A new study suggests that bipolar episodes may manifest in somewhat predictable times of the…
Supportive Partners Make a Big Difference with Bipolar Disorder Sufferers
Being a supportive partner is important for all relationships, but especially when one partner is living with bipolar disorder (BPD). Studies show that the presence of a supportive spouse or partner is just as beneficial as therapy or medicine in controlling symptoms. Understanding what those symptoms look like, how often they show up and how to cope with them puts both partners on the same page so disappointment in terms of expectations can be avoided.
As with all couples there is a great need for open communication. Both partners need to be able to discuss the illness and its impact without fear of censure. Talking openly about stress and emotions provides context for behaviors. It is easier to sympathize with someone’s harsh look or irritable response when you know what is happening inside their mind.
Some couples hoping to manage BPD plan a regular time each week to discuss symptoms. Often the non-BPD partner is able to provide perspective and insight for the person trapped in their own emotional bubble. It may even be helpful to make a list of known symptoms and early warning signs which can work as an impartial third party when discussing whether or not a partner is heading into a manic or depressive phase.
It’s important to decide together in advance the appropriate response when the healthy partner recognizes a change taking place. Some couples may decide that a doctor can be contacted, at least to remind them about taking their medication. Others may feel that they are being parented if the partner steps in.
Keep in mind that no matter how you decide to manage manic or depressive phases, the unaffected partner will sometimes get it wrong. When an emotional illness is present the challenges increase, but so do the potential benefits.