Friendship with a Person Who Has Bipolar Disorder
It can be challenging to be a friend of a person with bipolar disorder. I freely admit this. I know that my life is difficult for me to deal with and, certainly, it can be difficult for anyone else. Nevertheless, friendship with a person who has bipolar disorder can be just as rewarding as any other friendship.
I Have Bipolar Disorder -- I Love and Appreciate My Friends
There is a myth people with bipolar disorder use and abuse their friends. While I have no doubt that there are people out there who fall into that group, certainly, that isn't all of us and I know it isn't me. I love and appreciate my friends and I am cognizant of the fact that dealing with my bipolar has challenges for them, too.
And I work as hard at being a good friend to them as I hope they will be to me. I don't believe in one-way friendships.
Why Friendship with a Person Who Has Bipolar Disorder Can Be Hard
I know the bipolar disorder is my problem and not that of my friends. However, something that affects me so profoundly naturally seeps into close relationships. I know that my friends "feel" my bipolar disorder in ways because of how much I am affected.
For example, some friends with bipolar disorder:
- May pull away and isolate when severe depression is present
- May experience anger with which they have trouble dealing
- May have unusual affect and beliefs if major mania/hypomania is present
- May cry and express very sad and negative emotions
- May need help with everyday chores more than other people
And, of course, as we're all different, bipolar disorder can affect our friendships in different ways. The point is this: my bipolar disorder affects my friendships, period. I get that.
The Good Parts of Friendship with a Person Who Has Bipolar Disorder
And while I absolutely admit we can be challenging at times, there are also good bits about us that are bipolar-related too.
Friendship with a person who has bipolar disorder can often be affected by the individual's increased creativity. That can be great and inspiring. Also, many with bipolar disorder are empathetic thanks to their bipolar experiences, making them great listeners.
And again, because we're all different, there are always wonderful and unique characteristics that make us who we are (just like everyone else).
Can Just Anyone Be a Friend to a Person with Bipolar Disorder?
In recognizing there is both good and bad in a friendship that includes bipolar disorder, and knowing there is good and bad in every relationship, can anyway enjoy a friendship with a person who has bipolar disorder?
Watch this video where I discuss how different friends deal with bipolar disorder differently.
My answer is, unfortunately, no, not everyone can handle a friendship with a person who has bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is tough, emotional stuff and not everyone can handle that.
But in the end, that's okay. No matter who we are, not all friendships would fit. So sometimes bipolar stands in the way of a friendship -- that could happen to anyone for a myriad of reasons.
So this means two things:
- Friendships may not always work and it isn't necessarily our fault. Sometimes bipolar disorder is a roadblock that people can't overcome.
- The friends we do have are absolute gems.
It really pays for us to remember both.
Tracy, N. (2018, March 27). Friendship with a Person Who Has Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2018/03/friendship-with-a-person-who-has-bipolar-disorder
Author: Natasha Tracy
I identify with so many of these stories. A friend of mine had dealt with depression for decades, though she has had normal periods between. Her most recent depression lasted for over 18 months. She rarely left her house. She seemed to be getting better, then one day it was like flipping a light switch. She became euphoric, talkative, with a million projects and plans and soon overwhelmed her other close friend and me. She and I talked about the possibility of her being bipolar, but she seems to have forgotten it, as she forgets other things now from being so busy busy busy and happy happy happy. She's finally worn me down and triggered my own problem with anxiety, to the point where I'm telling her that until she gets help with this I will need to love her from a distance. But I want her to know that I will be there if/when she crashes. I think it may be inevitable.
Oh the crap I have put up with. I just eventually had to give up on her. In the end people will either add to your life or take things away .. like your sanity for example. The lack of empathy, sympathy and understanding never became less of a problem. The constant yes then no, the constant distorted thoughts and assumptions... it's tiring. Over and over she would prove to me that I could not rely on her. Every time I tried to treat her as an equal she would show me that she's not capable of being counted on. She seemed completely incapable of relating to others or having a conversation about any topic she wasn't actually interested in herself.
Respect yourself enough to do better. Your friends will influence you - be careful of your influences. Just because you knew someone for 16 years doesn't mean you should.
