What Causes Bipolar Disorder and How to Date Someone Diagnosed With It

what causes bipolar disorder

We have all seen depictions of people with bipolar disorder in the media.

Movies and television shows portray characters with bipolar disorder acting erratically. These characters change from happy to sad in a matter of moments.

But is this how people with bipolar disorder act in real life? If you stop and think about it, you will realize you probably don’t know what causes bipolar disorder.

In the United States alone, 4.4% of adults are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You may have friends and family with bipolar disorder.

So it is time to stop these media stereotypes and learn what bipolar disorder is.

Keep reading to find out what bipolar disorder is and learn how to have a relationship with someone with bipolar disorder.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

To better understand people with bipolar disorder, you first need to learn what it is.

The Mayo Clinic defines bipolar disorder as extreme mood shifts of emotional highs followed by depression or lows. These shifts affect a person’s daily life, mood, and energy levels. They are more extreme than the typical emotional fluctuation everyone experiences.

There are also different types of bipolar disorder. For example, people with bipolar I disorder have at least one week of manic behavior. The manic phase is followed by at least two weeks of a depressive low phase.

During their manic phases, people with bipolar disorder have bursts of energy. They may not sleep much. It is common for them to act on impulse.

Impulsive behavior includes expensive shopping sprees and risky business investments. They may start new projects, have an increased desire for sexual activity, and have racing thoughts.

From the outside, people can view their actions as strange and uncharacteristic.

Depressive lows follow the manic phase. When in a depressive state, people with bipolar disorder may lose interest in their everyday activities. The depressive state can affect how much they eat and sleep.

In extreme depression, people may feel worthless and have suicidal thoughts.

The other form of bipolar disorder is bipolar II disorder. People with bipolar II disorder experience hypomanic phases. These manic phases are shorter. They do not affect the individual’s daily life as much as people with bipolar I.

Everyone with bipolar disorder experiences different levels of mood swings. They can happen several times a year or hardly ever.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Doctors do not know exactly what causes bipolar disorder, though it is believed to be the result of a combination of chemical and environmental factors.

Research shows that chemical imbalances in the brain cause bipolar disorder; there is evidence that people with this disorder have faulty neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that control everything in your body. They manage your heartbeat, sleep, and feelings.

Doctors also believe there is a genetic component to bipolar disorder. Often, bipolar disorder runs in families.

Environmentally, many things in someone’s life can trigger a bipolar episode. Stressful or traumatic experiences can trigger bipolar symptoms. Examples of this include the death of a loved one or any form of abuse.

Everyday stressors can also trigger the symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as getting sick, having trouble sleeping, and having financial stress.

Managing Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

The highs and lows of bipolar disorder can affect someone’s life dramatically. During a manic phase, people can make decisions that affect their families and careers.

The media depicts bipolar people as crazy, but this is hurtful and untrue. People with bipolar disorder can manage the symptoms using medication and therapy and live independent and healthy lives.

Psychiatrists advise their patients on helpful medication. Therapy teaches people techniques to deal with their emotions and set healthy boundaries.

What to Do If You Learn Someone You Know Has Bipolar Disorder

It can be stressful for someone to disclose their bipolar disorder to romantic partners.

They might worry that a partner will change their mind about the relationship. People might be confused or shocked to learn their partner has bipolar disorder.

Ideally, your partner will tell you about their bipolar disorder when they are not experiencing symptoms. This will make it easier for both people to talk about it.

When to Tell Your Partner

People may allow a relationship to develop before telling you they have bipolar disorder.

As you build trust with someone, they will feel confident telling you they have bipolar disorder. Therapists will recommend they tell you about their bipolar disorder before moving in together or starting a family.

Dating Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Learning your partner has bipolar disorder allows you to appreciate them more deeply. It may answer some of the questions you have about their lifestyle.

You may have noticed they take medication or stick to a strict routine.

There are many ways you can support your partner when they experience bipolar symptoms. Remember to listen to them and ask them what they need.

Getting Help

It can be stressful to be in a relationship with someone when bipolar symptoms are present.

During a manic phase, you will worry about your partner. After the manic phase passes, you may feel hurt by things they said or did. It can take time to work through these feelings.

It is important to take care of yourself. Seeing a therapist or attending support groups for people in relationships with those with bipolar disorder may help.

Couples therapy can help you implement communication strategies and improve your relationship.

Growing the Relationship

It is not easy for someone with bipolar disorder to tell you about their condition.

The reality is that many people with bipolar disorder live happy lives. However, dating someone with bipolar disorder can present unique challenges.

Educating yourself and understanding what causes bipolar disorder will help you be a good partner to someone with bipolar disorder. Prioritizing self-care and therapy can help couples work through difficult times.

Do you want to plan a date you and your partner will remember forever? Then, check out these ideas for a memorable date.


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