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Bipolar breakup cycle: Bipolar & Relationships: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Bipolar & Relationships: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

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The end of a relationship often ushers in dark feelings like abandonment, guilt, and rejection. Even if the relationship was toxic and getting out was the right decision, there may be a sense of failure or self-blame.

In any case, there’s typically a period of destabilizing upheaval as the newly single adjust to life on their own, perhaps in different surroundings.

Dan of Minnesota recalls losing all the “couple friends” in his divorce — including several people he considered to be very close. The end of those connections was just part of a larger rupture in his sense of self.

“If we tend to lose ourselves in a relationship, to define ourselves by the person we’re with, it’s like taking away a major part of our self-worth,” he reflects.

During his recovery from the breakup, he jumped into another relationship “just to prove to myself I was worth something. It was just kind of a reaffirmation thing. It was a mistake.”

Getting into a relationship when you’re fleeing feelings of loneliness, hurt or abandonment is no solid foundation for attracting a good partner, says Anita H. Clayton, MD, interim chair of the department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

“The idea of moderation may not be terribly appealing, but you really need to try to keep things steady,” she says. “Keep your sleep stable, stay away from high-risk activities, and do something that for you is positive and makes you feel better.”

Joan of Florida warns against turning to social media for affirmation after a split. That’s what she did, posting rants about an ex that brought comments from friends who were trying to be supportive: “You don’t need him.” “You’ve got to move on.” “Just get off this horse and hop on another one.”

Instead of soothing her hurt, however, those remarks “just fueled the anger,” she recalls, “and that fueled a manic stage. ” With her impulse control at zero, she ended up cycling through a series of sexual affairs. She regrets the way her mania torched any hope of reconciliation.

“Even if my marriage had been salvageable, I had moved on,” she says. “I didn’t even give it a chance.”

Redoubling your efforts at self-management during the post-breakup period will bring you toward a place of consistency and acceptance, which eventually will allow you to enter into a relationship “when you’re in the right space and for the right reasons,” says Ben Stover, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago. “It’s very important to make sure you are taking care of yourself before you’re trying to take care of somebody else.”

Stover suggests acknowledging openly and fully that breakups are highly charged and rife with emotional triggers. During this time, don’t stop your medication. See your mental health professional if you have one; consider setting up an appointment with one if you don’t. Utilize your social supports and be careful to avoid isolation.

Above all, he advises, “Take your time. Allow yourself to heal.”

Read More: 

3 Tips to Keep Your Relationships on Track
The Sweethearts Deal: How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Printed as “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”, Summer 2016

dating, relationships, stability, summer 2016

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10 Reasons Why Bipolar Relationships Fail & Ways to Cope

In This Article

What are the common reasons why bipolar relationships fail? The answers are rarely straightforward since there are many variables to consider.

Navigating a relationship can be challenging, and bipolar disorder can add additional hurdles to overcome. Consequently, bipolar disorder breakups are not rare, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t many strong, fulfilling, and long-lasting bipolar relationships.

Before we describe the effects of bipolar disorder on relationships and why bipolar relationships sometimes fail, let’s define bipolar disorder first.  

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood, energy, activity levels, and concentration shifts. The mood fluctuations go from extreme happiness, irritation, or energized behavior (also named manic episodes) to periods of extreme sadness, indifference, and helplessness (known as depressive episodes). 

Bipolar I disorder involves periods of mania that alternate with depressive episodes.

Bipolar II disorder consists of alternating depressive and hypomanic episodes (periods of elevated mood and energy milder in nature than manic episodes)

In the video below, Kati Morton, a licensed therapist, discusses in detail what Bipolar II disorder is.

Cyclothymic disorder is expressed by brief periods of hypomania taking turns with short depressive symptoms (less intense and shorter than the first two types). 

The shifts a person with bipolar disorder experiences are more dramatic than one would usually encounter. Although there can be symptom-free periods (known as euthymia), mood fluctuations can significantly impact a person’s day-to-day functioning. This could be one of the reasons why bipolar relationships fail. 

10 common reasons why bipolar relationships fail

Bipolar relationships can be complicated and may end up failing because of a variety of reasons. However, the disease is not the reason for this. The inability to healthily deal with the disease often causes the breakup. 

