When talking about mental health problems, we often talk about the condition and how it impacts the person. We discuss signs and symptoms to look out for and ways of seeking support, but what about the spouses and partners living with someone with Bipolar Disorder? How do these symptoms come about and what can one expect when caring for their loved one?
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterised by mood swings that include periods of mania and periods of depression, often known as highs and lows. These mood swings may occur more than once during a year and can sometimes be related to the current season and time of year.
Living with a loved one who has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder impacts the relationship
In fact, one might be more likely to experience symptoms of mania in summer whilst the sun is shining and days are longer. Symptoms of depression on the other hand are more likely occur in the winter months when it is dark and gloomy. These symptoms are important to take note of, as they may be key indicators of relapse. Once noted it is best to communicate these concerns with both your spouse as well as the professionals involved. Many spouses have expressed that they feel anxious at times, anxious for the next relapse that their loved one may experience again.
Living with a loved one who has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder impacts the relationship. Many times the spouse feels a sense of obligation to look after their loved ones, and as a result might feel helpless and at times guilty for not being able to do enough. Oftentimes the family does not have or is provided with enough information on the condition.
Mania can also cause irritability which may possibly lead to aggression
Many have also mentioned that they have experienced feelings of grief; we tend to grieve the life we would envisioned for ourselves, but which would have changed due to the condition and diagnosis. Given the highs and lows and their different ways of manifesting one can also expect a number of behaviour changes. Periods of mania can make one feel as though they are invincible and can conquer the world. They might begin drinking heavily, using drugs, and might even spend their money erratically.
Mania can also cause irritability which may possibly lead to aggression. It may leave the partner feeling confused and frustrated as to how to cope for their loved one whilst ensuring that they are safe. On the other hand, the lows bring about feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. The individual might distance themselves and may lose pleasure from activities that they used to previously enjoy. Sadly, this may leave their significant other feeling unwanted or unloved.
Although medication is one of the most common treatments of bipolar disorder, this in itself could present challenges. One possible side-effect which might present is a diminished sex drive, which apart from impacting the person, can leave their significant other feeling rejected.
When understanding Bipolar Disorder, the process of taking medication itself is at times challenging; one might miss the feeling of euphoria that the highs present. Given that they experience lows, the highs bring a sigh of relief to many as during their highs they feel as though they are the best and happiest versions of themselves. In such cases, it is extremely important to have a conversation with your doctor or psychiatrist which encourages a holistic approach at both your partner’s wellbeing and their relationships. Do speak to your doctor if you feel that you are being impacted so that you can altogether decide on a course of action.
Living with a mental health condition is not easy, and it also leaves an impact on loved ones. It can be very helpful to, firstly, have more information about the disorder. It can help you better understand how it impacts your partner and what to expect. Relational therapy may also be beneficial for the couple as it will provide a safe space to discuss any issues impacting their family. There are also a number of support groups one can attend, such as the ones organised by Be Positive to help share their experiences with others who can relate.
If you or someone you know are struggling, call 1770 to speak to a professional. Our helpline is free and available 24/7.
Stephania Dimech Sant is the CEO of Richmond Foundation
The text above was written by Yanika Portelli, Service Leader, Richmond Foundation. This article was published on Newsbook on 19th April 2021.