- Treatment for cyclothymia
- Are My Mood Swings Caused by Bipolar Disorder or BPD?
- The Many Shades of Mood Swings
- It’s all in the Reaction
- Treatment for BPD and Bipolar Disorder
- The Difference Between Bipolar and BPD
- Is Bipolar a Mood Disorder?
- Similarities Between Bipolar Disorder and BPD
- Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: The Differences
- Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment
- Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder
- Self-Absorption and Bipolar Disorder
- Self-Absorption and Manic Episodes of Bipolar Disorder
- Self-Absorption and Depressive Episodes of Bipolar Disorder
- Can You Cure Bipolar Disorder?
- Find Help for Managing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder and Relationships
- Internal Struggles of Those with Bipolar and Relationships
- External Struggles of Relationships and Bipolar Disorder
- The Benefits of Relationships for Those with Bipolar Disorder
- So What’s a Person with Bipolar Disorder to Do About Relationships?
- How to Spot Manipulation
- 14 Lies People With Bipolar Disorder (Sometimes) Tell
- 1. “I’m just tired.”
- 2. “I want to be alone.”
- 3. “It’s no big deal.”
- 4. “I’ll manage on my own.”
- 5. “Yeah, I took my medication.”
- 6. “I’m not feeling well.”
- 7. “I’m medicated now, so it’s not a problem anymore.”
- 8. “I’m not manic.”
- 9. “Yes, I’m manic.”
- 10. “I’ll be OK, don’t worry.”
- 11. “My hands are shaking because of all the coffee I drank!”
- 12. “My medication is for .”
- 13. “It’s just a bad day. I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
- 14. Lying about your diagnosis in general…
- I Am Not All Lies
- Why is it difficult to deal with a loved one with bipolar disorder?
- Paranoid, agitated, and manipulative
Treatment for cyclothymia
Treatment usually involves medication and some kind of talking therapy (psychotherapy).
The aim is to:
- stop the cyclothymia developing into bipolar disorder
- reduce your symptoms
- stop your symptoms coming back
You’ll probably need to continue this treatment for the rest of your life.
You may be prescribed:
- medications to level out your mood (mood stabilisers)
Mood stabilisers include:
- lithium – commonly used to treat bipolar disorder
- anti-epileptic drugs – such as carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine or sodium valproate
Antidepressants may help improve your low moods, but they may cause you to switch to the other extreme of hypomania.
Recently, some antipsychotics such as quetiapine have also been used as mood stabilisers.
But not all people with cyclothymia respond to medication.
The charity Mind has more information on lithium and other mood stabilisers.
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can help with cyclothymia.
CBT involves talking to a trained therapist to find ways to help you manage your symptoms by changing the way you think and behave.
You’ll be given practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis.
Are My Mood Swings Caused by Bipolar Disorder or BPD?
Out of all the mood disorders, Bipolar Disorder is the most similar to Borderline Personality Disorder. For this reason, it is common to confuse one with the other.
The Many Shades of Mood Swings
People with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder both suffer from mood swings. This characteristic can make it hard for even doctors to differentiate between the two. However, after a thorough psychiatric investigation and perhaps a trial of medication, BPD can be distinguished from Bipolar Disorder.
There are three types of Bipolar Disorder:
- Bipolar I is the most severe. People with this version of the disorder tend to have very high highs and very low lows. They may go on crazy shopping sprees one day, driving themselves into tremendous debt, then the next day threaten to kill themselves because of severe depression. Untreated, it would be very difficult to lead a normal life if you have this version of Bipolar Disorder.
- Bipolar II is less severe, but still difficult to live with. People with Bipolar II generally spend more time in the depression zone than in the mania zone. Suicidal thoughts are not really as much of an issue as just a generally low mood. Also, the mania in this form is called hypomania because it is less acute.
- Cyclothymia is the least severe version of Bipolar Disorder. In this type, you might experience highs and lows more frequently, but these mood swings are not usually so debilitating that you cannot function.
On the other hand, there are no set categories of Borderline Personality Disorder. Outside of the general diagnostic criteria, every case is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Some people with BPD may have wild mood swings; some may have no mood swings at all. Some people with BPD might seem like a candidate for a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, and others will be far from it.
It’s all in the Reaction
People with Borderline Personality Disorder generally have mood swings that have an identifiable cause. For instance, someone with BPD may sink into a suicidal depression after a negative phone conversation with a family member.
People with Bipolar Disorder can be reactive as well but, more often than not, their mood swings have no clear cause. They may wake up in the morning and decide to take out a huge loan to start a business and work through the night coming up with a business plan. The next day, for no reason at all, they may abandon their plan and stay in bed.
Treatment for BPD and Bipolar Disorder
Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder is similar in that both psychiatric disorders are typically treated through a combination of therapy and medication. However, the specific types of therapies and medications used vary for each psychiatric disorder, and depend on your individual symptoms. For example, Borderline Personality Disorder is best treated through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), while Bipolar Disorder may be better treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Whether you are suffering from both Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder or just one of the disorders, it is important to find treatment for psychiatric disorders that will help you manage your mood swings and feel more balanced.
The Difference Between Bipolar and BPD
Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are serious medical illnesses that can disrupt a person’s ability to live a normal life. Both disorders are characterized by unstable moods, relationships and behavior, leaving many to wonder if bipolar and borderline personality disorder are related. Here’s more information about the similarities and differences between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.
Is Bipolar a Mood Disorder?
First, let’s examine what bipolar disorder is. The question is often asked, is bipolar disorder a personality disorder? Bipolar is considered a mood disorder characterized by swings between intense highs and lows. During the highs, people can feel euphoric and on top of the world; this is generally considered a manic stage. This is also a period that can be marked by uncontrollable actions, with no regard for the consequences. The lows are marked by feelings of depression, with an attendant lack of energy or enthusiasm. It may be difficult to get out of bed or focus on anything important, and the tasks and responsibilities of daily life may begin to suffer.
There are two major forms of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I is considered more intense, while bipolar II is less severe. There are other types of bipolar as well, such as mixed bipolar disorder, where the manic and depressive stages occur simultaneously, and rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, where many mood swings take place during the course of a year.
The mood swings of bipolar disorder can occur at any time and can permeate all areas of a person’s life. Now let’s segue to looking at borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar.
