Helping a Family Member Whose Spouse Has Bipolar Disorder

“My son’s wife who has bipolar has started arguing with my son since the summer when he found out he was being transferred from Hawaii to another state.  During fighting she is violent – hitting and screaming – in hysterics.  She also seems to say my son is doing things but then it seems to be her doing them i.e. lying etc.  My son is very calm, soft talking – does not like any types of conflict.  We are trying to encourage them for counseling – we don’t know what to do but since they moved things are getting worse and I’m worried.”

257927_a_ringIt is understandable that one would be worried about a family member who is dealing with their spouse who has bipolar. The most important thing a family member can offer is support and a lot of understanding.

A few things to keep in mind is your son is in fact dealing with a spouse who has a real illness. At times personal emotion will need to be set aside to truly understand the dynamics between your son and his wife, when bipolar is present.

Understand there is no arguing with a person who is having a bipolar episode, there are no rational thoughts during that moment and taking it personal will only make matters worse. To get a full understanding you may want to familiarize yourself with what happens during a bipolar episode especially during a disagreement or argument. Many times a bioplar’s spouse or significant other can trigger an extreme episode. This does not mean the spouse that doesn’t not have bipolar is at fault, it simply means they can trigger emotions and thoughts that maybe be extreme due to a bipolar episode.

During an episode Bipolar Psychosis maybe present, some of the symptoms of psychosis can be hallucinations and/or delusions. A hallucination is where you see, hear, taste, feel or smell something that isn’t there, such as hearing your name called when no one is around. Delusions, on the other hand, are false beliefs where you truly believe something is happening that isn’t. For example, feeling that your partner goes out every night to meet their ex-husband, who just happens to live in another state, is a delusion. Delusions are often negative, involving fear and paranoia, but they can also be grandiose such as believing you’re the most powerful person in the world.

There isn’t any indication of whether or not your son’s spouse is on medication I believe it’s important to make sure her medicine management is compliant as with bipolar disorder, anger and rage is another symptom that can come out during certain episodes. Meds can help with keeping this behavior from going into full blown rage.

You did mention that you are talking to them about counseling I think that is an excellent idea a therapist can give them both tools on how to deal with each other especially during these moments when an episode is happening. One of the special dynamics that happen where one spouse has bipolar disorder the one that does not have this disorder sometimes becomes the caregiver. As a caregiver to your spouse your roles will change frequently throughout the relationship.

I have been with my significant other for three years and only this year have we learned how to deal with my out bursts. They don’t happen as frequently as they use because we now have the tools to deal with them. I am medicine compliant and he has perfected his role as the caregiver when need be.

My therapist suggests a safe word or phase that will stop us in our tracks, especially when I am going over board. When the safe word/phrase is used it helps me reach back and try to grasp reality. The key to the safe word /phrase is that it must be used before it gets so heated that the bipolar is too far gone to come back. This safe/word phrase is usually used early on in the episode. My significant other has managed to become an expert on when the switch happens. He knows that as soon as things don’t make sense to him that the switch has taken place. He therefore switches gears into to caregiver mode. This has taken some time and lots of therapy for the safe/word safe phrase to work.

With lots of hard work understanding your son and his wife can work through this disorder and live a pretty stable and peaceful life.

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