Dangerousness and bipolar disorder

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Somebody i have become close to has revealed his bipolar condition to me. I have been involved in a relationship with amother man for six months and he has just told me of his bipolar disorder. I am married and am frightened he may reveal himself to my wife or do something to hurt us if he has a manic attack. We have already had an evening of obacene phone calls which I now think are attributable to him. Please advise me of how to handle the situation. I am frightened for my family yet I really like him.

A. Generally, individuals with bipolar disorder are no more dangerous than individuals without bipolar disorder. They do, however, have the capacity to become a danger to themselves or others, but only under pretty specific circumstances. Recent research shows that individuals with certain disorders (bipolar disorder with active psychosis, schizophrenia, etc) may have an increased capacity to become a danger to others when they are experiencing psychotic symptoms, not adhering to medications andor abusing substances (drugs and/or alcohol). Even under these circumstances, there is no guarantee that they will become more dangerous to others; it is that they have an increased chance to be violent or dangerous towards others.

Just as you would do with anyone, not just someone with bipolar disorder, if you feel you are being threatened because actual threats were made, you should call the police. If you are receiving obscene phone calls from anyone, not just someone with bipolar disorder, you should make a compliant with the police department. Don’t assume, however, that just because your friend has bipolar disorder that it is more likely that he is the one making the calls. It may indeed be him making the calls but I would not assume it is him just because he has bipolar disorder.

The increased chances of him being a threat to your family are very small. If you find out that your friend is actively psychotic, not taking his medications and using drugs and alcohol, you might not want to have him over to visit with your family until his is more stable. If would be foolish, however, to think that just because he has revealed to you that he has bipolar disorder that this makes him dangerous to you and your family. Please write if you have any more questions. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Aug 2006

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2006). Dangerousness and bipolar disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/08/06/dangerous-and-bipolar-disorder/

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