Here are some possible reasons why bipolar relationships fail:

1. Dramatic changes in mood and behavior

Although the symptoms of bipolar disorder exist on a spectrum, hypo/manic and depressive episodes are present with this diagnosis. One of the reasons why bipolar relationships fail is related to dramatic changes in the mood and behavior that come with the episodes. 

For example, during manic episodes, a person seeks more pleasure through heavy drinking or partying. On the other hand, during a depressive phase, they might withdraw from their partner due to the heavy onset of hopelessness and despair. 

Living with someone with bipolar can be challenging as it requires the spouse to find ways to cope with the experience of these tense and sometimes extreme fluctuations.

2. Sole focus on the person with bipolar disorder

Dealing with any illness induces stress. In a bipolar disorder relationship, the focus is often on helping the person struggling with the illness, although the other partner is experiencing stress and needs care. 

Helping a loved one cope with the consequences of a mental disorder can take a toll. Although you choose to do it, you don’t always have the answers as to what is the most appropriate form of help. Often you might feel lost and in need of support. 

One of the reasons why bipolar relationships fail is forgetting to concentrate on the person without the diagnosis as well. Attention needs to be given to both partners since the relationship will flourish only when they are both doing well.

3. Emotional ups and downs

It is natural to be worried about your partner when experiencing hypomania or mania since they can be quite impulsive and unlike themselves during those times. 

When their mood changes towards the depressive spectrum, it can be upsetting differently, especially if the partner mentions suicidal thoughts. This can take you through an emotional rollercoaster, leaving you confused, worried, and helpless.

4. Irritability and anger

One of the misconceptions about bipolar disorder is that a person is happy when they are experiencing mania. Manic periods are better described as periods of elevated mood, including irritability and anger.

Living with someone with bipolar disorder can be challenging when they are irritable (or anyone irritable, for that matter) because it can lead to communication problems and conflicts. The negativity and criticism expressed can take a toll on the bipolar disorder relationship patterns when not dealt with.

5. Strict routine

People with bipolar disorder may rely heavily on routine to preserve periods of euthymia. They may have to stick to a strict sleep schedule, diet, and exercise to keep symptoms in check since, for example, lack of sleep can trigger a manic episode. 

This can affect the relationship as partners sometimes need extremely opposite things. It may lead the partner with the diagnosis to choose an early bed routine, preventing them from late-night gatherings or places where alcohol is served (as it can also trigger an episode or interfere with medicine). 

This may seem like an obstacle that can be dealt with, and often it is. However, the more severe the symptoms are, the more restrictive the routine can become, affecting the relationship.

6. The stress of managing the signs 

Treatment can help when continuous and focused effort exists. However, successful treatment can be challenging because many people miss their “up” periods and the euphoria of manic episodes, so they might seek to induce those periods of elevated mood.  

It might also be that they see those periods as times when they are being their best selves and decide to stop the treatment to have it again. 

Choosing to stop taking medication affects their partner too. Together they have worked towards establishing a symptoms-free period, and this act can be perceived as a betrayal after everything they did to help their loved one feel better. You can imagine how that can impact the relationship.

7. Destructive behaviors

Although depressive episodes are hard to cope with, mania brings other challenges that can be just as destructive. 

In a heightened mood, people with bipolar disorder are prone to risky behaviors such as overspending, excessive alcohol abuse, gambling, etc. These behaviors can have consequences that can take a serious toll on the relationship, with or without the bipolar in question.

8. Infidelity

Infidelity can break apart any couple. Many people struggle to regain trust once it has been broken; the same goes for bipolar disorder relationships.  

Bipolar and trust issues are often closely linked. Why?

One of the consequences of bipolar disorder is that it can induce the person to engage in infidelity to reduce their feelings of depression and boredom. Infidelity can be more common when people have not yet been diagnosed or stopped using their medication.

9. Issues while planning a family

If there is a partner with bipolar in a relationship, planning a family can become problematic due to multiple reasons. 

Certain medications prescribed for bipolar disorder can affect one’s chances of having children. This is one of the examples of bipolar disorder sabotaging relationships. One has to either stop their medication and live with the symptoms or consider other means of having children. 