Similarities Between Bipolar Disorder and BPD
Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder share many similarities, including:
It’s normal and healthy to experience changes in your mood. No one goes through life feeling the same every day, all the time. However, drastic mood swings and rapid changes in mood can be a symptom of a medical problem—more than one, in fact. In the case of bipolar disorder and BPD, there is a great deal of confusion generally about mood changes and how they might differ in patients with the two disorders.
Bipolar disorder causes those extreme shifts in mood from depression to mania (a mood characterized by abnormal elation and energy, racing thoughts and speech, a decreased need for sleep, etc.). BPD is also associated with mood changes, causing people to frequently switch between feeling fine to feeling extremely distressed in a matter of minutes.
As an example of this, you might see a person with BPD who is desperately attached to a friend, family member or partner one moment, and then storming off in a rage away from that person the next time you see them. Or the person you know might seem to be incredibly upbeat and energetic at times, even engaging in some risk-taking behavior that surprises you—only to be depressed and inactive at another time.
No one wants to be seen as thoughtless or fickle, but impulsive behaviors can create this situation. Sooner or later everyone makes a foolish or reckless decision. However, people exhibiting impulsive behavior regularly take chances that seem dangerous, or even do serious things without first thinking their consequences through. They may even seem surprised when their impulsive behaviors cause trouble—because they just didn’t consider the possible results before they took action. When they are feeling “good,” it’s all about acting on that feeling, and rational thinking or other people’s emotions aren’t taken into consideration.
Both bipolar disorder and BPD cause people to act impulsively. These impulsive behaviors can include rash spending sprees, reckless driving, foolish financial investments, risky sexual behaviors, binge eating, substance abuse and self injury. As you can see, these behaviors are risky and can cause serious harm to anyone involved in the situation.
Impulsive behaviors can be frightening to friends and loved ones. Seeing someone you love self-harm by cutting themselves, for example, is difficult and upsetting. Many times people close to the patient with impulsive behaviors aren’t sure what might be causing the problem, and they’re not even certain whether they should seek help for their friend or loved one. This is one reason why bipolar disorder and BPD are so difficult to treat.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
For many people, social use of alcohol or prescribed medications don’t pose a problem. That’s because the concept of moderation, while requiring discipline, is an attainable goal most of the time. However, for people with untreated bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, moderation is difficult or impossible to achieve.
It’s not uncommon for people with untreated bipolar disorder or BPD to abuse alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with their symptoms. Substance abuse and mental disorders are often referred to as co-occurring conditions. Unfortunately, substance abuse only aggravates symptoms and can hinder or hide a true bipolar or BPD diagnosis.
As an example, for someone with bipolar disorder, stimulants may be a temporary fix for feelings of depression. When they are feeling low, they take a drug like cocaine and get an immediate high. Alcohol or opiates might be the same kind of bandage for people who are feeling too manic. The body is flooded with a pleasurable feeling of relaxation that is soothing in the moment. For those with borderline personality disorder, substance abuse might “take the edge off” the way it feels to rapidly go from rage to despair to terror, or between other extreme moods. However, with frequent and increasing use of drugs or alcohol, there is a danger of tolerance and dependency, which means someone would end up having to take more and more of the substance to get the high they are used to feeling. This is the path that can lead to addiction. In addition, substance abuse can affect different parts of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia, which can have a detrimental effect on someone who is already grappling with bipolar or borderline personality disorder. In fact, the more someone abuses substances, the greater risk they have of impaired brain function over the long term.
When a mood disorder and substance abuse co-occur in a patient, that usually calls for specialized treatment at a facility specializing in dual-diagnosis care. Because the issues are so intertwined with each other, working on both of them at the same time will give a patient better odds at recovery, compared to focusing on one primary disorder.
Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: The Differences
Although bipolar disorder and BPD share some similarities, there are some fundamental differences that separate the two. For example, bipolar disorder is a mental (or brain) disorder, while BPD is an emotional disorder. Both disorders are characterized by mood swings, but the length and intensity of these mood swings are different. While a person with bipolar disorder typically endures the same mood for days or weeks at a time, a person with BPD may experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day. Bipolar mood shifts are distinguished by manic episodes of elation, but borderline personality disorder mood shifts rarely involve feelings of elation. The causes for these mood shifts also vary. BPD mood shifts are usually a reaction to an environmental stressor (such as an argument), while bipolar mood shifts seem to occur out of nowhere. Both disorders are difficult to live with, but the unpredictability of bipolar disorder can be particularly stressful.
Another difference between bipolar and borderline personality disorder is the types of emotions people with these disorders experience. People with bipolar disorder experience a fairly full range of emotions, but at inappropriate times, or to unhealthy degrees. People with BPD may view themselves as fundamentally bad or unworthy and are more prone to feelings of loneliness, emptiness and a severe fear of abandonment. And while both patients might feel like their mood changes come “from nowhere” at times, the BPD patient can typically identify the triggering incident that set them off.
Bipolar vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment
One of the most significant differences between bipolar and borderline personality disorder is treatment. The most important part of bipolar treatment is medication, followed by psychotherapy. BPD treatment, on the other hand, focuses on psychotherapy, not medication. Sometimes antidepressant drugs and mood stabilizers are prescribed based on specific target symptoms, but medication for BPD is often used as a last resort. The type of psychotherapy used to treat both disorders also varies. Bipolar disorder patients respond best to traditional therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, while BPD patients tend to respond better to Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The Dialectical Behavior Therapy model is rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but specifically addresses the needs of patients with borderline personality disorder, especially those who tend to self harm or have suicidal ideation. The focus is on building positive relationships, acceptance and emotional control.
In addition to psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medications, some people have successfully eased their bipolar and borderline personality disorder symptoms with holistic treatments, such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation and herbal/natural supplements. These types of treatments help people with either disorder learn how to decompress from stress, relax and feel centered. They promote a sense of mindfulness that can help them better tackle tough times and cope with emotional issues in a healthier way.
The bottom line with either bipolar disorder or BPD is finding a treatment center that has the expertise and training to successfully distinguish between various mental and emotional disorders—and the capacity to treat them all. A holistic approach that accounts for the whole person, and their particular needs and situation, is the kind most likely to work. These disorders affect people mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, so treatment needs to address all of those areas for the opportunity to achieve a more complete sense of healing.
