Romantic relationships are rarely simple. If one of the partners is suffering from a mental illness, they should all the more communication and compromise which will last over time. Contrary to appearances, love and bipolarity are less compatible, as long as certain requirements are met. How to lead a healthy married life? Dr Isabelle, psychiatrist and general secretary of the French Federation of Psychiatry, enlightened us.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic-depressive psychosis, is a mood disorder characterized by phases of mania and depression, interspersed with phases of forgiveness (where the mood stabilizes and becomes “normal”). “It should be distinguished from borderline disorder: in this case, the mood change is numerous and occurs on the same day. While in the classic form of bipolar disorder, the phases of deep depression and anxiety are severe (mania ) will last a few weeks ”, determines the psychiatrist. And to show:
During phases of depression or mania, the emotional and affective lives of patients are disturbed: they are extinguished or they completely worsen. What would seriously compromise the quality of vision in patients, which is more likely to develop anxiety disorders, addiction and suicidal behavior.
Identify the depressive phase
The stage of depression is marked by great difficulty in feeling happiness: anhedonia. “The feeling of love, happiness and emotional life is very strongly affected. Patients no longer have a taste for life and their self-esteem is reduced”, said Dr Isabelle Secret-Bobolakis. They may show some of these symptoms:
- a depressed mood ;
- a loss of interest or happiness ;
- a loss or increased appetite ;
- from insomnia o, sukwahi, a hypersomnia ;
- psychomotor retardation;
- severe fatigue (asthenia);
- loss of self -confidence:
- a feelings of guilt importante;
- great skepticism;
- dark thoughts, suicide or thoughts.
The risk of suicide is great during this phase! If a bipolar person is upset and expresses suicidal thoughts, it is a complete psychiatric emergency: the patient must be protected from himself and hospitalized, the psychiatrist insisted.
Identify the manic phase
The manic phase is primarily characterized by hyperactivity, excessive euphoria and ideas of grandeur. “During these stages, impulsiveness and disinhibition take the places, which encourages all kinds of action: especially at the sexual level, but also at the financial level, through careless purchases, for example “, warns the professional. The entourage of (or of) the patient may also face a form of aggression.Patients may show some symptoms:
- great euphoria ;
- a high self -esteem and sometimes megalomaniac ideas ;
- reduced need for sleep;
- great willingness to speak (logorrhea);
- confusing ideas or even in a racing mind;
- problems with attention and concentration ;
- a hyperactivity (which may result in social, professional, academic, financial, sporting or even sexual over -investment);
- dangerous behavior : forced shopping, speeding, unprotected or excessive prostitution, violent, tortious or even criminal acts, gambling, etc .;
- from psychotic symptoms : delusions, hallucinations and mind destruction.
it emotional instability inevitably has consequences on affective relationships, especially marital relationships. Especially since the disease has experienced a delay in diagnosis and is therefore slow to be treated. Once diagnosed, bipolar disorder can be controlled mood stabilizer drugs and in psychoeducational care.
Does bipolar disorder affect the ability to love?
If not in the manic or depressive phase, people with bipolar disorder are relatively rare able to recognize their feelings, emotions and give love. Difficulties come during acute phases, known as decompensation (manic and depressive phases).
People with bipolar disorder love like everyone else. They are not particularly good at forming dysfunctional couples, but the disease can end up creating difficulties, underlines Dr. Secret-Bobolakis.
If they take their treatment and ensure compliance with their follow-up, patients are completely able to maintain a strong relationship. Like every couple, it requires communication, understanding and some sacrifice.
What negative impact can bipolarity have on the couple?
Let’s face it, bipolar disorder can weaken couple relationships, but also, more broadly, socio-professional relationships. “Mood changes are not easy to deal with for the patient or their partner. Unfortunately, many unions have ended in separation or divorce. Often, the spouse can no longer bear it and throws in the towel, “said the expert.
