Supporting a Partner With Bipolar Disorder

Relationships aren’t always easy, but trying to support a partner with bipolar disorder can add extra strain to your dynamic. Watching your loved one swing from fervent highs to despondent lows can be confusing and heartbreaking. It can be difficult to know the best way to help. But you’re not alone; if your partner or someone you love exhibits symptoms of bipolar disorder, here at Corner Canyon Health Centers, we can help.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by an abnormal variability of moods, energy levels, and general functionality. The two ends of the bipolar mood spectrum are referred to as mania and depression. Mania can be marked by feelings of intense excitement or euphoria and general overactivity.

An individual experiencing mania may also have delusions, which are false beliefs about the world around them. A common delusion is a belief that one is being followed, stalked, or spied on despite a lack of evidence. Some manic individuals might stay awake for an unhealthy or unusual amount of time because they feel energized.

On the other end of the spectrum is depression, which is marked by sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, and low energy. A person experiencing depressive symptoms might sleep or rest more than usual and may withdraw from social relationships. Having bipolar disorder means that an individual experiences both ends of this spectrum, from extreme highs to extreme lows.

The specific manifestation of this disorder may look different from person to person. Different types of bipolar disorder can vary dramatically from each other. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) identifies three different types:

  • Type 1 is characterized by episodes of depression and mania, each lasting from one to two weeks. The person may also have episodes with mixed features, some manic and some depressive. If one has four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year, it’s referred to as “rapid cycling.”
  • Type 2 is similar to type 1, but instead of manic episodes, people with type 2 experience hypomania. Hypomania is typically less severe than mania and lasts for a shorter period. Individuals may feel euphoric and overly excited but typically won’t experience delusions.
  • Cyclothymia is a mild case of bipolar disorder. A cyclothymic person may have recurring episodes of hypomanic and depressive symptoms, but they are not intense enough or do not last long enough to be termed episodes.

It is important to remember that despite how mild or severe symptoms may seem compared to someone else’s, all of these types can have an impact on day-to-day life. No matter the severity, everyone deserves help and support.

The Highs and Lows of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be debilitating for those experiencing it, but it also impacts their partners and spouses. A relationship in which one partner is emotionally volatile may become volatile itself, especially if frustration and resentment are allowed to set in.

The supporting partner may feel at a loss amidst the sudden and intense mood changes, while the other may feel blamed for a condition they cannot control. A study published in Medicina found that there was often a negative impact on supporting partners. They reported feelings of self-sacrifice and caregiver burden, which led to physical and mental health issues.

However, positive impacts were also found. Some partners reported effects such as personal growth and the strengthening of their romantic relationship. The study concluded that couples should work to minimize the negative effects and encourage the positive ones, which can be done with the help of a mental health professional.

How to Support a Partner With Bipolar Disorder

Possibly the most important step to supporting a partner with bipolar disorder is to encourage them to seek treatment at a proper treatment facility, such as Corner Canyon Health Centers. Prescription medications such as mood stabilizers can be effective in managing symptoms.

Different therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), may be helpful in monitoring moods and identifying when symptoms of depression and mania come up. Remember that it is always okay to reach out for help or encourage others.

While you may never know exactly what your partner is going through, it’s important to remember that your feelings are also valid. Feelings of confusion, frustration, anxiety, or even anger are common and normal for supporting partners. These emotions come from a place of love and concern.

It’s also important to be cognizant of these feelings and acknowledge why you’re feeling them without blaming your partner for your discomfort. Remember that their disorder is out of their control. That being said, self-care is still important. Make time in your days to do things that you enjoy to support your mental and physical health. You can’t help your partner if you aren’t taking care of yourself first.

Supporting a partner with bipolar disorder can be confusing and difficult at times, but your relationship doesn’t have to suffer. At Corner Canyon Health Centers, our goal is to help you work through the diagnosis and treatment together and come out stronger on the other side. It may seem daunting, but with the help of our dedicated team, you can mediate the effects of the highs and lows. We’re here to help you find the best treatment route for you and your partner, whether it be through medicinal intervention, support groups, or one-on-one therapy. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us today at (877) 717-6237.

Liz Lund, MPA

Liz is originally from lush green Washington State. She is a life enthusiast and a huge fan of people. Liz has always loved learning why people are the way they are. She moved to UT in 2013 and completed her bachelors degree in Psychology in 2016. After college Liz worked at a residential treatment center and found that she was not only passionate about people, but also administration. Liz is recently finished her MPA in April 2022. Liz loves serving people and is excited and looking forward to learning about; and from our clients here at Corner Canyon.
When Liz is not busy working she love being outdoors, eating ice cream, taking naps, and spending time with her precious baby girl and sweet husband.