When to Bring Up You’re Bipolar

You don't have to tell your newfound love interest about your condition on the first date.

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You should, however, let the person know early in the relationship. If it’s a deal breaker for him or her, it’s better to get it out in the open right away. Besides, the best beginning to a successful relationship is an honest one.

As a general guide, in personal relationships, Dr. David M. Reiss, a psychiatrist in private practice and interim medical director of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Mass., recommends discussing the issue of the bipolar disorder when and if the relationship has reached a level of closeness or intimacy where there is talk of some type of commitment, such as exclusivity.

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“I suggest preparing to discuss bipolar disorder in as unemotional terms and as much ‘plain language’ as possible,” he said. “No need to go into biochemical or psychodynamic explanations—unless a relationship has reached that level of intimacy/closeness.”

One of the biggest challenges bipolar disorder can create in relationships is the uncertainty and uneasiness of mood swings, Dr. Michael Brodsky, medical director of Bridges to Recovery, a residential treatment facility, said.

The low levels of enjoyment and withdrawal during the depression, and the inattentiveness and self-focused behavior during the mania can be discouraging to a partner, especially during the early parts of a relationship, Dr. Brodsky said.

During the mania, there is also a chance for a person with bipolar disorder to become promiscuous or hypersexual, but that isn’t a guarantee the person will.

Mania can also mean the person can be more spontaneous, creative, charismatic, inspirational, and energetic, Dr. Brodsky said.

The most important things a partner can have for someone with bipolar disorder is patience and tolerance, Dr. Brodsky said. A successful relationship involves a partner who is willing to tolerate uncertainty, learn to help the other person modify negative behavior, and is willing to let go of control.

“Trust is big,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to have the ability to control everything.”

When a partner becomes a partner in treatment, he or she can gain a better insight into how a person feels, how therapy affects them, or how to spot the changes in mood.