My Bipolar Daughter is Ruining the Family!

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I am desperate. My 18 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with bipolar. The one thing the psychiatrist told me in fornt of her, is she needed to break up with her current 16 year old boyfriend who is manipulative and controlling. My daughter agreed, but within hours of ending it with him he had convinced her she was the problem and she was at his mercy. A couple days later she drove 500 miles to visit a guy she hardly knew and said it helped her end the relationship once again. She ended up having intercourse with this boy, she was a virgin and thought it was love but found out differently. She returned two days later and within a week she was begging her x-boyfriend to take her back. He is such a bad person, so controlling, and so very bad for her mental condition, I just don’t know what to do. She goes to college and works part time, and lives at home. She told me her psychaiatrist told her she should quit school and move out, that would help her get better. She lies all the time so I don’t know what to believe. The doctor will not advise me or even return my phone call for assistance on dealing with these matters. I don’t know how to help her, she is destroying our family. Do I have any leverage or ways I can help her make better choices. I know deep down she wants out of the abusive relationship, but can’t do it out of fear of being alone. She calls him constantly on her cell phone that I pay for. I am tempted to turn it off. She is supposed use the car we let her use only for school and work and with permission recreation, but she lies to us to use the car and visits him. He does not have a car, job or money. She does anything he says, she is his chaufuer. She denies seeing him but I know the truth. Would it be bad to say I forbid you to see him. Would that be worse on her. I am so worried of how to handle it. The further she is sucked in by him the more difficult it will be to end the relationship, I am sure the abuse will eventaully be physical. Do I just be apathetic and put blinders on or do I interfere?? Please help me
A:
There is nothing scarier than to watch one of our own children make choices that are self-destructive. My heart goes out to you all. The psychiatrist probably won’t talk to you because of the rules of confidentiality. At age 18, your daughter needs to give consent for you to be involved with her treatment. One thing you could consider is making the cell phone, the car, and other priveleges available to her only on the condition that she sign a release so that her doctor can talk to you andon the condition that she participate with you in regular family therapy. Then find yourself a family therapist who is experienced with teens and make yourself part of the treatment team. Family therapy sessions could provide a safe forum to talk to her about your concerns. A good therapist will help her understand the impact she is having on the entire family and will help you all figure out how to help her manage her illness. If she absolutely refuses to go to therapy, go yourself anyway. You need more support and practical help with this situation than I can adquately provide by letter.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Oct 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). My Bipolar Daughter is Ruining the Family!. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/10/05/bi-polar-daughter-is-ruining-the-family/