Do I Have to Tell People I Have Bipolar?

March 25, 2013 Natasha Tracy

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? You have a life-altering illness that affects the very way your brain works. Do you actually have to tell people that? Do you have to tell people you have bipolar disorder?

Well, like with everything in life, it depends.

No You Don’t Have to Tell Anyone You Have Bipolar Disorder

Let’s face it, bipolar disorder is not visible and no one is holding a gun to your head, so no, you don’t have to tell people you have bipolar disorder. It’s your secret and it’s your choice. It always will be.

And there are very valid and understandable reasons why you might not want to tell people you have bipolar disorder. Stigma creeps through much of our lives and we don’t want to face its consequences, which is understandable.

Not Telling People You Have a Mental Illness

But here’s the thing about not telling people you have bipolar disorder. If you don’t tell people about this part of your life, especially if you’re acutely ill, it will involve lying to them. It will involve trickery and deceit. It will involve you covering up medications and doctor’s visits and therapy. It will involve you lying about why you’re away from work and why you can’t go out to a party.

In the end, it will result in lots of lies which can, quite rightfully, be seen as betrayal on the part of the other person if that person considers themselves to be close to you.

The Consequences of Not Telling People about Your Bipolar Disorder

So there are consequences for not telling people you have bipolar disorder. Sure, if you don’t tell your next door neighbour Mitsy about your bipolar disorder, it’s unlikely to matter, but not telling your partner, kids, parents, close friends? That will likely carry consequences.

So it absolutely is your choice who you tell, why, when, where and how but you have to accept that decision comes with repercussions. And just remember, some people are worth telling and the more people you choose to tell, the more support you can have when you need it. You don't have to be alone with this illness, you just have to choose wisely.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, March 25). Do I Have to Tell People I Have Bipolar?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Andrea Capri
April, 8 2024 at 9:13 am

As with everybody else to tell our stories would take a couple of weeks or maybe months. I have two I told years ago and she accepted what I said and just carried on but it doesn't affect her life because she lives with h her family in another state. My other daughter doesn't believe my diagnosis as I hide my depression and if I am aware of it my manic states....I have bi-polar 2 and my manic states aren't hugely high just a very strong driven force of energy which won't accept no and the resultant spending sprees and obsessive behaviour like painting a kitchen for 3 days straight or renovating a house without giving one thought about the cost. I feel very lonely but I know if I tell anybody I will be judged and people will treat me differently. In my opinion it is a very lonely condition and even my sister who is supportive doesn't think any of my symptoms like drinking too much, having continuous negative thoughts and depression is anything that anybody else is not going through. But putting contracts on a house when my husband was overseas or land later and a
couple of more houses is not normal.
I am in Lamictal and it has helped...I don't feel quite like a walking nerve centre quite so much.

April, 8 2024 at 12:31 pm

Hi Andrea,
I'm sorry you're feeling lonely and not supported. I know how hard that is, and I do believe that bipolar disorder can be a very lonely illness.
I might suggest you seek out an online or in-person support group. You can search for a NAMI group or DBSA group (just Google them). Those people understand what you're going through and know how challenging it can be to have to deal with bipolar disorder on a daily basis.
I'm glad your medication is helping, but if you're still experiencing life-altering effects, please openly talk to your doctor about them. It's okay to say that you need more help than you're currently getting. (Most people with bipolar disorder are actually on multiple medications for this reason.) You don't have to live with the issues you've described.
Also, remember, not everyone judges a person for having a mental illness. Some people are genuinely supportive.
I hope that helps.
-- Natasha Tracy

nellie jeff
November, 20 2019 at 11:09 pm

To disclose or not disclose. For the most part I have been successful at keeping my secret to myself. However, gossip does hurt. Sometimes, I think the walls have ears. Behind my back, I have been referred to as 'having mental problems', 'spent time in a mental hospital', etc. Just plain mean. Why do I ignore these people? I value myself. What other people think of me may hurt, but the best reaction is no reaction. It has taken many years of determination to develop this exterior. At the end of the day, we only have ourselves to depend upon.

