What To Do When Your Bipolar Husband Won’t Get Help

by Elizabeth Atlas on September 3, 2007

Sobering Advice for You
When Your Bipolar Husband or Wife
Resists Getting Help

It's frustrating and at times frightening, but, nonetheless, it's true. If your husband or wife is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he or she may resist getting professional help. When they're depressed, they don't believe help is possible. And when they're in a manic state, they often get irritated or offended when you suggest it. It's not easy being in a bipolar relationship, so here's some information for you to think about.

Some bipolar people refuse treatment their entire lives. Others resist at first, but ultimately acknowledge that they cannot control this illness by themselves. The reasons they most often cite are fear, mistrust and denial. But as a caring spouse, for you it boils down to this:

If your spouse doesn't want treatment, there are only two circumstances in which help can be forced upon him. First, if your bipolar husband or wife presents an imminent health and safety danger to himself or, second, to others. Otherwise, he or she cannot be forced into treatment or "committed" to mental hospital.

This is the bitter medicine that you, as the well wife or husband, must take when you watch someone you love self-destruct. The hard truth is, you can't override your bipolar spouse's decisions for himself–as much as you might want to. And your spouse doesn't have to listen to you, as much as you may think that what you're telling him is for his own good.

The vast majority of bipolar people who pursue conventional psychotherapy have case outcomes that are generally much more positive than if the illness is left untreated. Most of the time, but not always.

Often your bipolar husband may decide to pursue alternative therapies and treatments–either after traditional medical treatment fails or because he distrusts doctors and drugs. These therapies may range from outright quackery to therapies for which some interesting and promising anecdotal evidence exists. The outcomes in these cases vary widely, but, often, if you *believe* that something will help you, it does: the power of positive thinking.

Sometimes those with bipolar disorder put their faith in spirituality to "heal" them or help them cope. As misguided as some treatments may sound to you, you cannot live your bipolar husband's life for him. Instead, turn it around and be glad that your bipolar spouse or bipolar partner is trying to take responsibility for his own care.

When you're in a bipolar relationship or you're married to someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, remember to look out for yourself. As much as you want to help and protect this person, you can't let yourself become a financial or emotional victim. Join a family support group and take advantage of other resources available to you. You are not alone in dealing with this terrible illness.

Elizabeth Atlas is the author of "Married To Mania," a book that helps spouses and partners be in relationships with someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her book teaches how to "live life on purpose," despite the unfair hand you were dealt in love and marriage and despite the chaos and emotional mine field you must avoid everyday in a marriage to someone with manic depression (another name for bipolar disorder). Elizabeth shows how to construct a plan to take charge of your life and to retain control of your life's goals, without getting caught up in the bipolar drama-no matter how much you love your bipolar spouse.

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