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Dating With Bipolar 1: 8 Things To Consider

Medically reviewed by Ifeanyi Nwaka, M.D.
Written by Sarah Winfrey
Posted on June 3, 2024

When you live with a mental health diagnosis like bipolar disorder, being in a romantic or sexual relationship might feel stressful. After all, you don’t want your partner to feel like they’re riding an emotional roller coaster because of all the ups and downs.

Some people choose to forgo relationships altogether. “Lonely beats being in a bad relationship,” shared one person on MyDepressionTeam. “There really are very few relationships I’d trade my lonely, but happier, life for.”

However, if you can find a partner who understands the diagnosis and is willing to work with your mood swings, it’s possible to have a healthy relationship. It all starts with dating. If you want to date with bipolar 1, here’s what you should keep in mind.

1. Consider How and When To Tell Someone You Have Bipolar 1

Most people want to put their best foot forward when they’re dating. This can make it difficult to tell someone that you have been diagnosed with bipolar 1. It can be scary, like it was for a MyDepressionTeam member who shared, “I’m ready to open up to people, but the fear of opening up to someone I could have a relationship with terrifies me.”

Telling someone that you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness like bipolar 1 requires vulnerability and trust. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long. Consider ahead of time when you might be ready to share this information or what you want to experience with another person before you tell them. Remember that it doesn’t have to be on your first date.

Telling someone that you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness like bipolar 1 requires vulnerability and trust.

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2. Consider How To Educate Someone About Bipolar 1

Once you tell someone that you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health condition like bipolar 1, they’re likely to want to know more. They may want to understand what the diagnosis is, how it affects your life, and what it might mean for the two of you together.

You may want to explain the condition yourself. However, you might also choose to direct them to a particular website, find a book or an article that resonates with your experience of bipolar 1, or even sit down with them and a psychiatry professional so they can get their questions answered. Having a plan for how to go through this process can make you feel more comfortable sharing your diagnosis.

3. Consider Your Current Treatment’s Effectiveness

Even when you find an effective treatment, it may not take away your symptoms of bipolar disorder entirely, and you might still experience relapses. You may have to tweak your treatment or change it entirely for maximum effectiveness.

If you’re in a situation in which your treatment isn’t working as well or you’re still looking for effective solutions, you should consider whether it’s a good time to date. Some people with bipolar 1 may choose to wait until their treatment is stable before they look for a new romantic relationship.

4. Consider Your Medication’s Effects on a Relationship

Even after you’ve found an effective treatment for bipolar 1, you may want to consider its potential side effects. Those can affect dating, too.

Different medications for bipolar 1 have different side effects, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Metabolic problems
  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Low energy
  • Inability to sit still for very long

All these can make dating difficult for different reasons. For instance, both having low energy and feeling like you can’t sit still may limit the activities you want to participate in.

You can overcome these challenges in your dating life, but it helps to think about them first. That way, when you encounter an issue, it won’t be entirely unexpected. You’ll be in a better place to address it with yourself and the person you’re dating.

5. Consider How Bipolar 1 Affects You Sexually

Bipolar 1 may influence how often you want sex or are interested in it. When you’re in a manic bipolar 1 episode, you might want a lot of sex. When you’re in a depressive episode, you may have no interest at all. This can be confusing to someone you’re dating and may have negative effects on your relationship.

If you know how bipolar 1 affects your sexual needs and desires, it may help to tell the person you’re dating before this type of situation occurs. You might choose to come up with a plan for handling those occasions. You might also want to get medical advice so you know understand your options for raising or lowering your sex drive.

6. Consider What You Need During a Manic Episode

Your needs while dating are likely to change based on where you are in your bipolar cycle. When you’re in a manic episode, you’re likely to feel very happy, as well as very irritable or even anxious. You might need a lot of activity in your life and be more prone to taking risks.

Different people with bipolar 1 will need different types of support from their partners during these times. You may need someone who:

  • Doesn’t take your irritability personally
  • Will join you in celebration and joy
  • Can keep up with you when your energy is high
  • Is willing to step in when you’re making choices that might hurt you later
  • Notices your warning signs so you know when an episode is coming

It can be scary to share the extremes you experience. “I’d love to find a guy and be in a relationship, but my issues and behaviors prevent me from anything other than merely picturing it,” one MyDepressionTeam member shared. “The prospect of the new emotional experiences a relationship can bring petrify me.” Thinking about these situations ahead of time could make handling them easier.

7. Consider What You Need During a Depressive Episode

Your needs are likely to be very different when you’re experiencing a depressive episode. You’re more likely to feel sad or hopeless, struggle with even getting out of bed, have less energy, eat less, communicate less, and even think about suicide or death.

Note: If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or chatting online.

Again, your needs during these times might differ from those of someone else diagnosed with bipolar 1. For instance, you might want a partner who:

  • Tries to cheer you up
  • Covers for you when you can’t get something done
  • Encourages you to eat and sleep normally
  • Continues to communicate with you
  • Keeps an eye out for suicidal behaviors

Preparing your partner ahead of time to recognize a depressive episode can also help your relationship thrive.

8. Consider Counseling With Your Partner

Bipolar 1 can have a number of negative effects on a relationship. Your partner may have to do extra work, take care of you, and carry more of the burden of your lives together. Counseling might help you overcome these impacts of bipolar disorder, especially if you get in the habit of it while you’re dating.

A professional counselor or licensed therapist can help you and the person you’re dating maintain open communication and work through any hurt or confusion that develops because of bipolar 1. They may be able to help you and your partner set boundaries around treatment options and a continuing treatment plan or make a plan for what to do during difficult times.

Note that you, your partner, or both of you may want to attend psychotherapy or a support group on your own, too. This is healthy. It can also keep your feelings of wellness and sense of well-being high. It may also help your partner develop a plan for self-care. Your health care provider can help you find a mental health professional who is right for you.

Note that you, your partner, or both of you may want to attend psychotherapy or a support group.

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Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and their loved ones. On MyDepressionTeam, more than 147,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with depression.

Are you concerned about dating after being diagnosed with bipolar 1? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on June 3, 2024
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Ifeanyi Nwaka, M.D. earned his medical degree from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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