I am a Bipolar woman, will it affect my relationships?


Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy or motivation and capacity or ability to function and cope. People with bipolar disorder experience severe emotional states known as mood episodes, which occur over a span of days and weeks. Mania/hypomania (abnormally cheerful and ecstatic or irritable mood) and depressive (sad mood) are the two types of mood episodes. Bipolar disorder patients may also have periods of neutral mood.

 


Bipolar disorder is prevalent in families. In vulnerable individuals, environmental factors such as stress, sleep disturbances, and drugs and alcohol can cause mood disorders. Though the exact neurological causes of bipolar disorder remain unknown, dysregulated brain function is thought to be caused by a chemical deficiency in the brain. The average age at which symptoms appear is 25.


Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder include the following:

  • Unusually intense levels of emotions
  • Changes in sleep and activity patterns
  • Out-of-character habits

During manic episodes a person may experience:

  • Elated feelings
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Talk quickly on a wide range of topics
  • Thoughts are racing
  • Engage in risky behavior like drinking excessively, impulsive spending, reckless behaviour.

During depressive episodes a person can experience:

  • Feeling sad, low or hopeless
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up too early or too late
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Talking very slowly
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Unable to do simple tasks
  • Loss of interest and enthusiasm in activities
  • Thoughts of self-harm and suicide

Bipolar disorder in women

Women and individuals with Bipolar II are slightly more likely than men with the same disorder to go through rapid cycle and mood shifts (Damone). According to other studies, women with bipolar disorder may have more depressive episodes and mixed episodes than men with the same disorder (from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry). 

Women are more likely to have co-morbidities, such as thyroid disease, migraine, obesity, and anxiety disorders along with Bipolar Disorder. It is difficult to treat women during pregnancy and lactation. Pregnancy neither protects nor worsens bipolar disorder, and many women need to continue taking their medications while pregnant. The postpartum phase is a time when women are at a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder and having it to recur.

Bipolar disorder in women requires special attention because it varies from male counterparts in many ways. Bipolar disorder has an effect on the more significant time of a woman’s life, her reproductive years. In the Indian context, most women face numerous life stressors during this period. Lifetime prevalence rates of bipolar disorder were observed in men at 0.42% and women at 0.47%, in an American Epidemiological sample involving 8098 respondents. Bipolar II was shown to be slightly more frequent in females than in males. Women made up 60% of Bipolar II patients. Male patients outnumbered female patients in the majority of hospital-based Indian trials of bipolar disorder, but women with mania have been found to need further hospitalisation in Western studies.

Females have a later age of onset for bipolar disorder than males. Bipolar women are more likely to have depresion-mania episode pattern, while bipolar men are more likely to have a mania-depression episode pattern. After filling out a mood disorder questionnaire (MDQ), women experience considerably more disruption in their social and family lives. Women with bipolar disorder are more likely than men to have a seasonal pattern of mood disruption.


Will Bipolar Disorder affect relationships?


Any romantic relationship can have its ups and downs, but when bipolar disorder comes into the picture, it can be an emotional rollercoaster. It is overwhelming and exhausting for both partners not knowing what to expect each day. It can wear down on the relationship over time. However, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder will help strengthen a romantic relationship and enrich both partners’ lives. What is needed is to be aware of the dangers and set some ground rules for moving on with love and kindness.

Different areas of a relationship that could be affected by bipolar disorder-


1.Intimacy

During manic or hypomanic episodes, people with bipolar disorder may crave repeated intercourse. They can initiate intimacy far more frequently than usual. Usually in a manic episode, they can engage in risky behaviour like casual sex or extramarital affairs. 

The complete opposite happens when people with bipolar disorder have a depressive episode. They can stop physical contact entirely during a depressive episode. This can be puzzling or even sound like rejection, particularly if they have recently shown a strong desire for sexual intercourse when manic or hypomanic. Additionally, many bipolar disorder medications can reduce sex drive.


2.Work

Bipolar disorder can impair a person’s ability to perform well at work. It is difficult to find and keep a job while having severe mood swings, as well as manic symptoms like bad judgement and impulsivity, or depressive symptoms like low energy and disinterest. Workplace stressors can intensify or worsen these symptoms. If you have bipolar disorder and are unable to work, pressure will be intensified on your partner to provide financial assistance while managing your disorder. According to one survey, 88% of people with bipolar disorder said their illness had a negative impact on their job efficiency. About 58% of them have completely stopped working ouside their home.


3.Parenting

Many people believe parenting to be the most difficult yet rewarding task they have ever had. However, for those with bipolar disorder, any stressor, positive or negative, has the ability to set off manic or depressive episodes. Furthermore, children who look to their parents for stability can be confused or scared by the irrational behaviour associated with bipolar disorder. It is important to seek assistance in receiving and maintaining care for symptom relief in order to provide a stable and healthy environment for children. The probability of developing a mental disorder and affective disorder is 2.7 and 4 times respectively, higher in children whose parents have bipolar disorder, than children with parents without mental disorders.


How to improve relationships if you have bipolar disorder?


Maintaining a strong relationship requires work in any case, but it is more difficult if one partner has bipolar disorder. 


1.Visit couples counselling

Couples therapy is critical for resolving conflict in a relationship with a bipolar disorder patient. People with bipolar disorder may at times hurt and offend their partners. There are also interpersonal problems that need to be resolved when someone is first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Couples counselling can help with:

  • Recognising the hurtful actions triggered by the disorder.
  • Forgiving the behaviour or conduct that occurred during an altered mood.
  • Setting some ground rules with a partner on how to stay on track with the recovery.

2.Participate in treatment

Apart from you going for treatment, ask your partner to be involved with your treatment process, which could entail going to the psychiatrist together occasionally. Participating together in treatment has a variety of benefits, including:

  • Developing a greater understanding and perspective of the disorder.
  • Providing the psychiatrist with additional information.
  • Learning to recognise the warning signs of approaching episodes.
  • Notifying the psychiatrist of any variations in mood.
3.Practicing self-care

Self-care is all the rage these days, so it is especially important for partners wherein one has bipolar disorder. Both you and your partner can engage in self-care, by going to a support group, talking to a psychologist, or taking a yoga class. It is important to invest time in physical and mental health. Being in a stable relationship, necessitates not only proper care of the disorder, but also taking time out for each other, separately.

There is a reason you fell in love with each other in the first place. Focus on each other rather than the challenges, rage or the disorder. And when life gets unpredictable, remember the countless happy moments you’ve spent with each other, the ones you care for.


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