Does my ex-Boyfriend Have Bipolar Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I’ve been in a relationship with my 24 year old boyfriend for about 8 months. We first met in high school but he was too shy to approach me, so for the next 10 years he basically emailed me several times a year until I decided to meet him. After we met, it took him about three months to admit that he liked me and wanted to date me. Everything was great at first – he talked about his values, brought me flowers, etc.

Then as time went on he started making comments that concerned me a little, but I brushed them off. Bringing up old boyfriends in passing that were way before his time would upset him for hours, and he told me that I shouldn’t mention anyone to him at all. I wanted to go to an event a male friend once, didnt think it was a big deal at all, when he found this out, he stopped talking to me for a week; I basically had to hunt him down. Then as the relationship went on, he started texting me 50 times a day/calling me for 3 or 4 hours per day. He said he is very jealous of me doing things with other people when he’s not around. But he was still very nice, so I brushed these off for the most part.

He was also telling me how serious he was about me, how much he liked me, how much he missed me, how I’m the last girl that hes liked (at his age, he came to me basically a virgin with about two one or two month relationships), and so on. Then he got into some problems at work that I think have made him depressed, and basically shut down. He said he was making me unhappy and we should break up. I tried to work it out but he basically yo-yo’ed back and forth for a month and then said that it cant work. His reasons were that he had failed relationships therefore our relationship cant work, its based on too many assumptions b/c he doesnt know what I’m doing all the time – he thinks that you cant trust people and he doesnt want me to break up with him later b/c obviously I’m out looking for other guys, so he’d rather do it first, even though I’ve repeatedly tried to reassure him. He was refused to talk to me, refused to see me, refuse to give my stuff back, refuses to talk about why he changed his mind, etc.

After we broke up I wanted to talk to him about his emotional problems – inability to trust, paranoia, jealousy, but he refuses to see me. Then I was talking to a friend and she’s had contact with guy who are bipolar that act very similar – pull in emotionally really fast and then just shut down. I know he’s been depressed before and took some anti-depressants(not prescribed) and from everything I know, I have never seem such extremes in behavior from others. I want to help him so I wanted to talk to his friend about it, since he wont talk to me, but I just wanted to get a second opinion that there is something emotionally wrong here before I drag someone else into it and what the problem could be.

A. While I cannot diagnose an individual over the Internet, I don’t believe that anything you wrote about your ex-boyfriend’s behavior indicates that he has bipolar disorder. He does seem to be moody and depressed as well as extremely jealous, paranoid, and manipulative. Jealousy, paranoia and manipulation, however, are not necessarily signs of a mental health disorder. Rather, they are generally signs of an individual who lacks self-esteem and self-confidence.

The way your ex was behaving shows that he may be currently unavailable for a relationship. By this I mean that he may have many unresolved issues that make it very difficult for him to engage in a healthy relationship. For instance, you wrote that you went to a social engagement with a male friend and he stopped talking to you completely. This is an example of an inappropriate reaction to what he perceived as improper behavior. As you said, you did not think that what you did was wrong but he did not see it that way. I do not know if attending the event with your male friend was an improper mistake on your part but his reaction was certainly inappropriate. The correct and healthy way to have approached you would have been to come to you and share his feelings about why he was upset. Instead, he decided to stop all contact with you. This behavior then prompted you to come looking for him. This is a form of manipulation.

You also said that he doesn’t like you being with other people (presumably including your friends) when he is not around. This may be related to his extremely low self-esteem but it also shows that he may be controlling. This type of behavior is indicative of an unhealthy individual.

Clearly he has problems with relationships. It took him ten years to approach you and that was after your prompting him. He may have great fear about rejection but the solution is well beyond your control. He needs in-depth counseling to help he become adept at social interaction.

If you want to help him, ask him to go back to treatment. Suggest that he get individual counseling. Counseling, if he is open to it, may help him greatly. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Jul 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Does my ex-Boyfriend Have Bipolar Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/07/does-my-ex-boyfriend-have-bipolar-disorder/