10. Self-isolation

Self-isolation is usually because of the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder. The sufferer receives negative criticism from people, internalizes them and drifts into a state of self-stigma.

Just because of the derogatory remarks of the society, the person goes mental illness further and that causes them to communicate less and be involved in the relationship to the minimum.

5 ways to cope when a bipolar relationship fails

Bipolar disorder affects relationships complexly; hence there isn’t a blanket approach or solution. However, some guidelines can be helpful nonetheless.

1. Don’t blame the disease

In the search for why bipolar relationships fail, we need to remember that what breaks apart most couples (bipolar or not) is making assumptions. When couples start attributing everything to the diagnosis instead of searching for ways to overcome problems, they enter a hopeless mindset.

The disease is never the only reason for a relationship to fall apart. Many couples dealing with mental illnesses can make it work if they have the right information, approach, and support from experts. 


The key is to remember NOT to generalize!

One person with bipolar will have trouble controlling their anger; another won’t. Someone else may experience extreme irritability during hypomania or mania; another won’t. A mental condition, although called the same, will have many faces. 

If you saw the relationship through the lens of their diagnosis, you might ignore the true problem. This approach might have made your partner feel judged and categorized. 

2. Educate yourself further

A person who is bipolar falling in and out of love can leave you feeling confused and frustrated, even after you break up. The best way to combat this after breaking up with a bipolar person is to educate yourself. 

Take the time to read up on the different aspects of being bipolar and loving a bipolar person. You can also join certain support groups to talk to people who may have had similar experiences. 

3. Consider counseling

A bipolar relationship cycle can make a partner question themself and their relationship ability. It can create doubts, insecurities and frustration if one does not understand the disorder.  

Bipolar relationship breakups are hard and a relationship therapist can help you understand different aspects of it. It can make you see what went wrong, what you could’ve done differently, and what aspects weren’t your fault. 

4. Accept that they didn’t need fixing

We all see potential in the person we love, but falling in love or staying with someone because of their potential is the common reason bipolar relationships fail (or any other). 

The key to making the relationship work is NOT trying to fix them. Otherwise, you may have sent them a message they are not good enough the way they are, and that may have caused the breakup. 

You don’t have to feel guilty or frustrated that they did not change, as it was not your responsibility to do that. 

If you were focused on who they can be, you are not dating the person they are. That means you may have been pushing them to become someone they might not be and missing out on being present and dealing with the problems at hand.  

5. Practice self-care

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

To be there for your partner, you must take care of yourself too. One of the reasons for bipolar relationship breakups, or any other that involves any illness, is forgetting to take care of the caregiver (not that you are always in that role). 

Surround yourself with the support of people who understand what you’re going through and regularly practice self-care. For each person, self-care will mean something different, of course. 

The key is to remember to check in with your needs regularly, not only when you are exhausted.

Watch this video to learn more about how to retrain your brain through self-care:

Some commonly asked questions

Here are the answers to some questions related to bipolar disorder that can help you understand the different aspects of being in a bipolar relationship.

About 90 percent of married couples end up divorced if one partner is bipolar. It showcases not just how difficult it is to be in a bipolar relationship but also how people often lack the tools to make these relationships work. 

With the right and informed approach, bipolar relationships have a higher chance of success.

There are many misconceptions about bipolar disorder or any mental illness, for that matter. One of them is that bipolar and relationships are not a good match, and eventually, the disorder ruins the bond. 

However, it is important to recognize that it is NOT a fact that bipolar destroys relationships. Dating or living with someone with bipolar may produce additional challenges from battling the mental disorder. However, this does not mean that ALL bipolar relationships fail. 

However, relationships end for various reasons, and thinking that diagnosis is the key or main reason is fortifying the stigma regarding mental illnesses. The truth is that the diagnosis is only part of the equation for bipolar breakup.

Bipolar relationships are hard because people usually lack the knowledge and understanding of this particular mental illness and how to cope. Without the tools, bipolar relationships can become burdensome and problematic. 

To successfully manage bipolar symptoms, you must ensure that your partner is committed to continued treatment and ongoing communication with a mental health specialist. As their partner, you can provide the support and encouragement required for regular checkups. 