Ideally, a treatment program will have qualified medical professionals who can create and oversee a comprehensive medication management program. If it is a dual-diagnosis treatment, there should also be medical professionals supervising the substance abuse detoxification process. Therapy plans should be customized to each patient and may include individual, group and family therapy sessions. A full health assessment can offer an accurate diagnosis and serve as the foundation for a treatment plan moving forward. Also part of that plan: complementary practices such as Tai Chi and massage therapy to promote emotional and mental re-balancing and centering.
If you have a friend or loved one who seems to be struggling with the above symptoms, they may be dealing with bipolar or borderline personality disorder. Encourage them to seek treatment and take that first step towards healing.
Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder
Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are both mental illnesses that involve extreme mood swings. Since many BPD and bipolar symptoms overlap, these conditions are often mistaken for each other. But bipolar disorder and BPD are different illnesses, each with their own symptoms and treatments.
How BPD Differs From Bipolar Disorder
Both bipolar disorder and BPD can interfere with relationships, work or school, and the ability to lead a productive life.
In bipolar disorder, which is also called manic depression, a person experiences severe mood swings, resulting in the dramatic emotional highs of mania and the profound lows of severe depression. In BPD, on the other hand, people have both unstable moods and problems with self-image that specifically affect their ability to form healthy relationships. People with personality disorders such as BPD are often not aware that their behavior is abnormal, but their disordered personality makes it difficult for them to deal with other people.
“BPD is based around interpersonal relationships and self-image, versus bipolar disorder, which is manic highs and lows,” says Julie Walther Scheibel, MEd, a therapist based in St. Louis, Mo.
Like bipolar disorder, BPD does lead to mood swings. Unlike bipolar disorder, in which a manic or depressive episode typically lasts for at least a week, a BPD-associated mood swing usually runs its course in a few hours or up to a day.
Although more people are familiar with bipolar disorder, BPD is actually more common. It affects 2 percent of the adult population. Young women are at highest risk of developing BPD.
Symptoms of BPD include:
- Episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety
- Aggressive behavior
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Binge eating or spending
- Frequent changes in life goals
- Poor self-esteem
- Feelings of emptiness
- Fear of being alone
- Intense, but unstable relationships
- Suicide threats or suicide attempts
- Manipulative behavior
Bipolar disorder symptoms, on the other hand, include episodic, dramatic shifts from an overly elated mood to severe depression. During manic periods, people with bipolar disorder experience excessive energy, insomnia, irritability, racing thoughts, and difficulty concentrating. While depressed episodes lead to intense sadness, inability to enjoy activities, and suicidal thoughts.
Like those with BPD, people with bipolar disorder often engage in impulsive behavior, but they don’t tend to view their relationships in the same damaging ways as people with BPD. In BPD, people often manipulate others due to distrust and a profound fear of rejection.
Since BPD often occurs along with other psychiatric illnesses, it is not unusual for a person to have both BPD and bipolar disorder.
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder vs. BPD
Treatment for bipolar disorder involves the long-term use of mood stabilizing medications. Bipolar treatment may also involve psychotherapy, which can educate a person with bipolar disorder on how to recognize an impending manic or depressive period so it can be dealt with before it becomes a full-blown episode.
Whereas the mainstay of bipolar disorder treatment is medication, treatment for BPD typically centers around psychotherapy, either group or individual therapy. Anti-depressant medications may also be prescribed, depending on the individual’s specific symptoms.
Both bipolar disorder and BPD are serious mental illnesses that should be managed by a mental health professional.
Self-Absorption and Bipolar Disorder
Mental health disorders are often understood. A person who has never struggled with bipolar disorder may see the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes as signs of the following:
- Demanding behavior
A person with bipolar is none of these things, but their symptoms can be misunderstood. They struggle during manic and depressive episodes. This struggle can come across as something other than the mental health issue it is. It can look like self-absorption when others do not understand the physical, psychological and emotional effects of the disorder.
Self-Absorption and Manic Episodes of Bipolar Disorder
Manic episodes of bipolar disorder provide an individual with a surge of energy and heightened mood.
These episodes are characterized by the following:
- Grandiose behavior
- Racing thoughts
- Spastic speech
- Increased activity levels
- Aggressive behavior
- Hypersensitive emotions
Grandiosity is a key sign of a manic episode. Psych Central explains, “Inflated self-esteem is typically present, ranging from uncritical self-confidence to marked grandiosity, and may reach delusional proportions.”1 This means self-absorption is a symptom, not a personality trait. It may simply be an individuals’ attempt to capitalize on the energy, confidence and activity that comes with a manic bipolar episode.
Improved mood and energy levels can make bipolar individuals feel alive especially if they have recently experienced a depressive episode.
At this time individuals may feel supercharged to fix the problems in their life, take control and make positive changes. Because of this bipolar individuals’ thoughts are usually preoccupied by achieving self-improvement and tackling new projects. This can come off as self-absorption. Racing flights of thought, an inability to focus and impulsiveness can also make bipolar individuals appear self-absorbed or too busy to care about others’ thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Self-Absorption and Depressive Episodes of Bipolar Disorder
Depressive episodes of mania can also look like self-absorption or self-centered behavior. Depression causes individuals to withdraw from others and even themselves.
As The Guardian explains, “Depression is a disease of loneliness. Many untreated depressives lack friends because it saps the vitality that friendship requires and immures its victims in an impenetrable sheath, making it hard for them to speak or hear words of comfort.”2
Depression causes emotional despair, feelings of sadness and hopelessness and physical exhaustion and fatigue. Individuals with depression often isolate themselves due to these extreme feelings of sadness or tiredness. Depression can cause a person to avoid relationships, responsibilities, social encounters, activities, intimacy and work. This can be falsely identified as self-absorbed behavior at a time when someone needs social support and understanding the most.
Can You Cure Bipolar Disorder?
Because bipolar disorder is a chronic or lifelong condition, treatment options must consider the long-term picture. The most successful treatment options are the ones that individuals can easily incorporate into their life and maintain for the long haul.
While medications may be appropriate for short-term periods or limited use, they are not always a good decision for long-term use since they come with a risk of tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Combining medicinal treatment options with behavioral therapies, counseling, self-help groups, psychotherapies and skills training can be very effective.