I respect what you're saying and your experience. That sounds very difficult and tiring indeed.
I just want to add that while this person may have bipolar disorder, it doesn't mean that her actions were driven by that disorder. What you're saying could be driven by many things, and they aren't typical of bipolar disorder.
-- Natasha Tracy
I ran into an old High School friend online a couple of years ago, and he was so fun to talk to, highly intelligent, interesting and interested, and online conversations led into a dating scenario. Then he transitioned into "manic" and the relationship became very hurtful and chaotic and fell apart. Two years have passed with zero contact, and then out of the blue he starts calling again. He claims he remembers nothing of what he did or said two years ago. Nothing. Is that possible? He has asked me to tell him what he did, but I don't want to dredge up all that old humiliation and pain, and I've just said that I "don't want to talk about it". I've moved past it and healed, and rehashing it all now seems so pointless. But I also don't want to allow him to get as close this time, emotionally devastating as he was the first time. Self-love and self-respect demands self-protection. So while I am willing to be a friend, I cannot agree to another shot at girlfriend. I feel a certain sadness over that because I feel compassion for him and I truly enjoy time with him when he has his condition under control.
I'm pretty sure a certain friend of mine has bipolar. She talks very fast and constantly, so I can't get a word in edgewise. She takes on these massive projects that keep her very busy all day every day for months, and recently has become so busy with a certain project that she has not time for me anymore. Definitely not fun for me. I don't want to be her friend anymore. I have my own health issues, and the stress of this isn't worth it for me.
Me and my bestie are pretty sure aka 1000% convinced that our very dear friend has bipolar disorder. Has anyone noticed any unusual side effects such as role-playing and stalker behavior? Maybe its just her sparkling personality and not related but just thought I'd check. Also how do we tell her she has bipolar disorder? She definitely has it as she strongly exhibits every single sign. Also please drop some cheap lithium tips its too expensive, we are just kind friends who wish to medicate her xoxoxo
Thanks for your comment. I can understand you may suspect your friend has bipolar disorder, but it's really important that a professional make that determination. Some symptoms that appear to be related to bipolar disorder overlap with other diagnoses that you may not be aware of. Please encourage her to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or someone else qualified to make that determination. (And no, role-playing and stalking are not related to bipolar disorder.)
When it comes to talking to her about her possibly having a mental illness, you can take a look at these two articles (from my personal site, not related to HealthyPlace):
Those will help you approach the subject.
When it comes to medication, you need to let a doctor make the decision as to how to best treat your friend. Lithium may be a good choice or it may not. There are many treatment options available.
- Natasha Tracy
New friend for me. We get along great, lots in common, shared activities etc. in fact we started hanging out a lot really fast. In fact, this is one of the clues now that maybe the hanging out all the time, then nothing then 12 texts then nothing,I am fine with her being bipolar. She hasn’t told me, but I am beginning to suspect it. My question is when bipolar people start new friendships ( I know not apply to all, but there may be some general patterns) are they wow yes, this is great, then I get a feeling does she not like me, or then I see her and it’s great again. Know yes, she’s distracted easily, talks on and on ( but I love it most of the time) she’s creative, fun, impulsive, she does exaggerate stories/ her life too.
I am getting confused. I’m beginning to feel and worry that as fast as she thought I and we were great all of a sudden she will hate me. She shows up very late recently will cancel at last minute, , I know she double triple books stuff,. Even this behavior now I’m wondering is she depressed that day or night before,. Then I’ll see her and it’s all as if nothing happened, Thought I’d reach out, couldn’t find any articles on this. For now, I don’t feel it’s time to discuss the issue with her, feel when she is ready she will tell me. Also, she has shared not diagnosis but that her brother father and uncle struggled with mania.
I really like her and I want to understand so I can have patience
That sounds challenging. There is no general way that people with bipolar disorder develop friendships. That said, many people have the experience of the person with bipolar disorder running hot and cold all of a sudden. The only way I can think of dealing with this is by being upfront and communicating about it. In the end, it doesn't matter if she has bipolar disorder or not, what matters is that you have a relationship that works for both of you. So talk to her, not about bipolar disorder, but about how you're experiencing your friendship and her actions.
