Q: My boyfriend has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder for the past 23 years and alcoholic neuropathy for 5 years (which he says that he’s been clean for the past 5 years). He has told me that the systems of bi-polar have been dormant for the past 10 years, until I came into his life about 2 – 2 ½ months ago. Now that I am in his life he says that his bi-polar is more active, in fact he contradicts himself and says that he believes he doesn’t have the bi-polar disorder anymore. Now, I do not understand too much about bi-polar disorder or neuropathy, so this pretty much is all brand new to me.

My question is: Is it really my fault when he gets into one of his outbreaks, how can I deal with it, why does he have his outburst at times, and, also, will he ever truly be cured of this disorder? Thank you for your time.

A: I’ll start by answering the last question first: no, someone cannot be cured of having Bipolar Disorder. It is a bio-chemical disorder that can be managed with medication, therapy and lifestyle changes sometimes to the point that people think they don’t have it anymore. But generally that is not a good sign because they may go off their medication and then have a very bad episode. The other question pertains to how you might be involved. It is not and cannot be your fault that he has either of these conditions and if he is trying to convince you that it is, I would suggest being very careful about continuing this relationship. Stress can sometimes bring an episode on but again, this is a biological condition, not an interpersonal one. It is no one’s “fault.” I would suggest that you do some research on these two disorders so that you are more informed. Make sure to check reputable sources such as the American Psychological or Psychiatric Association (APA), NAMI – the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, PsychCentral, WebMD, etc. There may be local support groups for friends and family members of people with mental health issues, in this case specifically Bipolar Disorder and there is Al-Anon for loved ones of alcoholics that might help as well. If your relationship becomes more serious and these issues continue, I would suggest that you encourage him to see his doctor or therapist again if he’s not and that you seek couple’s therapy. Good luck with your situation.