With the right treatment, an individual can manage bipolar disorder symptoms. He or she can find or return to a normal, balanced life. There are several treatment options for bipolar disorder, and any one of these can work for you or a loved one. What works for one individual will not necessarily work for everyone, but with a customized treatment plan, you can find the right, most effective options.
Treatment can be supplemented with simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, exercising and making time to relax, de-stress or get in touch with one’s spiritual side. An integrated treatment plan offers tools, skills and techniques for accomplishing this as well.
Find Help for Managing the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
If you would like to learn more about your options for treating bipolar disorder, give us a call. We’re available 24 hours a day at 615-490-9376, to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. We can also find and connect you with the treatment and recovery services that are right for you and your unique needs.
Whether you are seeking information or you are ready to find treatment today, we can help. You can manage your bipolar disorder; call and learn how.
1 Bressert, Steve. “Manic Episode Symptoms.” Psych Central. 15 Jan. 2018.
2 Solomon, Andrew. “Depression Is a Disease of Loneliness.” The Guardian.16 Aug. 2014.
Bipolar Disorder and Relationships
When you have a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder, navigating relationships can be difficult. Not only is it difficult to overcome the self-limiting factors those with bipolar disorder may place on themselves, but it’s difficult to get over the limitations that may externally be placed on a person with bipolar disorder. These are challenges that can feel impossible to overcome but people with bipolar disorder can have social and intimate relationships, and what’s more, doing so can even improve their mental health.
Internal Struggles of Those with Bipolar and Relationships
If you have a very serious illness that requires daily care, this impacts your ability to make connections with others. This statement is obvious to many, but few people have thought about it through the lens of a mentally ill person.
The first thing that may challenge a person with bipolar disorder to create relationships is self-stigma (or internalized stigma) leading to self-created isolation. Self-stigma is where a person internalizes the negative messages he or she receives about those with mental illness. It is a state wherein people feel bad about themselves and have low self-esteem because society’s messages about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses tend to be so derogatory. When a person feels bad about him or herself it can be very difficult to initiate connections with others. People with bipolar, then, may avoid relationships simply because they don’t feel good enough for other people. Sometimes these feelings even come on quickly and cause those with mental illnesses to push away others in existing relationships. This can lead to social isolation.
The second thing that may impact the ability of a person with bipolar disorder to have relationships is routine. Those with a mental illness may rely heavily on a routine for wellness. This may mean going to bed early, sleeping longer than average, scheduling meals precisely, not being able to skip exercising and more. A strict schedule containing many of these components may force the person with bipolar to forgo nighttime gatherings, parties, places where alcohol is served, and other events that don’t fit into his or her timetable.
It’s also important to remember that the symptoms of a mood disorder – uncontrolled periods of severe mood changes – can also cause breaks, either temporary or long-term, in relationships.
External Struggles of Relationships and Bipolar Disorder
Moreover, not only do some people with bipolar disorder feel bad about themselves because of the negative societal messages about mental illness, but others may feel that those with bipolar disorder are lesser-than as well. Prevalent messages about those with bipolar disorder include:
- People with bipolar disorder can’t be trusted.
- People with bipolar disorder can’t be sexually faithful.
- People with bipolar disorder are violent or dangerous.
- People with bipolar disorder are unpredictable.
- People with bipolar disorder are manipulative.
- People with bipolar disorder can’t control their anger.
These messages and so many others may make people look at those with bipolar disorder as unsuitable for relationships of any type. These myths place a wall between those with bipolar disorder and others. This can lead to:
- Forced isolation from peer groups.
- Relationships being abandoned once a bipolar disorder diagnosis is discovered
- Every problem in a relationship being blamed on bipolar disorder.
- Social pressure not to be in a relationships with a person with bipolar disorder.
- Discrimination against those with bipolar disorder.
- Abuse against those with bipolar disorder.
So not only are people with bipolar disorder faced with feeling bad about themselves, but they are also faced with others’ prejudice against them as well. In this environment it’s no wonder that those with bipolar disorder find relationships difficult.
The Benefits of Relationships for Those with Bipolar Disorder
Nevertheless, this does not mean that people with bipolar disorder don’t want relationships. Many with bipolar disorder do want social connections with others.
Additionally, putting effort into relationships is definitely worthwhile for a person’s health. Social relationships are known as protective factors when it comes to health. In fact, studies actually show an increased risk of death among those with few social relationships. One study found, “lower levels of social embeddedness and social support increased the relative rate of suicide attempt.” Both short- and long-term effects from relationships are felt on mental health, health behavior and physical health.
So What’s a Person with Bipolar Disorder to Do About Relationships?
It’s not easy to overcome the hurdles of relationships presented to those with bipolar disorder.
The key thing to remember is not to generalize and that those with bipolar disorder cannot be judged as a group any more than any other group. One person with bipolar disorder may have trouble controlling his or her anger, but this doesn’t mean that all with bipolar disorder do. One person with bipolar disorder may have a string of relationships in which he or she hurts the other person, but certainly, not all people with bipolar disorder do. Internalizing the idea that you will hurt others because of a mental illness is simply false and defeating, as is the notion that someone with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder will hurt you simply because of a medical condition.
No one would suggest that those with cancer make substandard social connections because of their illness and no one should assume that might be the case because of a mental illness either.
How to Spot Manipulation
We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, it’s veiled hostility, and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.
If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on because it feels familiar. You might have a gut feeling of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy, so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also easy prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths, and other codependents, including addicts.
Favorite weapons of manipulators are: guilt, complaining, comparing, lying, denying (including excuses and rationalizations), feigning ignorance, or innocence (the “Who me?” defense), blame, bribery, undermining, mind games, assumptions, “foot-in-the-door,” reversals, emotional blackmail, evasiveness, forgetting, fake concern, sympathy, apologies, flattery, and gifts and favors. Manipulators often use guilt by saying directly or through implication, “After all I’ve done for you,” or chronically behaving needy and a helpless. They may compare you negatively to someone else or rally imaginary allies to their cause, saying that, “Everyone” or “Even so and so thinks xyz” or “says xyz about you.”
Some manipulators deny promises, agreements, or conversations, or start an argument and blame you for something you didn’t do to get sympathy and power. This approach can be used to break a date, promise, or agreement. Parents routinely manipulate with bribery — everything from, “Finish your dinner to get dessert,” to “No video games until your homework is done.”