Additionally, as someone who knows them well, you can notice any troubling symptoms when they first appear so they can schedule an appointment immediately. When addressed promptly, an episode onset can be prevented, and a symptom-free period can continue. 

Sometimes it is a matter of changing the medicine or the dosage.

Final thoughts

When we ask why bipolar relationships fail, we must also ask why some succeed

What breaks apart one couple can make another stronger. It all depends on how they approach the situation and resolve the problem. 

Bipolar disorder can put additional hurdles to the relationship; that is true. But a diagnosis of mental illness in a partner is not a death sentence for the relationship. 

Many couples make it work and live a happy, fulfilling life together. Please focus on the person in front of you, not their diagnosis; make a point of NOT approaching a problem due to the illness; instead, look for other causes and focus on continuous treatment and self-care. 

Navigating a romantic relationship can be challenging, but we do it daily!

Bipolar mood disorders | Postpartum Support International (PSI)

Bipolar mood disorders include bipolar I and bipolar 2.

There are two phases of bipolar mood disorder: lows and highs. A low time is clinically referred to as depression, while a high time is clinically referred to as mania or hypomania. Many women are first diagnosed with bipolar depression or mania during pregnancy or after childbirth. In bipolar 2, the manic episode is less noticeable; the ups and downs are not as extreme, and sometimes it’s more obvious to friends and family than it is to the person going through the phases.

The criterion for a diagnosis of bipolar mood disorder is that the symptoms persist for more than four days and interfere with functioning and relationships. Sometimes it seems that the ups and downs happen almost simultaneously; this confused state is called a mixed episode. These cycles and emotional states are more than the moodiness of pregnancy or the postpartum period. For many women, pregnancy or the postpartum period may be the first time they realize they have bipolar mood cycles.

Occasionally, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression also has psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. These symptoms pose a high risk and require immediate treatment. In an emergency, click here. for information.

Bipolar disorder can look like severe depression or anxiety.

In pregnant women and women in childbirth, bipolar depression may appear as very severe depression or may present as anxiety. It’s important to review your mood history to determine if you’ve had periods of consistently high mood, decreased need for sleep, and periods of increased productivity. There is a very high risk of increased severity if you are being treated for depression alone, but you have the potential to move into the manic or hypomanic part of your cycle.

Risk factors

Risk factors for bipolar mood disorder are a family or personal history of bipolar mood disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder).

Bipolar mood disorder I

  • Periods of severe depression and irritability
  • Feeling much better than usual
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Gon ki thoughts, trouble concentrating
  • Continuous high energy
  • self-confidence
  • Delusions (often grandiose, but also paranoid)
  • Impulsivity, myopia, distractibility
  • Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance
  • In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations

Bipolar II mood disorder

  • Periods of severe depression
  • Periods when mood is much better than usual
  • Rapid speech
  • Little need for sleep
  • Thought racing, trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Continuous high energy
  • self-confidence

It is essential to consult an informed professional with experience and training in valuation and mental health care during pregnancy and postpartum. The situation of each woman is individual, but it is best to consult before pregnancy and draw up a treatment plan. There are a growing number of studies examining the risk-benefit ratio of using mood stabilizers during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Visit our perinatal drug resources page for more information.

Getting help Join a support group

You are not alone or at fault. Help is available. You will get better.

Help line: 1.800.944.4773

English text: 800-944-4773 | Spanish text: 971-203-7773

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What are BAR fast cycles?

Author Masha Pushkina, psychoeducator Views 465 Published Updated


Fast cycles are not uncommon. They occur in about one in four patients with bipolar disorder.

Rapid cycling of bipolar disorder (from the English – `rapid cycling`) means frequent mood swings, when during the year a person experiences at least four (or more) manic, hypomanic or depressive episodes.

Why do fast cycles occur and why is it dangerous?

In a person with bipolar disorder with fast cycling, mood rises and falls, up and down, and back again, and such fluctuations can occur over several days and even hours. The person feels like on a roller coaster, with powerful shifts in mood and activity that are out of control. For some, rapid cycling is manifested by intense irritability, anger, impulsiveness, and sudden outbursts of aggression.

In fast-cycling bipolar disorder, episodes follow each other in a random order.

Some patients may experience true mania, hypomania or depression in just one day. The fast-cyclic course of BAD has several subspecies.

