The Pitfalls Of Relationships Affected By Bipolar Disorder (And How To Avoid Them)

Updated February 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Relationships affected by bipolar disorder might present certain challenges. These relationships can be especially daunting if the person who has the disorder is not taking their medication, or if they are refusing treatment. Still, there may be ways to manage these relationships if you remain committed to each other. In this article, we’ll talk about why relationships affected by bipolar disorder sometimes fail, but also how these relationships can succeed.
All Relationships Have Challenges

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Before we proceed further, you should know the basics of what bipolar disorder is all about. When we discuss why bipolar relationships fail, we might need to first start with what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder is a condition that affects the brain and how someone thinks and interacts with the world. A person who has it might be affected in the areas of mood and energy level. Their ability to get through necessary day-to-day activities may be affected as well.

Four Types Of Bipolar Disorder

There are four types of bipolar disorder. They are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder

  • Bipolar II Disorder

  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia)

  • Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder is generally considered to be the most intense of the four due to its potential severity and prognosis. 

Manic Highs And Depressive Lows

Manic highs and depressive lows are sometimes referred to as mood episodes. During a manic episode, your girlfriend may have a great deal of energy. She might also say she’s feeling “jumpy” or “wired”. She may have insomnia or be more active than usual. You might notice her talking quickly and switching topics often. She may also be irritable, agitated, or touchy. She might feel as though her thoughts are going too fast. She may do risky things.  She might feel as though she can do several things at once. These manic issues can be overwhelming or confusing to those not experiencing them.

When someone with bipolar disorder is in a depressive episode, they may seem as though they are an entirely different person. They might feel “slowed down” or tired. They may not eat, or they may overeat. They might have trouble concentrating and forget things. They may feel worried or empty, and they might have a general sensation that they cannot enjoy anything. They may sleep too much, or they might have insomnia.  These depressive episodes can make it hard to care for your loved one.

Navigating a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder may require patience. Whether your girlfriend refuses treatment, or she hasn’t found a treatment that works for her, it may be hard to be with her when she’s symptomatic.

Tips And Tricks To Help Your Romance Despite Bipolar Disorder

Experiencing the unpredictable shifts in mood when a romantic partner is experiencing an episode can be difficult. When they are manic, they might seem more alert, full of energy, and vitality. But they are also probably much more prone to reckless behavior. People experiencing a manic episode may not be able to think about the future. 

At the same time, being with someone who has bipolar disorder when they are in a low period can be just as challenging. Your girlfriend may not want to do anything with you, for example, and she might have difficulty even getting out of bed. She could sleep for many hours at a time and not want to see you. This could take a toll on your romantic relationship.
All Relationships Have Challenges

Bipolar Disorder And Romance

Refusing treatment may be another reason that relationships affected by bipolar disorder fail. When the person with the condition refuses professional help, the responsibility of managing day-to-day symptoms may fall on their partner.  

Medication may be necessary for managing bipolar disorder, which requires a consultation from a doctor or psychiatrist. This medical professional can provide medical advice, diagnosis, and additional information and treatment options.  

There are several options for the treatment of bipolar disorder in addition to medication and talk therapy. Some examples include music and art therapy, yoga, and meditation. These treatments could work well in conjunction with other treatments. However, the motivation to try these things may need to come from the person experiencing bipolar disorder. It may not be advisable to force your girlfriend to do something they don't want to do. This can be hard to accept when you feel it's in her best interest.

Online Therapy For Bipolar Disorder

Some people find it difficult to seek out professional help for their bipolar disorder. For instance, many individuals with this mental illness are embarrassed by their manic symptoms and fear speaking to someone about the issues their behavior causes themselves and others, especially in a clinical setting. On the other hand, depressive symptoms may make it hard for individuals with bipolar disorder to find the energy or motivation to leave their house for a therapy session. 

Online therapy could break down some of these barriers to treatment. With internet-based counseling, a person experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder can meet with a qualified therapist from the comfort of their home. They may also find the online environment more conducive to discussing sensitive topics like the effect their condition has on their relationships. 

The idea of treating bipolar disorder via online therapy is one that’s backed by research. One study found that online mindfulness-based interventions helped individuals alleviate many of the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. Couples therapy via an online delivery method has also been recommended by many researchers in the field of psychology, so it’s possible you could attend sessions with your girlfriend. 


It can be a challenge to be in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, but love can prevail. If the two of you work together, then there may still be ways that you can be with each other. Relationships that are built on patience, understanding, and empathy may be able to withstand hardships like mental health challenges.  If you need help navigating complex relationships, contact us at BetterHelp. You can talk with one of our qualified mental health professionals who are trained to help you find peace and clarity, regardless of how you decide to move forward in your relationship. 

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