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Why do Bipolar Relationships Fail?

Why do bipolar relationships fail? Read on to learn about bipolar disorder and how to manage relationships with bipolar disorder.

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Article Contents

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a common type of mood disorder. In fact, in the United States, around 2.3 million individuals over 18 are affected by bipolar disorder.1

Bipolar disorder is most often associated with mood swings, ranging from depression lows to manic highs. Because bipolar is a mood disorder, these mood swings are chronic. However, it is a common belief that mood swings are rapid, if not instantaneous, bipolar mood swings over a few weeks at a time. This means someone experiencing a depressive episode may experience a manic episode two weeks later. 

Exact Cause?

As with most mood disorders, scientists cannot pinpoint the exact cause of bipolar disorder. However, it is thought that genetics, environment, and differences in the brain may lend a hand in the development of the disorder. Mood swings are a keystone symptom in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but different types of bipolar disorder experience mood swings in different ways.

Bipolar Disorder Types

There are various types of bipolar disorder, all of which have their own subset of implications. These will be detailed below.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is one of the most common types of bipolar disorder, along with bipolar II disorder. Both bipolar disorder types are similar but have unique qualities to distinguish them. For instance, bipolar I is characterized by full manic episodes that aren’t common in other types of bipolar disorder. However, depressive episodes are much rarer.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder tends to be the opposite of bipolar I disorder. With bipolar II, depressive episodes are far more frequent, with manic episodes being rare. Typically, when a manic episode is experienced, it’s not the same as a manic episode with bipolar I. Instead, unique symptoms cause the “high” side of the mood swing spectrum to be known as a hypomanic episode rather than a typical manic episode like with bipolar I.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymia disorder, also known as cyclothymic disorder or just cyclothymia, is a rarer type of bipolar disorder that occurs less frequently than bipolar I disorder or bipolar II disorder. Cyclothymic disorder is typically only seen in around 1 percent of the population.2

Symptoms of Cyclothymic Disorder

Not only is cyclothymic disorder rarer, but it is also milder than other types of bipolar disorder. Some of the signs and symptoms of cyclothymic disorder can include:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Extreme optimism
  • Grandiose self-image
  • Increased talkatively
  • Poor judgment and decision making
  • Increased irritability
  • Impulsivity

Understanding The Bipolar Relationship

Why do Bipolar relationships fail?
Like with other mood disorders, bipolar disorder can make it difficult to connect with others and navigate relationships. This is due to issues with communication most often, which can occur because of bipolar symptoms.

How Bipolar Disorder Affects Relationships

Bipolar disorder can make relationships difficult for both parties. However, this isn’t to say that a relationship with bipolar is impossible. It’s important to remember that individuals with bipolar disorder are just as capable of loving and being loved as people without bipolar disorder. Many times, therapy and actively practicing healthy relationship habits can aid in navigating a relationship when one or both individuals have bipolar disorder. There are still some unique symptoms and situations to navigate with bipolar disorder, however.3

Common Reasons Why Bipolar Relationships Fail

The symptoms of bipolar disorder play a significant role in how an individual can interact and connect to those around them. As a result, not taking the time to learn how to manage symptoms and reconnect with loved ones can lead to a decline in relationships.

Some of the issues that can arise from a relationship where bipolar disorder is involved can include:

  • Irritability and anger
  • Infidelity
  • Strict routine
  • Intimacy issues
  • Emotional ups and downs
  • Self-isolation
  • Parenting issues
  • Stress of managing the symptoms
  • Changes in behavior
  • Destructive behaviors

It is important to note that these symptoms can occur in any relationship, whether bipolar disorder is a factor. However, certain symptoms or situations may be more common.

How to Manage Relationships With Bipolar Disorder

There are many ways to manage a relationship with bipolar disorder, whether you are the partner with or without the disorder. These are often important factors in a healthy relationship, even without bipolar disorder. However, for many, these steps are necessary in ensuring a healthy relationship for both partners when bipolar disorder is a factor. 

Some of the most important ways to manage relationships with bipolar disorder include:

  • Educate yourself
  • Try to be patient
  • Consider couples counseling
  • Self-care

Treatment Options

Although bipolar disorder can make it difficult to navigate romantic relationships and with family and friends, treatment options are available. These treatment options can help address and manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder themselves. They can also be beneficial in helping the individual develop new skills to communicate more effectively while also teaching healthy relationship skills such as understanding boundaries and safe coping mechanisms for triggers. 


Along with therapy, medication is one of the most common treatment options for bipolar disorder. Medication can help balance brain chemistry, which can help manage mood swings and their symptoms. It can also be beneficial in treating many other conditions, such as another mental health disorder, increasing the severity of bipolar disorder symptoms.

Some of the most common medications for bipolar disorder include anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and SSRIs, which are typically used in the treatment of depression.


Therapy is another common treatment option for bipolar disorder. These can help address the symptoms, just like medication can, but they can also help the individual to better learn how to manage their reactions and coping mechanisms.

Therapy is a beneficial step in better learning to understand yourself and others. As a result, this is an essential step for those seeking treatment for bipolar disorder to help improve their relationship.

Get Help Today for Yourself or Your Partner with Bipolar Disorder

Although navigating a relationship with bipolar disorder can be difficult, it’s not impossible. This is especially true when you learn more about the resources and services available to you and your partner. If you’re worried that bipolar disorder is affecting your relationship, take time to learn more about the medication, therapy, and counseling services available for you and your partner. These can be invaluable resources when learning how to better navigate a relationship with bipolar disorder. 

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