Bipolar Disorder and Infidelity: Why It Happens
Infidelity is common in bipolar disorder, and sadly, it can inflict lasting damage to a bipolar relationship. Of course, there are many reasons for infidelity within a marriage or committed relationship, and it’s important to remember that having bipolar disorder does not mean you can’t be faithful to a romantic partner.
Extramarital sex is often described as a symptom of mania in bipolar disorder, but while these symptoms can explain infidelity, having bipolar disorder is not an excuse to cheat. The more you understand why bipolar disorder and infidelity are so common, the faster you can treat your bipolar symptoms and seek help for this common issue. With this in mind, let's look at why bipolar and infidelity often co-exist and find ways to combat the problem.
Bipolar and Infidelity: What’s the Truth?
Here’s the truth about bipolar and infidelity: being bipolar doesn’t mean you will be unfaithful to your partner, but it does make infidelity more likely, according to statistics. If you have bipolar disorder, that doesn’t mean you get a “free pass” to cheat – nor does it mean you should chastise yourself if you do have sex outside the relationship. Just like everybody else, people with bipolar disorder have to accept responsibility for their actions while learning from their mistakes.
Infidelity is a little more complicated for people with bipolar disorder, mostly because this kind of behavior is usually fuelled by mania. The cause of the infidelity is not so much about the person but about their symptoms, such as poor judgment, lack of impulse control and hypersexuality – all of which are hallmarks of a manic episode. In fact, “sexual indiscretions” are such a common marker of bipolar illness that this symptom is listed in the DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.
Statistics on Bipolar and Infidelity
Although recent statistics on bipolar and infidelity are sparse, a 1975 study that looked at lifetimes of sexual experience found infidelity to be more common among people with bipolar. According to the figures, hypersexuality was reported in 57% of individuals who experienced mania, while 29% of people with bipolar disorder had cheated on their spouse 10 times or more.
Statistics on bipolar and infidelity can be sobering, and it often feels like the odds are stacked against relationships where mental illness is a factor. Fortunately, the most problematic and dangerous symptoms of bipolar disorder are the easiest to treat. Mania in bipolar I, for example, can be controlled and stabilized with medication, so long as you comply with your doctor’s advice and follow your treatment plan.
Medication might not be the whole answer, however, and it may take a while for you and your doctor to find the long-term drug and dosage that's right for you. If you still find yourself (or your partner) engaging in destructive behavior, such as lying and having sex outside the relationship, you may wish to consider counseling. Whether you go alone or with your partner, a therapist or guidance counselor can help you understand any underlying reasons for bipolar infidelity, while also helping you identify and avoid your triggers.
Smith, E. (2021, December 28). Bipolar Disorder and Infidelity: Why It Happens, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/relationships/bipolar-disorder-and-infidelity-why-it-happens