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Bipolar Boyfriend, wierd situation

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Hi, I'm 22 and have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 18 months. But recently (even though I'm about to graduate with my B.S. in Psychology) I came to the realization that my boyfriend was probably bipolar. He has always been an emotional roller-coaster and has incredible mood-swings. But I just chalked it up to the fact that he's had a hard life, and some things just set off an emotional trigger in his mind. Usually he's on more "highs" but the lows are just horrific. I'm surprised I never pieced it together, but those closest to you are hardest to notice. When I lightly asked him about it, he actually confirmed that he WAS diagnosed with bipolar disorder.


But what I'm having trouble with is the way he deals with this disorder. First off, he thinks that all psychologists and therapists are quacks and can never help him. SO therapy seems to be out for him. He doesn't take any medication and never has. Then on top of that, he has a slight alcohol vice. It already got him into trouble with another woman though, so after that incident (for me) he doesn't drink nearly as much as he DID. But whenever he DOES drink past the "tipsy" point, he turns into this monster who either gets on his knees and cries over how much he loves me OR yells and screams at me over something like burning grilled cheese and walks out the door after I beg him to stay on the couch if he has to and not go out into the city alone at night.


These stupid "fights" really upset me, and quite frankly... I am sick of them. I just want to yell back, "You're drunk you f*cking idiot! You're insane to go out in the city alone in the dark!" But of course, we all know that would only be fuel for the fire in a bipolar person.


In general, I tend to be one of those people who LIVES to help others, so I am happy to stay and help him in any way, shape or form. Everyone, including his own parents, have given up on him in his life even though he really IS a wonderful, kind-hearted man. He's a successful nurse who does anything and everything for me. These "episodes" do not really happen often (maybe once every other month), but when they do (especially under the influence of alcohol), they are crippling our relationship and I am at a loss now as to how to deal with them now. I'm sick of that "back off, he's just a ticking time-bomb" mentality, because I'M in this relationship too, and I have some things I'd like to say at times.


I DO love him dearly, and I realize that I can't help him if he won't help himself. But my query is... without sending him into a manic-angry tirade, HOW can I approach convincing him to get a possible treatment? Or HOW can I confront the idea of his QUITTING drinking altogether when he's a proficient bar-hopper? Or even HOW can I deal with this situation any better?


Any advice is good. And yes, I know eventually if he will not compromise on SOME way to help his bipolar disorder, I will just have to fold and leave him. But I really do not want to give up on him right this second.


Thanks for reading my long entry! And any idea... I'm happy to hear.

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Nothing you can do can convince him to seek treatment. Even if there was, it wouldn't matter, unless *HE* makes up his mind to do it.


You can try talking to him and let him know that the relationship is too much like a rollercoaster and that you'd like it to change. Giving him ultimatums, or trying to diagnose him is just going to push him further away from you.


Hopefully he'll be responsive and ask for input.

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This is the same problem my father has. My dad is clearly bipolar/aggressive/has an alcohol problem but won't seek help. He would never even consider it.


However, I do subtly suggest things to him.. for his own help or use, not necessarily suggestions to seek help. i.e. one day he picked me up from work. Immediately he asks how my day was. I answer that it was fine, and ask how his day was. The typical response "work is awful, i hate my life, society is corrupt, will never value the worker...i'm underpaid, my workplace is awful, etc...."


I hear this repetitively. I understand that my father hates his life and I feel bad for him for that, but at the same time... does he not have the capacity in any way to change it for the better? I understand that taxes are high, and bills are continous, but you've been complaining since... I can remember, probably since I was 5 years old. I mean... is this the way you want to live for the rest of your life? I didn't say that to him explicitly because he would have taken it really hard...


But instead I said something like "Dad, you always complain. I don't really want to listen to this anymore... if you're not happy, you can change things to be so. You can choose.. why not do things to be happy?" Something like that.


He was initially very upset for me suggesting that... because he hates being criticized. So he actually didn't talk with me for a few days because of this and that was fine, as I usually don't like talking much with my dad anyway.


But even now, probably a month or so after I made that comment, he'll still reference it like "oh I shouldn't complain though..." (even though he does still.) But he is more benign about it somehow... like he complains but he realizes it now more consciously and tries not to. And so my comment did have an impact, perhaps in some small way.


I don't really know how to change my dad necessarily, or if he can change so much.....but I think small steps might help. Telling him that what he's doing hurts you might help... so he's just more conscious of it in the future. He may not completely turn around and seek professional therapy but he may just take it into consideration more.


I hope that helped a bit... I wish I could tell you some solution, but I feel the same. However, I haev a feeling that your bf is probably more civil than my dad and you might have a better relationship with him so it might be easier to transform him for the better. my dad is too disillusioned unfortunately... and he has kids, a family, etc. so changing his life around a bit by pursuing another career... he would never do. Your bf is still young, he can find ways to make him happy and yourself happy as well.


take care,



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Approach it the same way you would someone who you didn't know was bipolar. Because that's the world he has to live in, a world that really doesn't care whether or not he's got some dx that "explains" his behaviour. All his dx does is tell you not to take things personally, and tell him not to buy into his own cr*p. That's just about all; what he does with his life, how he treats the people he claims to love, none of that is changed by the dx. He either loves you enough to stop drinking, or he doesn't. It's not your responsibility to make him want to be healthy, so look after yourself first.