I hope that helps.
- Natasha Tracy
Nailed it! It is SO nice to hear someone else that can relate to my lived experiences!
Considered myself lucky to stay friends with a bipolar (diagnosed) woman for many years because I would see her other friends come and go. We were close and shared nearly everything. I would patiently await during periods she pulled away because she always cycled back but after awhile I noticed more and more that our friendship was about her 80% of the time and me 20% of the time. She wanted me to be a reassuring mirror to her. She had no problems being very frank with me, telling me things bluntly, whether it would hurt my feelings or not. I learned to detach and not take it personally. And I also knew that she could not tolerate the bluntness if I were to return the favor. For instance she told me that she hated my sculpting, that it was awful but I knew if I told her that her make up style reminded me of Tammy Faye Baker, she would retaliate by acting hateful and probably end the friendship with me immediately and forever. This last time she pulled away I noticed I didn't miss her like I had before. I had sensed it was coming and started nurturing other friendships... friendships that I had set aside because she took up so much time in my life. And now she is cycling back around to me as usual but I haven't responded yet. I'm deciding if I want to get on that merry go round again. I have learned to really appreciate more even tempered people. All the laughter and charm and fun of a bipolar person doesn't hold the same appeal it once did for me. It rings hollow..
Norma, it was helpful reading your post.
It validates just my same friendship with a girlfriend. She was unsure of being friends due to her past friends have dissolved their friendship with her.
We have been friends for 4 years and it’s tough on my emotionally as I don’t know what her mood will be like. She is needs reassurance all the time and she talks about herself most of the time. She can be hurtful with words. I finally let the friendship go as I can’t do it anymore.
Maybe I stayed friends with her because I felt sorry for her,
Thanks so much for sharing, I havent been diagnosed with bipolar but I am noticing that some of the symptoms become very prevalent when I am mensturating. I have lost a good friend in the last few months, but I don't think that it was one sided. We both have contributed to the deterioration of things, but I can't help but think if I tried hard enough. Her wedding is nearing and I was suppose to be a maid of honor, she demoted me without telling me and that hurt. I tired to meet with her to fix things and she stormed off leaving me to feel like the friendship wasnt worth it. I can't help but keep wondering if this was Gods plan or if I am bipolar and I can't keep friendships. Thanks for Sharing
I think she will always be [moderated] so just give up on her. All bipolar people are the same. They ditch you then blame you.
I have had 2 "friendships" with bipolar people, and was used and abused by both of them. Both of them were very toxic people who put me down, and exploited me. Perhaps they also had narcissism.
I'm being really careful who my friends are from now on.
It saddens me to learned that you were brutally mistreated by those two individuals. Yes ma’am I am bipolar too. However, I may not be perfect but I’m very respectful and compassionate. I just came acrossed your post and wanted to send you love and peace. No response is necessary. I pray you find someone who you can laugh, cry and just listen to each other. Best of luck:)
Thank you for you kind and sensitive post. I would be happy to be friends with anyone who respects and cares for me, bipolar or not.
It is not fair to blame the fact that they were Bipolar. Lots of people are Bipolar or have other mental illness. Each person still has their own set of personality traits and character.
Therefore we don't discriminate against the mental illness.
It wasn't fair that those people abused and used me. I'm not responsible for the fact that they have bipolar, and I will discriminate against bipolar people if they mistreat me.
I've abandoned many many many friendships due to depression and anxiety and destroyed others due to mania. I feel like people have a cartoon in their head of what bipolar disorder is and are either scared of what might come next or keep their distance because I was just too hard to handle. The truth about friendships is that they all require work and they all involve illness because most people are dealing with illness in some way, bipolar is no exception. The friendships I have left are good ones and these days i'm trying to build new ones too. Thanks for the post!
I have lost friendships, usually at the early stage of psychosis. I can never remember what has happened to cause the end of the friendship. It can be devastating. I have one person I've wondered about, and felt unbelievably sad about losing for many years.