If there are 4 mood swings in a month, this is called “ultra-rapid cycling”, if several alternations of episodes occur in one day or for several days within one week – this is “ultra-ultra-rapid cycling”, or “ultra-range cycling”.

In general, those with bipolar disorder have a low range of mood swings and experience longer episodes. In some “bipolar” BC (rapid cycles) are observed from the beginning of the course of the disease, but in many the disease takes on this form over time.

Most people with bipolar disorder, in fact, begin to experience shorter and more frequent episodes over the course of the illness if not properly treated. For some people, the appearance of fast cycles is a temporary phenomenon.

It is possible to experience rapid episodes for a while and then return to longer periods and less frequent swings, and at best to a stabilized mood with treatment. Only a few people have bipolar disorder with a fast-cycling form for a long time.

It is important to see a doctor right away to find the most appropriate and effective treatment for this form of bipolar disorder, because the longer a person goes without treatment, the more drug-resistant the disease becomes.

Who develops rapid cycling bipolar disorder?

Nearly half of people with bipolar disorder will experience rapid cycles at some point. There is no definite answer as to who is more likely to have them, but women are more prone to rapid cycles than men, although the disease is equally common among both sexes. An increase in the frequency of episodes can be triggered by taking certain antidepressants.

Fast cycles often disappear when they are stopped, but be aware of the possibility of recurrence of depressive episodes, so work with your doctor to find a more effective combination of drugs and never stop medication or change dosage without first discussing with a specialist .

Undoubtedly, there is an indisputable relationship between the appearance of fast cycles and the use of drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse makes a person more prone to rapidly cycling bipolar disorder. According to the results of the research, it was revealed that alcohol and drug addiction is more common in families of patients with BAD with a fast-cycle form than in families of patients with BAD without fast cycles. Whether this is the result of a genetic link between substance abuse or a consequence of self-medication is unknown.

Causes of rapid cycling bipolar disorder

The underlying cause of rapid cycling remains unknown, but there are three theories.


Sensitization is an increase in the sensitivity of nerve centers under the influence of an irritant. The theory is that early episodes occur due to various triggers. These can be different events: from the death of a loved one to the upcoming interview.

Over time, a person with bipolar disorder becomes increasingly sensitive to small triggers or stressors and is more likely to experience episodes in response to stressful situations. In the end, the person begins rapid cycles without any “triggers”. The episodes become more frequent and the end result, if the disease is not properly treated, may be rapid, ultra-rapid or ultra-range cycling.

Biorhythm disorders

This theory states that in patients with CD, daily biorhythms are not synchronized with such phenomena as dawn and dusk. The disruption of jet lag leads to the sleep disturbances characteristic of mania and depression, as well as other symptoms. There may also be an association between BC and seasonal affective disorder. Abnormal circadian biological rhythms do not cause illness but contribute to the duration and severity of a manic or depressive episode. Therefore, it is better to treat insomnia in a timely manner.


The rapid alternation of episodes of mania, hypomania and depression may be caused by a lack of thyroid hormone in the brain. Most fast cycling people have normal thyroid levels but may respond well to thyroid hormone treatment regardless of the thyroid level.

Are there effective treatments for the rapid cycling course of bipolar disorder?
Yes, although finding the right treatment is difficult. People with bipolar disorder should not despair if the first few medications or drug combinations prescribed are not successful. There are many different treatment options.

Watch what works for you and what doesn’t work or doesn’t work to help your doctor decide on future medications. Be sure to discuss adding any medications to your treatment, including natural herbal supplements, with your doctor.

Psychotherapy should be an important part of your treatment plan. In addition to being at risk for another manic or depressive episode, people with bipolar disorder may also have difficulty coping with the effects of past episodes. Feelings such as irritability, tearfulness, racing thoughts or impulsiveness lead to social problems.

Because people with bipolar disorder are often unfairly judged, they may lose the opportunity to develop friendships or romantic involvement, or have difficulty achieving their career goals. These factors contribute to self-esteem issues. That is why people with bipolar disorder should work with psychotherapists, in person with a doctor, or with family members. It is important to have a treatment plan that works and stick to it, and to work on preventing suicidal thoughts as it is vital.