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Bi-polar disorder can be very dangerous if left untreated. It usually gets worse with age, and the cycles can even swing into psychosis eventually. it is a biochemical problem that is very difficult to control except via medication and techniques to control stress and other preciptators that contribute to affecting brain chemistry and bi-polar swings. So this is something that requires professional treatment, no matter what he thinks.


It is very common for untreated bi-polars to drink. it is their way of trying to medicate themselves and take the edge off anxiety and depression and other problems that can come with this disorder. but is the absolutely WORST thing he could be doing, because alcohol contributes to depression and other brain and body chemistry changes, just complicating one problem with another.


people with this disorder who refuse to acknowledge they need help not only torture themselves but anyone else they are close to. you may at this point have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of how bad he can get. at either end of the spectrum, he could try to commit suicide, or kill someone else, or spend all your and his own money, chase after meaningless money making schemes, fight with people, have a string of affairs, decide he wants to be a monk in China, etc. etc. that is the nature of the illness, very unpredictable, and the person having it is whiplashed around constantly by their emotions.


He is assuming that he needs lots of 'talk' therapy and hence avoiding it, when for bi-polar conditions, what they really need is the medication. there are lots of good drugs out there for treatment these days, and he may do very well on one of them. but you can't make him responsble for himself, he has to do this.


so you have two problems really, the drinking and the disorder, and the drinking must stop first before the disorder can be treated, but if the disorder gets treated, his need to drink may dissipate.


you could start by telling him you will not live with a drunk, and he has to stop the drinking if he wants to continue to be with you. you can attend some Al-Anon meetings first to learn how to address these issues with him, or read up on dealing with alcholics. he will most likely insist he isn't one, but if he is constantly bar-hopping and drunk, there's your answer and the rest is denial. you are NOT helping him by trying to be 'kind' or be his shrink. you are his girlfriend, not his mother or shrink, and do not want to turn into an enabler who smooths the road for him so he can continue in his drinking and bi-polar cycles without treatment.


sometimes in these cases an intervention with the family and a professional is called for... where everyone together sits him down and he is confronted with his behavior and told that how he is behaving is injuring himself and those who love him, and that he needs treatment. he may need to check into a treatment facility for a month to deal with alcohol, and get evaluated for the proper drugs to treat his bi-polar condition.


so you might not want to try to do this on your own, but get with his family and get a professionals assistance with this.


good luck, and don't lose yourself to his problems. somebody needs to keep their wits about them and steer him into treatment, or there is no hope for him or your relationship with him.

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btw, one other point... a lot of his behavior might be other things unrelated to bi-polar, like immaturity, etc. so if he throws an 'manic-angry' fit every time you irritate him, he could just be being an immature self centered jerk rather than having over the top rage attacks caused by his disorder. if you start classifying (or excusing) every bad behavior as based on the disorder and 'he can't help it', you will have nothing but a giant spoiled toddler on your hands, because he feels no obligation to modify his behavior around people or treat them decently, since everyone tolerates his tantrums and bad behaviors and walks on eggshells around him.


so my suggestion is don't tolerate them, you shouldn't have to. walk away if he gets like that, and continue to tell him what the conditions are for continuing the relationship, i.e., stopping drinking, and treatment of his disorder.


so the only answer is professional treatment, and then you can work on the relationship to deal with normal problems, like communication, lack of respect, abusive arguments, etc.

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You probably don't want to hear this, but...


Nothing will change until he decides it will. Nothing.


These aren't just words. Sure, you don't want to give up on him - so then you are a-okay with sticking around for the bar-hopping, the episodes, possible escalation and worse?


This is the reality. You can either accept him for who he is and his decisions, or not.

If you accept it, and stay with him, that means being strong enough to deal with this - and sometimes you will be dealing with it alone.

Alone: because he is ill.


Do you really understand that through and through? Are you willing to stand by him through some really nasty stuff?


You would not be weak or selfish to walk away.

In my opinion, it shows greater strength to access a situation realistically and act accordingly regardless of how difficult it may be.


Honestly, I question: *whether he truly is bi-polar (how do you know besides your own diagnosis and because he told you? he told you, yet also says he believes they are quacks and refuses therapy/treatment! )

*whether he knows what is going on with him or not, and how this affects a relationship - and his willingness/strength to address it

*your willingness to put aside the 'helping' role and be a woman who can choose a partner who can give equally


I know I made a lot of strong statements and some assumptions, but it is something to think about. Speaking from my own experience with an ex-fiance who was ill - and got diagnosed with several (you read that right!) mental disorders which all turned out to be wrong! (He had a brain tumor, in reality)....and going through the process of watching him become less and less like the person I knew, through hell and back....sure, I was convinced I could do it and help him: but there is nothing like experience to teach you how tough it truly is. ...It isn't a joke. ....It is a real commitment to stand by somebody with serious life problems with impact on their emotions in this way....

