You know all the symptoms of bipolar disorder: the extreme highs and lows, the risky behavior, the inability to focus. Now you’re noticing that your loved one is starting to lie. They’re little white lies at first, but soon they’re growing in extravagance and frequency.
Is their lying because of bipolar disorder, you wonder — or is it something else entirely?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects 5.7 million American adults annually. People with bipolar disorder experience dramatic mood swings. Depending on the types of bipolar disorder they have, they may experience feelings of extreme happiness or high energy (known as a manic episode) to feelings of intense sadness (known as a depressive episode).
There are three known types of bipolar disorder:
Marked by manic episodes, which may or may not precede or follow major depressive episodes.
Marked by a major depressive episode, which precedes or follows a hypomanic episode.
Cyclothymia, or cyclothymic disorder, is characterized by depressive symptoms which don’t reach the severity of a major depressive episode and symptoms that don’t reach the severity of a hypomanic episode. To be diagnosed with cyclothymia, symptoms must last for at least two years.
Although signs of the disorder vary, lying isn’t on the official list of symptoms.
There isn’t any clinical evidence that links bipolar disorder with lying, though some anecdotal accounts suggest there may be a connection. It’s thought that some people with bipolar disorder may lie as a result of:
- racing thoughts and rapid speech
- memory lapses
- impulsiveness and impaired judgment
- inflated ego or grandiosity
There are many reasons why a person with bipolar disorder may lie, just like there are many reasons why someone without bipolar disorder may lie.
They may not realize at the time that what they said was untrue. Because of this, they may give another answer or explanation later on. They may lie for self-gratification or to stroke their ego during manic episodes. They may also lie to hide alcohol or substance abuse issues.
Although a person with bipolar disorder may lie — not out of spite, but because of an episode — the stories they spin can still hurt. However frequent, lying can fracture the trust you have in your relationship. The more lies that are told, the deeper the fracture can become until the relationship is completely severed.
Losing relationships can further alienate someone with bipolar disorder. This can exacerbate their symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, known as CBT, could help your loved one identify the lying behavior, as well as what triggers the lying. CBT can teach someone how to overcome lying and develop healthier behaviors, all while in a structured environment.
Talk therapy may also help your loved one work through what they’re experiencing and learn effective coping skills. Find out about more treatments for bipolar disorder.
Addiction can occur along with bipolar disorder. This can spur and even exacerbate compulsive lying. Your loved one may be denying their addiction or may want to cover up their misdeeds. The deeper into addiction they go, the more often they may lie.
This also applies to other erratic behaviors common with the disorder, including binge drinking and compulsive gambling. A person may want to cover up their risky behaviors and associated consequences by lying.
People with bipolar disorder can turn to the International Bipolar Foundation for more information on the illness, personal stories about lying, and ways they can find treatment and help. Bipolar Lives, an online community to help people with bipolar disorder live healthy lives, also has a section on lying that may help those affected.
We also annually collect a number of the best blogs, videos, and apps, that can help anyone living with bipolar disorder and their friends and family learn more about the condition and manage their well-being. For more support, check out our Facebook community for mental health awareness.
Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can cause stress, anxiety, and pain for friends and family. Although your loved one needs help for their illness, you also need to take care of yourself. There are several coping strategies for friends and family of a person with bipolar disorder. Here are some tips to try:
Read literature on bipolar disorder
Educating yourself on the illness will give you a glimpse into what your loved one is going through. If you better understand bipolar disorder and its symptoms, as well as its connection to lying, you’ll know how to better manage it.
Create a safe space for yourself
Dealing with your loved one’s lying and other serious behavioral issues can have a profound impact on your mental and physical health. Make sure that you carve out time to take care of your own needs and practice self-care.
This could mean working out for an hour a day, taking long walks every afternoon, or scheduling weekend dinners with friends.
Talk to a therapist
Speaking with a mental health professional may help you work through any emotional or mental issues you may be facing because of your loved one’s disorder. A therapist can provide professional insight into the illness, give advice, and offer crisis management services.
You may also want to join in on one of your loved one’s therapy sessions if they feel comfortable. You can work together with the therapist on how to help them cope.
Attend family support groups
Meeting with families who are experiencing the same problems as you can bring a sense of solidarity and calm. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance has a list of local and online support groups you can reach out to.
Although scientific data may not support a connection between bipolar disorder and lying, anecdotal evidence suggests there’s a link. If your loved one is lying, try to understand that it most likely isn’t malicious.
Work with your loved one to get help for their symptoms, while still giving yourself enough emotional and mental space for self-care.