Not everyone is always black: bipolar people always have generous, creative and sensitive personalities. But sometimes that’s not enough to recover it daily mental workload. The partner often lives in hypervigilance: he or she is constantly on the lookout for warning signs (prodromes) of a manic or depressive attack. Added to this anxiety -provoking expectation is the frustration, fear and sadness of not relieving the symptoms of the disease. Not to mention the weight of the tasks of daily life, which falls on him, when the patient enters a depressive phase (asthenia, anhedonia).
If the spouse becomes an obstacle
Another difficulty, and not the least important: in the manic phase, the bipolar person may have repeated crushes, betrayal, risking household finances, developing violent reactions, and so on. In some rare cases, placement under curatoriality (or even guardianship) is necessary, because the patient has entered a phase of denial of their disease and refuses to take their treatment. The spouse is then considered a brake, a barrier to spending money, criticism, insufficient support …
Can these relationships be long term?
“It all depends on the quality of care received by the patient (long-term follow-up, regular, managed, if possible, in the same group), the psychiatrist’s response. If the patient is treated properly and that he and his colleagues are accustomed to recognizing the prodromes of decompensation, then a couple and family life is possible in time. But keep in mind that bipolar disorder is not “good”. He’s been there all his life. ”
How to manage a relationship if you suffer from bipolarity?
People with bipolar disorder need to adopt a very strict lifestyle to best control their disease:
- getting enough sleep;
- limit the causes of stress;
- avoidance of alcohol, drugs and tobacco;
- participation in regular sporting activity;
- adopting a healthy and balanced diet;
- do not take medication (including antidepressants) without medical advice;
- and so on
The importance of monitoring and transparency
Bipolar people who want to engage in a romantic relationship need to realize that they are suffering from a psychological disorder that requires regular therapeutic follow-up. To lead a healthy relationship, the most important thing is to learn to talk to his partner about his past experiences, feelings and fears. That way, he is less confused during a mood phase.
What do I do if I am in a relationship with a bipolar person?
If you are in a relationship with a bipolar person, do not hesitate to consult with their caregivers, to ask all the questions necessary for your proper understanding of the disease. “In most cases, bipolar patients have a good level of socio-professional interaction. They are always creative, original and attractive people”, warns Dr Secret-Bobolakis.
We may be tempted at first, but we need to be aware of the issues to support all mood swings!
Maintaining an emotional relationship with a bipolar person requires knowing the person well and their history, seeking education to better understand their illness, being flexible, attentive, patient, etc. pa. You should also be able to coping with times of rejection : “Often, in the remission phase, the bipolar patient thinks he or she no longer needs care. Communication becomes difficult, dialogue often provides a way to cry and criticize. Relatives need to rely on support from reliable groups, to take care of the patient ”, insisted the specialist.
Is it dangerous to live with a bipolar person?
No, bipolar people are not dangerous for those around them. Psychiatric illnesses are not dangerous in themselves. On the other hand, Bipolar people can put themselves at risk : the risk of suicide in the depressive phase, or in poor decision making in the manic phase presents a real risk. This is especially true when the person is in possession of an addiction (alcohol, drugs, games, etc.) that can exacerbate aggressive behaviors.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help!
All “psy” illnesses have effects on the intimate group (parents, children, spouse, etc.). The life partner quickly becomes a “helper”: he or she provides moral support, emotional presence, follow-up treatment, and so on. A place that is not always easy, because not all of us have the same psychological or medical skills. So it’s important to feel surrounded, listened to and supported.
Bipolarity: what advice on living peacefully as a couple?
As with any relationship, the important thing is to listen to each other, to understand each other and to be there for each other. Some tips for maintaining a peaceful relationship with your partner:
- Communicate on both sides;
- Give time to reflect and adapt to another;
- Focus on stability (geographical, temporal, etc.);
- Expressing emotion: reassuring one’s love makes it possible for the couple to unite despite difficulties;
- Be sensitive to the emotions of others and accept them, without getting angry.
If the disease takes up a lot of space in the relationship, it is important to discuss it with health care teams, possibly after the couple’s therapy. Everyone needs to be aware of their role and their limitations. Conclusion? Having a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder is not impossible, but it does take patience and resilience.
A movie to watch to continue: The Intranquillesdirected by Joachim Lafosse with Leïla Bekhti and Damien Bonnard (2021).