....and how much harder must it be when someone leaves at the really gruelling times out of necessity, rather than when they are more able to cope....\

....Also, I am super super wary of anyone who seems to believe diagnosis is so simple....when the reality is: it is tough to find good help and to figure out what is wrong; it is tough and gruelling to seek treatment and to get well....people who gain the impression that pysch are quacks and can't help are sometimes right! because many ARE, and underplay their lack of knowledge to help or ability to help, their humaneness and mistakes, and when that happens it is devastating and can make it difficult to trust a 'healing proffessional' again.....


Sorry this is so long, but it is from my heart, and I hope you hear it out. Take care of yourself and please don't try to be a hero.

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I agree with everyone else. You can help him without being his girlfriend, you know. Read Martha Beck's column in the current issue of Oprah about "overhelpers" as I think she calls it. do not assume that just because you live to help others that that is necesarily a positive trait on your part or that your motivation is purely to help others. That is, it might reflect relationship issues you have that you might want to work on. I see red flags here - that you are willing to put up with his verbal harassment - you say it is because you care for him and want to help him - I have to wonder if that is really what is going on here.


Sounds a bit to me like you like to be in a position of power and control in the relationship such that if you convince him that he needs you to survive, he won't leave. Meanwhile, you feel drained and frustrated. Sometimes the best way to help an adult who will not help himself is by stopping your help which only encourages him to maintain the status quo. Sometimes you have to walk away even though you get a high out of "helping" him because you can help him more by forcing him to be independent than by being there for him in the way you are.


The Martha Beck article says it better than I can (I hope I have the author right - it is in the current issue of Oprah mag).


Also, my father has been bipolar since the 1950s. He has been good about his meds and therapy (once it was diagnosed). It has always been very tough for my mother (they married in the mid 1950s) and she is a very strong woman. Very hard on us, the children, too.


If you want to help him I hope you decide to walk away and be there only if he needs to get referrals to a professional. The more you convince yourself that you are doing this because "you live to help others" the worse it will be for the two of you. (and my guess is that your perspective is not the most healthful one for your profession because it ties you too emotionally to your work and patients - when what you need is to be able to have a professional distance and to have more going on in your life than helping others). Just my humble opinion!

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my (now ex) bf left me because i was a b. during my depressive moods. i was just unbearable to be with.



i dont blame him. there's a fine line between being selfish and taking care of yourself. you have to take care of yourself first.




and, after him leaving me, i finally am seeking professional help. dont let him take you for granted like i did with my ex.

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Can anyone with anxiety and/or depression possibly be bipolar? This could affect my wife and I.


It's hard to say. Bipolar disorder (or Manic Depression) is a mood disorder and it is characterized by BOTH intense lows and intense highs. The lows (depression) can be crippling, and the highs (mania) are crazy. You've already mentioned the anxiety/depression. If the person IS bipolar you'd spot "manic" episodes. When bipolar people are on a high they tend to go out and spend a lot of money frivolously, have racing thoughts, extreme optimism/aggression/sex drive, poor judgment, etc. Generally, they kind of have an "out-of-control" aura about them.


Depression/anxiety alone tend to make people feel "blue" or detached. But when a person is bipolar, they feel the "blue" feeling sometimes then have bouts of mania other times.




And on a side note, thank you for all the responses to my query. I took them into consideration and actually confronted my boyfriend when he was in a normal state of mind. And from what we discussed and what I have gathered on my own observations, the intensity of his manic depression is so incredibly low that he doesn't need to make a TON of drastic changes. Like I said, the "bipolar" side of him doesn't really come out unless he's intoxicated. And when I wrote this thread, we had just had a horrible fight. We don't have those fights but maybe once every other month. And I confronted him on that. So obviously I laid down the law that "I simply cannot take that side of you and it hurts me way too much." Usually he is in a normal state of mind, very careful with his money, very rational, and very focused. Apparently he went to a therapist after his divorce and that is when the therapist told him he MIGHT have a very slight case of manic depression. (This therapist was not licensed to diagnose) But this therapist angered him for whatever reason, so he went to another one (a psychiatrist) that didn't even really listen to him much and upon mentioning the "possible slight bipolar disorder", tried to convince him to go on medication. And we are BOTH believers in the fact that you don't necessarily NEED medication. I, myself, was severally depressed in high school and learned how to cope through therapy alone. It was a long and hard journey, but now I've never been better. Even John Nash, the REAL schizophrenic man portrayed in the true-story movie, "A Beautiful Mind" learned to cope and to this day, does not take medication for schizophrenia. I think the therapist and psychiatrist caught him at the lowest point in his life. Honestly, he usually is pretty normal and it is alcohol that turns him into a bipolar madman. I was apparently the first person to ever tell him that. We are going to work on that though. And if that doesn't work, he promised me he would do what he could to get another therapist. Maybe a BETTER one this time.


I very much appreciate all who took the time to respond to me. You DID help a lot. And just so you know, I realize I still need to keep surveillance on this issue and if it should worsen with age or time, I'll do what I can for him, but I'll do whatever I have to do to keep MYSELF happy and healthy first.


Thanks again!

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