If you are in the process of considering whether or not to date someone who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder you’ve come to the right place. There are some very important questions to ask yourself and your potential partner before you dive in, feet first. Here’s the upside, in asking these questions and opening the dialogue about your potential partner’s diagnosis you will create a safe space for talking about it. If you decide to pursue a relationship, that safe container you created will become your lifeline if symptoms ever start to show up again. And that’s a sign of a healthy relationship.
Did you know this is one of the top asked questions about Bipolar Disorder? Personally, I’m not surprised. As a single woman who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I asked myself, when should I tell someone about my Bipolar diagnosis? At one point I even wondered, should I cut through the clutter and just straight up put it on my Tinder profile?
The social stigma around Bipolar Disorder is real and so is the confusion. If you’re wondering if you should date someone with Bipolar Disorder it probably means that there is a special someone who has entered your life. Congratulations! To support you, I thought it might be helpful to explain what Bipolar Disorder is from my experience and how I would evaluate the choice of dating someone who has been diagnosed.
First question, what is Bipolar Disorder?
A simple Google search can tell you that Bipolar Disorder is “a disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs” and “manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.”
What? You don’t want to date someone on an emotional roller coaster that is sometimes completely detached from reality? I get it. And I can assure you that most people who have received this diagnosis don’t want to get on that roller coaster either. It’s an incredibly scary ride. Which is why diagnosis and treatment are so important.
Second question, what is a person with Bipolar Disorder really like?
Just like you. And me. People who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder are just like everyone else. The difference is that there is a process that can happen inside of our brains that can disconnect our touch with reality and replace it with another version. Where someone goes during a Bipolar episode is very specific to an individual’s unique circumstances. In my story, the version of reality that replaced my true reality was one full of fear, anxiety and unprocessed childhood trauma. My behavior was erratic, my speech was fast and my thoughts were incoherent. It has been a terrifying place and I’ll be honest, it’s one that requires a special kind of partner to witness and support someone through. To say it isn’t for the faint of heart is an understatement.
It requires love, commitment, empathy and a tremendous amount of compassion. Just like every relationship. Further, it requires communication beforehand to understand and create an emergency action plan you all agree to. And it requires strong partners who can take charge and follow and execute an emergency plan if a manic episode were to ever occur.
Third question, can Bipolar Disorder go away?
Medical documentation states that Bipolar Disorder is a lifelong diagnosis. This is one of the reasons I personally struggled so much with accepting my diagnosis. It felt like a life sentence. The truth is that scientists don’t fully understand the cause of Bipolar Disorder and therefore have not yet developed a cure. If you don’t understand the root cause, it’s impossible to isolate the variables that will lead to a cure. However, the advancements in neuroscience are accelerating faster than ever and the possibility for a cure still exists, we just haven’t found it yet.
Fourth question, can a person with Bipolar Disorder feel love?
Absolutely! In fact, people with Bipolar Disorder can feel the FULL range of emotions at an intensity that few can understand. Love can be felt at a level that causes your body to shudder and your heart to open. However, the ability to feel love is also dependent on whether or not someone has done their own internal work. If someone has a traumatic relationship history and that hasn’t been healed, they may be unable to receive love, regardless of whether or not they’ve received a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis. No matter who you are considering dating it’s important to understand their prior relationship history, any traumas and how those have been processed and healed.
Fifth question, is the person ON or OFF of their Bipolar Disorder treatment plan?
The likelihood of a Bipolar episode occurring for someone who has been diagnosed has a lot to do with whether or not someone is following their treatment plan. Unfortunately, some people choose to go off of their treatment plans when they feel better, only to find themselves right back where they started or in an even bigger hole. If you are considering dating someone who has been diagnosed, it is important to understand how they perceive their treatment plan and whether or not they are committed to it. Untreated Bipolar Disorder with someone who doesn’t prioritize their wellness can set up a battlefield for emotional whiplash on all sides. That’s coming from someone who ignored her diagnosis for over 2 years and witnessed the turmoil it can cause left untreated. That being said, if the person understands their diagnosis AND is committed to their treatment plan you can trust that their mental health is their priority. That is a great starting point.
Sixth question, can a person with Bipolar Disorder have an episode even if they are on their treatment plan?
Yes. That’s the simple truth. It’s not uncommon for Bipolar treatments and medications to stop working and/or need to be adjusted over time. These adjustments are often the result of symptoms beginning to appear. If caught early these adjustments can prevent another episode. However, if not discussed with a treatment provider they can escalate into a full blown episode. This is why it is so important to have an open dialogue about symptoms and emergency plans before you need them.
Seventh question, can a person with Bipolar Disorder have a healthy relationship?
A person’s ability to have a healthy relationship is dependent on many factors, their relationship with their Bipolar Diagnosis being one of them. If you are considering dating someone and you want to know if there is a potential for a healthy relationship focus less on their diagnosis and focus more on your compatibility. It’s not the diagnosis you need to be compatible with…it’s the human behind the diagnosis.
One of the biggest misses in dating is not taking the time to look into common factors related to compatibility. I’d want to know the person’s Love Language, their Myers Briggs, their Human Design, and their Astrological Sign as a starting point for evaluating compatibility. We often forget that most of our behavior is controlled by unconscious programs that sit firmly in our blind spot. These simple quizzes reveal what those programs are so you can evaluate whether or not those programs will cause friction in a potential relationship.
Finally, is it OK to date someone with Bipolar Disorder?
YES! People with Bipolar Disorder LOVE just like the rest of us. It’s true that someone with Bipolar Disorder needs partners who understand that their diagnosis is one of many layers of their personality, but it isn’t the full story. Maybe that partner is you? Maybe it’s someone else? That decision is entirely up to you.
In my personal dating life I have chosen to disclose that I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder early and share the story of how I created this site. You know what? Every date I’ve told about my Bipolar Disorder diagnosis asked me out again. Take that social stigma.
I wish you all the best in your decision on whether or not to date someone with Bipolar Disorder. I appreciate that you are doing your due diligence to set you and your potential partner up for an open dialogue. That’s already a great sign for any potential relationship. For what’s next check out this post on how to create a mental health crisis checklist to support a mental health emergency and understand your potential partner’s symptoms. ,zx