My daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar and is pregnant. Her father has bipolar and I struggled to deal with his issues which resulted in divorce. I am very concerned about how to appropriately and sanely deal with my daughter and her issues. I often have a very hard time differentiating between bad behavior and the bipolar. I feel like I am going to collapse. How can I know the difference between bad behavior and bipolar behavior and how do I properly deal with it?
A. If I understand you correctly, you are attempting to determine what behavior your daughter may engage in on purpose and what may be the result of her bipolar disorder. Without specific examples of what you consider “bad behavior” or “bipolar behavior,” this question is challenging to answer.
Generally speaking, many family members struggle with this issue. It can be difficult to separate the individual from their illness but that is the goal. Even if her behavior is a result of the illness, it does not mean that you should tolerate negative or inappropriate behavior. Try to realize that her actions may be beyond her control, then work to establish rules and boundaries for the relationship.
Bipolar disorder is a very complex illness. It’s not only debilitating to the individuals suffering from the disease but it can profoundly affect the family members and friends of the person living with the illness. In this respect, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are often thought of as family disorders.
The goal is to be firm but compassionate with your daughter, limit the time you spend with her if necessary and realize that much of what is causing her behavior towards you may be out of her control and due to the illness. Try not to take her behavior personally. This is one of the biggest challenges facing friends and family members.
I would also highly recommend contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is one of the nation’s largest mental health advocacy groups. Many of the members are dealing with very similar situations with their mentally ill adult children. Most cities and towns across the United States have local NAMI meetings that you can attend. All of their meetings are free of charge. I would highly recommend these groups. They provide psychoeducation and support.
I would also encourage you to become more educated about bipolar disorder. This would include reading books about the disorder. I would suggest reading book reviews on a website such as Amazon.com or visiting your local library to search for books about bipolar disorder. You may also find it helpful to meet with a therapist. He or she can analyze your daughter’s behavior and work in tandem with you to determine the best way to respond to her. Lastly, you and your daughter may want to consider family therapy. Family therapy can assist the two of you in creating a new, healthier family dynamic. With regard to disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, changing the family dynamic is often an important part of the treatment process.
You can search for a therapist by clicking the find help tab at the top of this page. I wish you well and please don’t hesitate to write back. I may be able to provide you with a more specific answer if I have additional details about your daughter’s behavior. Please take care.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Dec 2010
Randle, K. (2010). Pregnant Daughter With Bipolar: How Do I Cope?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/23/pregnant-daughter-with-bipolar-how-do-i-cope/