April, 28 2015 at 2:07 am

I am bipolar, my father is bipolar and my close bipolar friend went missing in a depressive episode.
I disclosed the illness to coworkers and friends, many of which didn't believe me (also the case for many patients at the psyche ward). I felt safe when I saw a psychiatrist during a hypomanic episode which turned out to be little- no help. I got fired, my boss was never told / explained about my illnes, had huge financial losses and my life has been in shambles since.
Meds are helpful in desperate times to stabilize me. I am starting over once more leaving a pile of bills and faded dreams and yet another country behind. I have not disclosed my illness to my boss and am conflicted about who and when to tell.
Luckily im now slowly ; ) building up a self employment plan centered on being an artist - one of the few careers where the craziness may actually come in handy.
I found- bottom line the only person to trust and rely on - is myself (and my brother). There is no perfect system to catch us when we fall and yes some may use the diagnosis against us. I dont want to surround myself with these kind of people so telling people im close to is still my preffered choice, no matter the consequences.
If somebody cant handle my diagnosis id rather not have them in my life.

Steffy B
September, 1 2014 at 8:26 am

As a person that is a sufferer I struggle with the idea of exposing that part of me to the world. Mainly due to the insensitivity and ignorance I may experience from people close to me. While it is true that we are not our illnesses it is apart of who we are. I often wonder if staying hidden just adds to the stigma that what we have should never be discussed or acknowledged. That being bipolar is what the celebrities and books depict us to be. That it is something that could never happen in our families or friends. There is strength in numbers and if we stand and be counted we could enlighten our loved ones and friends. Then maybe a chain reaction can start and we can finally step out into the light without shame.

July, 25 2014 at 4:50 pm

I see lots of points from people here but remember that you can't erase the stigma by being quiet. There has been huge headway but so much more to do. Why hide it? It's a disease just like anything else. Also it can be hereditary so the more we can do today can only help people including our own in the future.

October, 21 2013 at 8:36 am

I wouldn't tell nobody that I've bipolar cause its not something that people identify with. Having bipolar is like being on a rampage @ x's then the next @ other x's u oblivious to what going on around u. Now some people may notice the episodes usually it's close friends & family. Things that u might do seems dangerous to them it not to u; that's usually when people start researching to find out what u really going through; so @ x's u might have 2 tell people that u've a mental health disorder.

October, 20 2013 at 8:50 am

I don't believe that not telling people I am bipolar is dishonest. How many people tell you their intimate medical history? Most people who do not suffer from mental illness do not understand what I go through nor do they care to educate themselves to find out. Even in "our" own community arguments abound concerning treatment, diagnosis, "how bipolar are you?" etc. This condition does not define me, it is a part of me, yes, but it does not define me. Once someone finds out I am bipolar, I am now labeled, defined and categorized. I found this out the hard way by telling a few people I had known for years about my diagnosis.
In my own opinion, the media does not help. Any time a shooting occurs, or something such as the recent Washington, DC death of the woman who ran the barricade and was shot by the cops, the first "diagnosis" that the non-experts come up with is that the mentally ill person suffered from bipolar illness. Bipolar is now associated with violent, mentally ill people ready to shoot, kill and otherwise harm others for no reason. Not all bipolars are violent, and bipolar is not the only mental illness that is defined in the DSM. Unfortunately, it seems to be the most popular one to blame for any incident that happens. When and if mental illness is better understood by the general public, I prefer to keep my medical history to myself and the few people who actually need to know.

June, 10 2013 at 6:41 am

I agree that the choice to disclose is on a case by case basis. However, I do not agree that the choice to withhold is deceptive, lying, etc. The truth is there are many reasons why people do not disclose. They may not be aware of it at all. The people around them may not be capable of understanding. In my case, I am not open about it because it has always been a negative thing. And this is disclosure to lifelong friends, etc. If something is negative enough, you just don't do it. I, myself, really can't see how being open about it is a good thing. Maybe you have experienced some relief and freedom by disclosing, you may have received some negative feedback, but I am sure some of it was not. I really cannot see where you are coming from because this is not my experience. This is a good post, but applicable to some only. I think there should be some understanding for those who do not disclose instead of making them feel as if they are being dishonest.

April, 17 2013 at 11:16 am

Dear Natasha, This has been a rough week for me. People without our disease would not even flinch at these losses, but for me they were devastating. I will get to the subject I promise. BTW, both of these people who dissed me knew I am bipolar, and looking back I don't think I should have told either. People look at you differently, and they judge. Every wisecrack you have mentioned. My dad is the worst "Just snap out of it". I went from taking Latuda and Depekote back to Lithium yesterday, and I'm going to drop the Depekote over the next week or so. These are busy times for me, meditation is in order. Thanks.

