What’s Wrong With My Wife?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My wife was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a little over two years ago after a manic episode. Since then, she’s been on several medications but nothing has seemed to work. In addition, her body is very sensitive to the side effects to the meds.

After becoming aware of her condition, I tried to learn as much as I could about bipolar and realized that she meets every criteria there is except for the promiscuity and spending sprees.

My wife’s suffers from auditory hallucinations. In April, she tried to overdose on clonazepam. After telling me what she had done, she starting to throw things at me saying that she “needs a break” and made a beeline for the door. Since I was afraid that she might run into the street, I grabbed her pushed her onto the couch and called 911. Very little was ever said about this “incident” until much later.

A few weeks later, her new psychiatrist took her off all previous meds and put her strictly on Topamax. By the first of June, she began a downward spiral. She initially went into a deep depression and became very withdrawn. This was followed by countless days with very little sleep and an obsession with Facebook.

In early August I had to go out of town for work and had to send my wife to stay with family in Massachusetts for a week. Upon arriving, she informed me that she was never coming home to Florida because she was scared of me and didn’t trust me. She refuses to talk about us. She tells me that she loves me and she has never mentioned divorce herself. Yet she seems to be making irrational plans for her future that seem so permanent. She told me not to come visit her.

A few days ago she agreed to go to the hospital after the voices told her to harm herself. According to my wife, the doctor told her that she simply had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and that the voices were her own thoughts because she worries too much. Yet he prescribed Zyprexa which I have learned is for schizophrenia.

What is wrong with her? Can the symptoms that I talked about have anything to do with OCD? Please help me. I love her so much and want her to be healthy.

A. Your wife was originally diagnosed with bipolar disorder but it may not be the correct diagnosis. You also said that your wife was told that she has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). She may have bipolar disorder in some capacity and she may also have obsessive compulsive disorder but there is a realistic possibility, given the symptoms you have described, that she also has schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia. Schizoaffective disorder is like having bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Typically schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is diagnosed when the individual experiences psychosis. Psychosis is a break from reality. It means that an individual no longer believes in things that are logical and rational. Psychosis presents itself in the form of delusions, hallucinations or paranoia. It seems that your wife is experiencing voices and paranoia. The paranoia is directed toward you. This may explain why your wife decided to abruptly leave you and move to another state.

I would advise you against taking her decisions personally. She is not thinking clearly. She is psychologically ill and is unable to form coherent thoughts at this time. I understand your fear and concern in this situation. Anyone in your position would feel this way.

I have several recommendations for you. I would advise you to read about bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. There is a realistic possibility that she has at least one of these disorders. Please keep in mind that from my vantage point it is difficult to know this for certain, but based on your description of her symptoms it may be a possibility.

The second recommendation, as I a mentioned before, is to try not to take her symptoms personally. This is difficult to do, especially as her husband. If your wife mentions that she no longer wants to be with you and wants a divorce, I understand it is extremely difficult not to be hurt by this, but please keep in mind that she is not rational. She is unable to make clear decisions and her thoughts are likely being driven by paranoia and delusions.

A third recommendation is that you surround yourself with support. If you don’t have friends and family for support (and even if you do) contact the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). This group is designed to help and support individuals who have a loved one with a mental illness. Many of the individuals who run the NAMI support groups are seasoned veterans of mental illness and the mental health system. They can be a great resource for you.

My fourth and final recommendation is that you try, when possible, to be involved in your wife’s care. She may not want you to attend doctor’s appointments or visit her in the hospital but you should go anyway. She reported to you that a doctor diagnosed her with OCD, told her it was this disorder that was causing her to hear voices and prescribed her medication for schizophrenia. As you pointed out, this information does not make sense. It may be that she does not fully understand what the doctor is saying, possibly due to her symptoms. It is important that you attend her appointments and hear what the doctor says versus having her tell you what she thinks he said. It is also important that you attend the appointments to ask questions and to get the doctor’s advice about how you should handle this situation. Whenever possible, speak to doctors and social workers, but keep in mind that you may have to ask her permission.

I hope this answer helped you in some small way. If you have further questions please do not hesitate to write back. I will do my best to answer any questions you have. I wish you the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Sep 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). What’s Wrong With My Wife?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/09/23/whats-wrong-with-my-wife/