Bipolar disorder can be difficult to understand, so before we discuss how to love someone with this disorder, we must know what it really is in their lives. Without getting too technical, bipolar is a mood disorder that is most significantly marked by extreme mood shifts from depression to mania. It is classified as both a medical and behavioral illness because it affects the behavior, but is treated with therapy, medication, and at times, support groups. There is no known cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be managed once the right combination of medications and therapy is discovered.
Those who suffer from bipolar may have a range of behaviors and these can change over time. Things like overspending, substance abuse, self-medication, extreme risk-taking, and a struggle to concentrate are common. People may also have severe depression, hold false beliefs, be overly promiscuous, have racing thoughts, and have suicidal ideations. These can change because the main characteristic is an extreme mood fluctuation from euphoric hyperactivity to deep depression. These moods can change rapidly, every few hours to every few weeks or months.
Living with Bipolar
Bipolar is a serious illness, but many with it can still be functional. Many highly functional people are bipolar, especially in the academic realm, but also as writers, artists, scientists, and business leaders. Those with the disorder can come across as charming, intelligent, gifted, and charismatic, but when the depression side sets in, they become sad, depressed, and potentially suicidal. Thankfully, the downsides can be managed with the right medication, adjustments, and support. This means even those with bipolar can lead productive lives. There is no reason that people with the illness cannot lead productive lives, fall in love, marry, and have children. However, bipolar does have a slight genetic aspect so children need to be carefully considered and watched for symptoms so treatment can be sought early if necessary.
The biggest issue for those who have bipolar is the finding of sound treatment and then sticking with that treatment. This is because many people who have bipolar do not realize for many years that they are suffering from it. This delays diagnosis and treatment. Others may be aware there is a problem, but delay treatment out of fear of being stigmatized or even fired due to the diagnosis.
The Bipolar Coaster
As mentioned, being bipolar does not mean that relationships cannot happen and even work, but if the bipolar person refuses treatment than you will face, at the least, erratic behavior. At the worst, this person may be a risk to self or others. This is a serious illness that can be a roller coaster to live with as the person cycles from complete elation to suicidal depression in a matter of hours or weeks. You never really know when the ups and downs will come, but you know they are coming.
Some may wonder if this can be helped by love and to some extent it can, but if there is no treatment, therapy, and medication then the future outlook is bleak. Managing bipolar requires a commitment to mental health care and a desire to get better. Some people will enjoy the ups so much that they refuse treatment or go on and off meds without thought for how it affects themselves or others. Even with all the love in the world, this cannot be corrected if both sides are not committed to real care for the disorder. Be willing to try, but know when it is time to walk away if necessary.