preemptive actions.
Develop an understanding of Bipolar Disorder and how it manifests in your partner/spouse. Psych Central suggests creating a list of warning signs that your partner/spouse starts to exhibit before or while entering a manic or depressive episode. This will help you to better understand your partner/spouse, as well as enable you to interpret his/her behaviors in the context of the disorder.
Learn what helps (and what does not help) when your partner/spouse is in a manic or depressive episode. When your partner/spouse is stable, work together to create a list of actions you can take to alleviate symptoms when he/she is in a manic or depressive episode.
Communicate. As cliche as it sounds, open communication is integral to maintaining a relationship with someone who has Bipolar Disorder. It is important that each partner/spouse feels heard and validated at all times.
During manic or depressive episodes, understand your partner’s/spouse’s behavior in the context of the disorder. During episodes, it is important to view your partner’s/spouse’s actions and words as symptoms of a disorder rather than as reflective of his/her true feelings. If your partner/spouse says something hurtful, for example, try to understand the role that the disorder is playing in causing this behavior.
Allow yourself to feel frustration, upset, or any other emotion. Understand that Bipolar Disorder is an illness and that it is normal for difficult or conflicting emotions to arise. Do not feel guilty for feeling frustrated, upset, angry, resentful, or even for wanting to leave your partner/spouse at times. All of these feelings are normal.
Most importantly, take care of yourself and seek therapy. Understand that your partner/spouse is not the only one who needs support and never feel guilty for prioritizing your own needs. It can be beneficial to seek therapy or other support in order to take care of your own mental health and to work through difficult emotions.
If you or a loved one needs support and help understanding yourself and/or a family member, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/