I was bribed with a promise of a car, which I needed in order to commute to summer school, on the condition that I agree to go to the college that my parents had chosen rather than the one I’d decided on. I always regretted taking the bribe. When you do, it undermines your self-respect.
Manipulators often voice assumptions about your intentions or beliefs and then react to them as if they were true in order to justify their feelings or actions, all the while denying what you say in the conversation. They may act as if something has been agreed upon or decided when it hasn’t in order to ignore any input or objection you might have.
The “foot-in-the-door” technique is making a small request that you agree to, which is followed by the real request. It’s harder to say no, because you’ve already said yes. The reversal turns your words around to mean something you didn’t intend. When you object, manipulators turn the tables on you so that they’re the injured party. Now it’s about them and their complaints, and you’re on the defensive.
Fake concern is sometimes used to undermine your decisions and confidence in the form of warnings or worry about you.
Emotional blackmail is abusive manipulation that may include the use of rage, intimidation, threats, shame, or guilt. Shaming is a method to create self-doubt and make you feel insecure. It can even be couched in a compliment: “I’m surprised that you of all people would stoop to that!” A classic ploy is to frighten you with threats, anger, accusations, or dire warnings, such as, “At your age, you’ll never meet anyone else if you leave,” or “The grass isn’t any greener,” or playing the victim: “I’ll die without you.”
Blackmailers may also frighten you with anger, so you sacrifice your needs and wants. If that doesn’t work, they sometimes suddenly switch to a lighter mood. You’re so relieved that you’re willing to agree to whatever is asked. They might bring up something you feel guilty or ashamed about from the past as leverage to threaten or shame you, such as, “I’ll tell the children xyz if you do xyz.”
Victims of blackmailers who have certain disorders, such as borderline or narcissistic personality disorders, are prone to experience a psychological fog. This acronym, invented by Susan Forward, stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt. The victim is made to feel afraid to cross the manipulator, feels obligated to comply with his or her request, and feels too guilty not to do so. Shame and guilt can be used directly with put-downs or accusations that you’re “selfish” (the worst vice to many codependents) or that “You only think of yourself,” “You don’t care about me,” or that “You have it so easy.”
Codependents are rarely assertive. They may say whatever they think someone wants to hear to get along or be loved, but then later they do what they want. This is also passive-aggressive behavior. Rather than answer a question that might lead to a confrontation, they’re evasive, change the topic, or use blame and denial (including excuses and rationalizations), to avoid being wrong. Because they find it so hard to say no, they may say yes, followed by complaints about how difficult accommodating the request will be. When confronted, because of their deep shame, codependents have difficulty accepting responsibility, so they deny responsibility and blame or make excuses or make empty apologies to keep the peace.
Codependents use charm and flattery and offer favors, help, and gifts to be accepted and loved. Criticism, guilt, and self-pity are also used to manipulate to get what they want: “Why do you only think of yourself and never ask or help me with my problems? I helped you.” Acting like a victim is a way to manipulate with guilt.
Addicts routinely deny, lie, and manipulate to protect their addiction. Their partners also manipulate, for example, by hiding or diluting an addict’s drugs or alcohol or through other covert behavior. They may also lie or tell half-truths to avoid confrontations or control the addict’s behavior.
Passive-aggressive behavior also can be used to manipulate. When you have trouble saying no, you might agree to things you don’t want to, and then get your way by forgetting, being late, or doing it halfheartedly. Typically, passive-aggression is a way of expressing hostility. Forgetting “on purpose” conveniently avoids what you don’t want to do and gets back at your partner, such as forgetting to pick up your spouse’s clothes from the cleaners. Sometimes, this is done unconsciously, but it’s still a way of expressing anger. More hostile is offering desserts to your dieting partner.
The first step is to know with whom you’re dealing. Manipulators know your triggers. Study their tactics and learn their favorite weapons. Build your self-esteem and self-respect. This is your best defense.
Also, learn to be assertive and set boundaries. Read How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits. Contact me at for a free report, “12 Strategies to Handle Manipulators.”
©Darlene Lancer 2014
How to Spot Manipulation
14 Lies People With Bipolar Disorder (Sometimes) Tell
Everyone deserves to be honest about how they’re doing, but unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury. Whether because your family members don’t “get it,” your boss would never let you have a mental health day, or you’re too nervous to tell your friends how you’re really doing, if you live with bipolar disorder, you might find yourself telling a lie every once in a while to get through it all.
From lying about whether or not you’re manic, to pretending your medication helps you with a different condition, we asked people in our bipolar disorder community to share with us one lie they tell that relates to their life with bipolar disorder.
If you’ve said any of these lies, you’re not alone. As a society, we need to do a better job empowering people with bipolar disorder so they can be more honest about how they’re doing. Manic, depressed, “stable” and everything in between — there’s no shame in however you’re feeling today, and we hope you have at least one person you can be honest with.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “I’m just tired.”
“Most of the time I want to tell them it’s a depressive episode. Most of the time I want to tell them it’s a bad one. But this is always what I revert to. Sometimes for the simple fact that I’m too mentally exhausted to explain what I’m enduring, and other times I say this because I don’t want to get ‘the look.’ That cynical one where I know they think I’m lying or exaggerating or ‘bipolar blaming.’” — Kristy H.
2. “I want to be alone.”
“I don’t really want to be alone, but I’m afraid of saying or doing something to hurt my friends. I want them to pursue me and reach out and not let me be alone in my dark moments.” — Lieryn B.
3. “It’s no big deal.”
“I thrive off routine, so when someone cancels, it really throws me off. But ‘it’s no big deal.’ When I’m in a depressive episode, I cry over everything. ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Oh, it’s no big deal.’ ‘What’s it like being manic?’ ‘Oh, it’s no big deal, really.’ I lie by omitting just how hard my bipolar diagnosis affects my life. — Kaitlyn L.
4. “I’ll manage on my own.”
“‘Thanks for offering to let me talk, I think I’ll manage though.’ I’ve had a lot of people cut contact with me because they find my depressive episodes overbearing. I was even threatened once because a person felt I relied too much on them, even though they never told me anything but, ‘You never bother me.’ So even when I have a deep need to talk, I rather just isolate myself for a week or two until I can fake feeing better than I do. I don’t want to be threatened again and I don’t want people to resent me.” — Andrea G.
