How To Set Boundaries With A Bipolar Person
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings from depression to mania.
If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, setting boundaries and learning how to communicate effectively can be a challenging process.
Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2% of adults in the United States, with the condition causing severe emotional distress and sometimes even resulting in suicide.
Therefore, setting boundaries is important for everyone, especially those who struggle with bipolar disorder.
With this in mind, our guide will take a closer look at five of the best methods of setting boundaries with a bipolar person.
What’s more, we’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions related to the mental disorder.
1. Set Clear Relationship Boundaries
Don’t think of boundaries as ultimatums in a relationship – boundaries are proactive things you can do to communicate your needs and feelings in the relationship.
For example, you may deny your partner access to the credit card when they’re experiencing a manic, compulsive episode.
Similarly, you might decide to set up a separate bedroom that your partner can use during a manic phase, so you can both get a good night’s sleep.
One of the most common boundaries that couples establish in a relationship is verbal or physical abuse.
For instance, if you feel threatened by your partner’s bipolar behavior, it’s important that you remove yourself from the situation and take yourself to a safe space.
2. Openly Communicate Your Boundaries
Don’t be ashamed or nervous of discussing your boundaries, it’s important to openly communicate and discuss them, so they know why you have the boundaries in the first place.
Try to be as respectful as possible when sharing your boundaries, but make it clear that they’re in place to protect you.
For example, you might ask your friend or partner to answer the phone when experiencing a manic episode so that you know they’re safe.
It’s a good idea to be calm and strong when discussing your boundaries. This way, your partner won’t feel under attack or feel the need to be defensive when having an episode.
Adopt a gracious and considerate tone so that they’re more likely to appreciate and understand exactly what you’re saying.
3. Acknowledge Their Efforts
If you notice that they’re actively trying to improve their behavior, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their efforts. After all, everyone responds better to praise than criticism.
This acknowledgement doesn’t need to be made out to be a big thing. It can be something as simple as a reassuring “thank you” to let them know that you appreciate their hard work.
Unfortunately, resentment can develop rather quickly in bipolar relationships. However, with regular praise and reassurance, you can train yourself to focus on the positive things and make your partner feel valued.
4. Keep Expectations Realistic And Accept Their Limits
It’s important that you keep your expectations realistic. After all, there’s only so much you can do to help them manage their condition.
Your loved one with bipolar can’t control their moods or just instantly snap out of depression, so make sure you avoid telling them things like “stop acting crazy” or “snap out of it”.
All things considered, you’ll have a much more enjoyable time with your partner if you don’t try to “fix” them.
Yes, bipolar might be a medical condition with some challenging symptoms, but you can still enjoy a rich and meaningful relationship if you work together and accept each other’s limits.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Professional Help
If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with your bipolar partner, a licensed therapist might be able to help you work through some of your relationship issues.
Sometimes introducing a third party such as a couple’s counselor can make all the difference when it comes to working through difficult emotions.
Likewise, if you feel that supporting your partner is having a detrimental effect on your day-to-day life, don’t be afraid to talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
They’ll be able to help you construct healthy boundaries and reduce the pressure you place on yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Difference Between A Manic And A Depressed Mood?
A manic episode is when your mind feels very happy, energetic, and optimistic. You may feel like you have more energy than usual, talk fast, and make decisions quickly.
On the other hand, a depressive episode is when you’re sad, hopeless, and don’t want to do anything. When experiencing a depressive episode, you may typically feel tired, anxious, and guilty.
How Can You Support Someone Who Is Manic?
There are lots of different things you can do to help support someone who’s manic. Listed below are five of the most effective methods:
- Spend lots of quality time with them
- Be patient and show understanding
- Don’t take any negative comments personally
- Answer questions honestly and avoid confrontation
- Prepare easy-to-eat meals
Can Bipolar Cause Problems At Work?
Yes, because bipolar disorder can often interfere with your ability to complete tasks and meet deadlines.
This is why people with bipolar often experience periods where they can’t focus on their jobs properly, leading to a higher risk of job loss.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, there are several methods you can use to successfully set boundaries with a bipolar person.
Most of these rely on open, honest communication, realistic expectations, and a fair amount of patience and understanding, but there are plenty of other things you can do to support someone suffering with the condition.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ll be in a much stronger position to support your loved one!
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: September 24, 2023