April, 11 2013 at 5:04 am

I have been diagnosed with bipolar I've been on meds for 7 years and am now off of meds. I am on a2 month waiting list to see the doctor to get back on meds and have been waiting for two months. I have shared this with my family and they do not understand. They have distanced themselves from me or say I use it as an excuse.I am unable to hold a job and am not self sufficient. I have a very hard time financially supporting my twins living at home. They don't understand why I don't work. It's very frustrating.we barely get by but with the love of God we have what we need. I wish there was more mental illness support in my community as far as the doctors go.I do have a counselor I see every other week and if it weren't for her I'm not sure where I would be with this illness. I do have a lot to be grateful for. I am glad I found this site to chat. Thank you

Tj Van Gelder
April, 7 2013 at 12:29 pm

I feel no shame in letting people know I have bipolar if its an apropriate time. Takeing medications are similar to a diabetic person that is requiered to take their medications. When i understood that it simpley a mature thing to do and that I feel much better on them I willingly spoke and defended people with mental illnes. I try not to focuse on the minner weight gain i have probably from the medications, im greatful that I live in a country that looks after people with mental illness and its a blessing that im alive and not persucuted or judged to the point of death like in a diffrent time. So thank you Lord I do believe that You have your own way of doing things and by your grace You spared me.

April, 7 2013 at 5:54 am

I also agree with you Natasha, it is each individuals choice to share their diagnosis with others. Me personally my parents know my husband and son know and one of my closest friends know and they are all a great support system. I do have alot of close friends that I chose not to tell as I have heard some of them make remarks about people with bipolar that they either know or have come in contact with, so I just keep my bipolar to myself. My one friend Machell knows everything about me and still loves me for me and she has even taken my son overnight for me when things have gotten so bad I couldn't deal....unfortunatley she has moved out of state however we continue to talk and text with eachother on a daily basis. My husband is my number one supporter and my 14 year old son is right there with him. I have alwqays been open with my son honesty with children I think is the best policy....and he responded well to what I told him and how I explained bipolar to him. He himself deals with managing ADHD. At the end of the day I think just chose carefully who you tell about your bipolar, read each situation, assess it and go from there.

Richard Cooper
March, 30 2013 at 11:01 am

For years (15 years actually) i went untreated for Bi Polar and my life was not only a mess but it was out of control, i couldn't hold down a job, within a 6 month period i had literally 8 jobs i was fired from 6 of them because of attendance and lack of work ethic and i did my best , truly i did, anyway i was in the military and i started drinking alcohol and it calmed me down and soothed me and quieted the voices in my head enough to where i could function for the first time in my life, however i was putting peoples lives in danger as a result of my drinking, years later i became an alcoholic and when i was discharged from the Navy i filed a claim at the VA and finally they did a bunch of testing and discovered , if you will , lots of blood work and i was then dignosed with BD , i had days where i wanted to die , i couldn't live with myself but at this point i was still unmedicated so i turned to the booze once again,i got in all kinds of trouble with the law and courts and yet after the trouble was over i still turned to the booze because i knew it worked until one day i couldn't take it anymore and i called the VA and told them what i was feeling and they told me they didnt have an appt until a week from that day , i said i'm not gonna make it until next week i'll kill myself by then they took me an hour later from that day on my life as i knew would never be the same, i'm a happily married man i own my own home and i can live in my own skin for the first time in my life i know if i didnt pick up the phone that die when i did i dont think i'd be here today , life is good and i'm grateful i dint do anything stupid , and for that i'm grateful.

Shelly Ann
March, 30 2013 at 8:15 am

I am newly diagnosis with bipolar and it has been a hard adjustment on me. but I've found when I tell people in my life who aren't really important it's almost like I use my bipolar as a way to push them away and not in a way to get people in my life being close to me and offering support. I think that will be a life challenge I will have to navigate when I choose to let people in my life or not.

Greg Mercer, MSN
March, 26 2013 at 11:29 am

Sound advice! We each have the right and responsibility to manage our privacy as we see fit, and our decisions can greatly impact our close relationships just as you describe. There are no easy automatic answers for anyone, so no one is alone in struggling with it.

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