5. “Yeah, I took my medication.”
“Sometimes self-care is hard and everyone always mentions showering and getting dressed, but honestly sometimes I think I sabotage myself into ruts by skipping my meds.” — Carrie L.
6. “I’m not feeling well.”
“This is what I say when I have to miss work because I just can’t function. My boss knows about my bipolar disorder, but I feel like I shouldn’t have to tell her, ‘I’m feeling very manic, and I might say something I shouldn’t to a difficult patron.’ Or, ‘I’m so depressed that the thought of taking a shower for work is making me cry.’” — Callie A.
“‘I’m was out sick,’ or ‘I’m just not feeling good today.’ I say these things at work when my meds are off or I’m just having a dark day. For the weeks I’ve spent in the hospital or just trying to explain why I was out for a few days, and on occasion even why I’ve had to frantically leave work early, this is all I know how to respond with. When I say I’m sick or not feeling well, people just assume it’s something physical. No one at work ever knows that I’m battling an invisible demon. Not a soul at work will know this because all though I ‘don’t feel good,’ I still walk in wearing a smile.” — Felicia C.
“‘I’m just tired,’ or, ‘I don’t feel good’ is usually what I say. I don’t want anyone to think I can’t handle life even though deep inside that is exactly what I’m battling. When I’m on edge or having an episode, I often try to distract or stay busy, but the minute my routine breaks, I become agitated and it heightens the awareness of my disorder.” — Nicole L.
7. “I’m medicated now, so it’s not a problem anymore.”
“The truth: I am medicated. The lie: it’s not over. When my disorder comes up, especially at work, I have to make others believe I’m a functioning person and that my disorder doesn’t define me. I don’t want them to assume what my personal life might be like, whether it’s functional or tumultuous, like it was before medication. My bipolar disorder still affects my every day and will always be a factor in my life, but that shouldn’t shine a negative light on me as a person.” –Shannon D.
“‘I’m a lot better on my meds.’ Truth is I still have terrible days.” — Kelly J.
8. “I’m not manic.”
“I tell others I’m not in a manic episode to avoid the assumption that I’m incompetent to make my own decisions and choices. It’s a matter of thinking, ‘I’m an adult, I can make my own choices.’” — Linsey M.
“No, I am not in a manic phase, this is how I am supposed to be. Knowing full well I am hiding the really manic parts and it is really getting out of hand if my husband is calling me out on it.” — Tammy H.
9. “Yes, I’m manic.”
“’Oh yeah, I’m still manic.’ I find myself lying to my family and friends about whether I’m manic or depressed. It’s more acceptable to them to be manic because I’m functional then.” — Elyana F.
10. “I’ll be OK, don’t worry.”
“‘I’ll be OK, don’t worry’ when people notice that I’m no longer elated and happy and that I fall into a deep depression. People can see on my face that I’m not OK. I always tell them this to put on a facade that I’m strong, but I’m always on the verge of tears and don’t want to bring other people down.” — Michelle S.
“‘I’ll be OK, don’t worry.’ When really I’m not OK and someone should really be worried.” — Brittany B.
“‘It’s not that bad, I’ll be OK!’ I try to downplay how horrible my impulsiveness and my mood swings can be so people won’t worry about why I’m suddenly spending all my money, or how I can have suicidal or self-deprecating thoughts when I was happy only moments before; I already feel like I’m enough of a burden to them without scaring them more.” — Chantel S.
11. “My hands are shaking because of all the coffee I drank!”
“‘No, it’s tremors from my meds.’” — Anna S.
12. “My medication is for .”
“Sometimes I lie about the medication I take. ‘It’s for my heart. I have an increased heart rate, so this keeps it a stable rate.’ Having an increased heart rate isn’t a lie. I don’t like the judgment of someone telling me that I shouldn’t take meds or that I’m ‘poisoning’ myself. I also hate the story of, ‘Yeah, I took meds once and it turned me into a zombie. So I stopped taking them.’ Medication is sometimes trial and error. It took a while before my doctor got it right. ” — Kat C.
“I tell people I take sleeping medication. Because its easier to say I just can’t sleep rather than explaining that I’m bipolar and then later answering questions like, ‘Oh so you just jump around moods a lot.’” — Kayla H.
13. “It’s just a bad day. I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Reality: people can see me struggling and I don’t like that, so I try a force myself to cover it up better. Or, when someone asks if I’ve been crying, I lie and say my eyes are really bad today because of my meds so that’s why they look all teary, swollen, red. (I never/don’t/can’t show emotion and if I do I feel extreme weakness if I do.)” — Kim H.
14. Lying about your diagnosis in general…
“Lie by omission. It seems more acceptable to have depression. It’s common to have anxiety… But bipolar makes me sound unstable and in some people’s minds, dangerous. Bipolar disorder is too often associated with being aggressive and out of control, which is exceptionally upsetting when I’m doing everything in my power to manage it day by day.” — Shelley A.
“I lie about my diagnosis in general because of the shame I feel so often when it comes to having bipolar disorder.” — Lauren H.
“I tell people I have depression and anxiety instead… people seem to understand those more.” — Bonnie F.
Let’s try to be more honest about our mental health. If you want to read and share some bipolar “truths,” take a look at the piece below:
- 45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood
I Am Not All Lies
I was once a compulsive liar and it is something that changed people’s perceptions about me. I am not a compulsive liar anymore, but I can tell when my parents, my sister, my friends, and even my doctors question whether what I tell them is true. Some of us struggle with our past and our mistakes and we have to face those mistakes but it brings me down knowing I lost friends and some family by doing something I ironically did so I could be alive.
Lying is a touchy subject because we are playing with people who may believe something is one way, and we tell them what they know is the truth as being wrong. We play with their mind, control their reactions, and actions as we sit there most likely feeling some excitement inside that our lie is believed. I want to say my lying was special but at the time I most likely could have dealt with my scary mood swings in another, possibly more responsible way.
As I began to work through these lies with my therapists I began to see that I had a purpose with what I chose to lie about, but to me it is a weird concept knowing that I truly did have a purpose with my lies. What would my life be like if my lies had continued? Is there any difference between me and a person who compulsively lies for most of their life and doesn’t get help? And what about a person who is addicted to lying?
