Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder featuring significant fluctuations in emotions and energy. These shifts in mood and behaviors can cause problematic bipolar disorder relationship patterns.

Bipolar disorder often responds well to treatment, making relationships easier to maintain.

But sometimes people experiencing bipolar disorder manic episodes don’t want treatment. They may feel invincible and infused with power.

Then they shift from a manic episode to a depressive one, and may not have the will or energy to seek support.

Left untreated, bipolar disorder can leave a person feeling out of control and at the whim of their changing moods and energy. This can have a significant impact on daily functioning and make navigating relationships particularly challenging.

People who live with bipolar disorder often experience relationship disruptions in multiple areas of life.


Bipolar symptoms can make it difficult for a person to maintain employment.

Whether it’s impulsive and reckless behavior leading to careless errors, or prolonged absences during depressive episodes, people with bipolar often face difficulties at work.

If you live with bipolar, you may have experienced a reduction in trust from your coworkers. Your symptoms may make you seem unreliable, leading them to have less confidence in you. They might exclude you and communicate with you less.

If your partner lives with bipolar disorder and experiences repeated job losses as a result, this can strain your relationship if you’re pressured to provide more financial support. You might feel frustrated and taken advantage of.


Bipolar disorder can add stress to family relationships.

Estrangement is one such example. Siblings entrenched in conflict resulting from bipolar disorder may choose to distance themselves from one another after they’ve left the family home.

Family members may feel anger resulting from the debilitating effects of bipolar disorder symptoms. They might feel guilt about the person’s diagnosis or grieve the loss of the life they all shared before the condition onset.


When a parent lives with bipolar disorder, this can impact the relationship they have with their child, as well as the way the child interacts with other people.

The parent’s changing moods and behaviors can make it hard for the child to understand their relationship. It can cause issues like anxiety and shame.

A parent experiencing mania may be prone to escalate conflict, and their depressive episodes can leave a child feeling abandoned.


Being a student with bipolar disorder means that learning can be challenging at times.

During manic episodes, people with bipolar disorder might find it easy to stay up all night to study and complete assignments. They may finish an entire unit in half the expected time, prompting their instructor to ask if they’ve hired a tutor.

Then, during depressive episodes, simply getting out of bed to go to class takes more energy than they can summon. Their ability to concentrate can elude them, and they may feel helpless as they watch their previous academic progress slip away, possibly taking their self-esteem along with it.

The behavior of a person with bipolar at school might alternate between disruptive recklessness and social withdrawal. This can alienate their peers and frustrate their teachers and family members.

There are strategies you can try that may improve bipolar disorder relationship patterns.

  • Education: Learning as much as possible about bipolar disorder from reliable sources can help you understand its causes and symptom triggers.
  • Self-care: Sleep, nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are examples of self-care.
  • Counseling: If your loved one lives with bipolar, attending counseling with them can increase your understanding of their condition and help you become more involved in their treatment.
  • Social support: It can help to have friends or family members to talk with about your situation.
  • Communication: If you live with bipolar, it may help to tell the people in your life what upsets you, and what can comfort you. An increased awareness of your feelings might help them support you more effectively.
  • Support group: Whether it’s you or someone in your life that is living with bipolar disorder, finding the right support group can connect you with people who share your experience.
  • Family therapy: Effective coping strategies learned through therapy can help people navigate life when a family member lives with bipolar disorder.
  • Routines: Maintaining a consistent schedule can help to anchor a person living with bipolar, and reduce mood episode triggers. Involving friends and family members in that routine can help to maintain it and strengthen relationships.

It can also help to remember that the changing moods and energy associated with bipolar disorder are symptoms, rather than a reflection of the person’s values or abilities.

If you’re the person living with bipolar disorder, that means forgiving yourself when you feel irritable or unable to function.

If it’s a person in your life who lives with bipolar disorder, this means remembering that their mood may be a symptom, rather than a reflection of how they feel about you.

Bipolar disorder causes a range of fluctuating moods and changing energy levels. As a result, it can be a challenge for a person living with bipolar disorder to engage with others in a consistent and predictable way.

Some bipolar disorder symptoms can cause stress in relationships, leading to issues like alienation, estrangement, and resentment.

Strategies to manage relationships with bipolar disorder include counseling, social and group support, and education.