Bipolar is dehumanizing, and for me my lying, even though it had a purpose of saving me from myself in one perspective, was also dehumanizing. That is the hard part about something like bipolar because just like lies, our actions can build up until we do not know who we are at a million different levels. We feel the need to sort out who we are, so like any sensible person we explore our world, tweaking it, and making ourselves comfortable in this black hole of the unknown by lying, by experimenting with drugs and alcohol, overworking ourselves, or treating others who love us as though they are play toys.
Our brain is supposed to work a certain way, and when someone is struggling with a mental health condition, many things present themselves as though we are stable, but we react to these things differently compared to a stable self. This means that something else (our brain) is making the decision to lie, to take drugs, or to participate in risky business. Of course there is a time where we are taking medications, and we have to challenge ourselves to battle what our brain has trained us to be comfortable with, but these things that many people accuse us of doing purposely are in fact pleas for help.
In college I was unknowingly sick and I socialized with people that I called friends both as myself and my “bipolar self” – myself with a twist. As my bipolar became more prominent I began to define myself as my bipolar self through lying to myself and to others. I had to lie to conform to the stigma that I believed to be true: that mental illness was proof I was weak thus confessing or asking for help was too embarrassing. The truth we all should think about is what someone else would do in our position. All I was trying to do was survive, and unfortunately I found survival in my lies.
The truth is that we are who we think we are. I am a loving, compassionate, studious, comical, and committed individual towards anything and everyone I know. My lies and early signs of bipolar may have painted a picture of an unworthy, inhuman individual but I do not deserve the application that I am a liar and that I will only be a liar. All I am is someone who wants to live a fulfilling and adventurous life like everyone else and bipolar to me is a challenge in my life that I simply have to deal with. As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. We all are living a daring adventure, and in doing so, through our mistakes and challenges that bipolar may present us, we are better individuals for putting up with it all.
Why is it difficult to deal with a loved one with bipolar disorder?
Keep in mind that, beyond the behaviors their chemical imbalances create, adults with bipolar disorder endured a childhood where they sensed their moods and behaviors were not the same as those of most of their peers. As a result of this sense of difference or disconnection, they developed coping strategies that often ended up doing them a disservice eventually.
Disconnection: When young people with bipolar can’t understand or predict others’ moods and behaviors, they cope by withdrawing. Usually, they interact with one or very few people who can meet their needs.
Controlling Behaviors: When you can’t predict someone else’s behavior, one way to feel safe is to learn to control others. Control is a subtle art, and often controlling people have been practicing it for decades. A portion of the bipolar population becomes “controlling.” This at first can show up as a talkative, outgoing bent, but soon suggestions and discussions become manipulative. Examples of controlling statements include:
- “Why would you do that?”
- “Does that really make sense?”
- “Only an insecure person would think that way.”
These habits can be so ingrained they may never be rectified.
Drug/Alcohol Abuse: The feelings someone with bipolar disorder experiences can be so overwhelming, the only way out is with street drugs. A significant proportion of those who abuse alcohol and narcotics have an underlying mood disorder, particularly bipolar disorder and depression.
Overspending: While in a mania or hypomania, someone with bipolar disorder can find all sorts of reasons to rationalize spending gobs of money on whatever their hearts desire. Those who treat their bipolar disorder often let their spouses control the money, particularly when they recognize a mania coming on. This may involve the other spouse keeping the credit cards or even the car keys.
Irritability: People with bipolar disorder and even those with depression can experience uncontrollable irritability. A spouse often serves as an outlet for their overwhelming anger, but so can children, other drivers and other family members.
Grandiosity: The imbalance of chemicals in the brain can cause those with bipolar disorder to have inflated images of themselves. They may feel they’re more talented or more psychic than most. They may posit that they’re needed to take care of governmental or worldwide problems.
Paranoid, agitated, and manipulative
Mrs. M, age 39, presents to the emergency department (ED) with altered mental status. She is escorted by her husband and the police. She has a history of severe alcohol dependence, bipolar disorder (BD), anxiety, borderline personality disorder (BPD), hypothyroidism, and bulimia, and had gastric bypass surgery 4 years ago. Her husband called 911 when he could no longer manage Mrs. M’s agitated state. The police found her to be extremely paranoid, restless, and disoriented. Her husband reports that she shouted “the world is going to end” before she escaped naked into her neighborhood streets.
On several occasions Mrs. M had been admitted to the same hospital for alcohol withdrawal and dependence with subsequent liver failure, leading to jaundice, coagulopathy, and ascites. During these hospitalizations, she exhibited poor behavioral tendencies, unhealthy psychological defenses, and chronic maladaptive coping and defense mechanisms congruent with her BPD diagnosis. Specifically, she engaged in splitting of hospital staff, ranging from extreme flattery to overt devaluation and hostility. Other defense mechanisms included denial, distortion, acting out, and passive-aggressive behavior. During these admissions, Mrs. M often displayed deficits in recall and attention on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), but these deficits were associated with concurrent alcohol use and improved rapidly during her stay.
In her current presentation, Mrs. M’s mental status change is more pronounced and atypical compared with earlier admissions. Her outpatient medication regimen includes lamotrigine, 100 mg/d, levothyroxine, 88 mcg/d, venlafaxine extended release (XR), 75 mg/d, clonazepam, 3 mg/d, docusate as needed for constipation, and a daily multivitamin.
The authors’ observations
Delirium is a disturbance of consciousness manifested by a reduced clarity of awareness (impairment in attention) and change in cognition (impairment in orientation, memory, and language).1,2 The disturbance develops over a short time and tends to fluctuate during the day. Delirium is a direct physiological consequence of a general medical condition, substance use (intoxication or withdrawal), or both (Table).3
Delirium generally is a reversible mental disorder but can progress to irreversible brain damage. Prompt and accurate diagnosis of delirium is essential,4 although the condition often is underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed because of lack of recognition.
DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for delirium
- Disturbance of consciousness (ie, reduced clarity of awareness of the environment) with reduced ability to focus, sustain or shift attention
- A change in cognition (such as memory deficit, disorientation, language disturbance) or the development of a perceptual disturbance that is not better accounted for by a preexisting, established, or evolving dementia
- The disturbance develops over a short period of time (usually hours to days) and tends to fluctuate during the course of the day
- There is evidence from the history, physical examination, or laboratory findings demonstrating that:
Source: Reference 3
Patients who have convoluted histories, such as Mrs. M, are common and difficult to manage and treat. These patients become substantially more complex when they are admitted to inpatient medical or surgical services. The need to clarify between delirium (primarily medical) and depression (primarily psychiatric) becomes paramount when administering treatment and evaluating decision-making capacity.5 In Mrs. M’s case, internal medicine, neurology, and psychiatry teams each had a different approach to altered mental status. Each team’s different terminology, assessment, and objectives further complicated an already challenging case.6
EVALUATION: Confounding results
The ED physicians offer a working diagnosis of acute mental status change, administer IV lorazepam, 4 mg, and order restraints for Mrs. M’s severe agitation. Her initial vital signs reveal slightly elevated blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg) and tachycardia (115 beats per minute). Internal medicine clinicians note that Mrs. M is not in acute distress, although she refuses to speak and has a small amount of dried blood on her lips, presumably from a struggle with the police before coming to the hospital, but this is not certain. Her abdomen is not tender; she has normal bowel sounds, and no asterixis is noted on neurologic exam. Physical exam is otherwise normal. A noncontrast head CT scan shows no acute process. Initial lab values show elevations in ammonia (277 μg/dL) and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (68 U/L). Thyroid-stimulating hormone is 1.45 mlU/L, prothrombin time is 19.5 s, partial thromboplastin time is 40.3 s, and international normalized ratio is 1.67. The internal medicine team admits Mrs. M to the intensive care unit (ICU) for further management of her mental status change with alcohol withdrawal or hepatic encephalopathy as the most likely etiologies.
Mrs. M’s husband says that his wife has not consumed alcohol in the last 4 months in preparation for a possible liver transplant; however, past interactions with Mrs. M’s family suggest they are unreliable. The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment (CIWA) protocol is implemented in case her symptoms are caused by alcohol withdrawal. Her vital signs are stable and IV lorazepam, 4 mg, is administered once for agitation. Mrs. M’s husband also reports that 1 month ago his wife underwent a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) procedure for portal hypertension. Outpatient psychotropics (lamotrigine, 100 mg/d, and venlafaxine XR, 75 mg/d) are restarted because withdrawal from these drugs may exacerbate her symptoms. In the ICU Mrs. M experiences a tonic-clonic seizure with fecal incontinence and bitten tongue, which results in a consultation from neurology and the psychiatry consultation-liaison service.
Dating during your twenties is an experience in itself, but when you live with a severely stigmatized condition like bipolar disorder, dating can really be a challenge. As a 28-year-old mental health advocate who is publicly open about her life with bipolar II disorder, I have often experienced stigma in my dating life. Bipolar disorder is a part of me, and I am not ashamed of my condition, in fact, it is the opposite, I embrace it. However, dating—when you live with a mental health condition—can be complicated: When should you tell your date about your diagnosis? Should you even tell them at all? Will they think of you differently once they know? You have self-doubt, you question yourself, and mainly you assume you are the underdog in romantic relationships. When I accepted my diagnosis and life with bipolar disorder, I finally found my confident self, but I had to overcome some obstacles to get there.
I was in a toxic relationship where I was gaslighted by my boyfriend: he manipulated me into questioning my own sanity. He turned out to be a miserable person all around. We started dating around three years after my diagnosis—when I was just starting to publish my blog and open up about my struggle with mental health. Slowly he began to use my diagnosis of bipolar against me. In his mind, everything I said or did was a result of my mood disorder. When I suspected him of cheating, he made me feel as though bipolar prompted delusional ways of thinking. I questioned myself and my sanity, which was the wrong thing to do. But it was not long before concrete evidence of him cheating on me surfaced.
Rejected Because of Bipolar
After our breakup, it took me almost a year to feel like I could start dating again. When I finally got back into the dating world, I was very skeptical of people. I went into dates automatically on the defense. My guard was up and still is today. Past experiences with dating also include people asking about my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. On some dates, I have felt more like a therapist or consultant than a woman being courted. I have had men reject me based on my openness about bipolar disorder and tell me they don’t feel comfortable dating someone with “those types of issues.” There have been many dates where stigma plays a role, but I pay no attention to it anymore. These experiences have only made me stronger and more confident.
What I Know Now
Bipolar disorder does the dirty work for me and filters out individuals who tiptoe through life. The fact is, we all have issues, whether you live with bipolar disorder or not. And if someone won’t give you a chance because of a label, consider yourself lucky. Today I approach dating with one purpose— to have fun. Dating experiences can teach you a lot about yourself. In an attempt to mask my vulnerability, I have found that I can be a bit harsh and overly confident in some situations.
Living with bipolar disorder gives you a very different perspective on the world around you. You look for meaning and depth in everything. We behave based on what we feel, not necessarily what we know is right or wrong. Sometimes this can lead us to be irresponsible and careless, but if handled properly, can actually be a gift to another person.
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In my opinion, everyone benefits from getting to know someone who is unlike them. I believe individuals with bipolar or any mental health condition add depth and understanding to a person’s life. We live in a society right now that lacks empathy and is void of emotion. The most empathetic people I know live with bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety.
My dating experiences have opened me up to individuals who are very different from me as well. I have learned a lot from men I’ve been romantically involved with—including the ones who have treated me poorly. It is important for people to remember that challenges are inevitable in romantic relationships regardless of if your partner has a mental health condition or not.
My advice to those who live with bipolar disorder and ready to enter the dating world is to make sure you are confident in yourself. Do not assume you are the underdog because you live with a mental health condition. Self-love and self-acceptance are so important when it comes to dating with bipolar disorder.
I never used to be a big fan of self-help books, but two books that have really helped me gain confidence are: “You Are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero, and “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. Give them a read for yourself and see how you can incorporate self-love into your life.
When you’re first getting to know someone I’d suggest letting the person get to know your character before opening up about your condition. It is not necessary for you to reveal your diagnosis up front. Wait until you feel comfortable, and believe that the other person deserves to hear about that part of your life. Know that you are a capable and unique individual who has something special to add to another person’s life. Remind yourself of that on a daily basis, and go into dating feeling proud of your differences.
Last Updated: Feb 1, 2020