For people with bipolar, dating means taking it slow, minimizing anxiety, and putting yourself first.
For people with bipolar disorder, piloting the unpredictable waters of dating can mean much more anxiety than normal. Here, five adults with bipolar disorder talk about their dating experiences, and how they navigate both the dating scene and the crucial question of when to disclose their mental health issues. Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, California, and author of the Mindful Self-Express column on Psychology Today, also weighs in.
First Dates: Manage Your Expectations and Have a Getaway Plan
вЂњIвЂ™d just remind myself to cool it вЂ” itвЂ™s just a date,вЂќ says freelance writer Laura Dattaro, 28, of New York City. Dattaro was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder arablounge promo codes right after her birthday that is 23rd. вЂњIt can be easy to get carried away, especially if your mood is on the upswing.вЂќ That excitement and good feeling may make the new person seem like your soul mate or new friend that is best, she says, and when that doesnвЂ™t pan out itвЂ™s a big bummer.
Dr. Greenberg agrees, noting that in someone with bipolar disorder, that excitement can be heightened. So to those with bipolar who are entering the dating scene, she advises, “since bipolar people can be impulsive, you might want to prepare yourself for taking your time.” For example, you might not want to get too sexual prematurely.
Greenberg also says that your anxiety could be heightened. Leah Yegneswaran, 24, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 20, agrees. вЂњI worry that IвЂ™ll be triggered over the course of the date,вЂќ says the University of Mary Washington student.
So Yegneswaran creates a backup plan to accommodate the possibility of an anxiety attack. вЂњI tell friends in the area of the date I need to crash somewhere,вЂќ she says that I might need a safe space in case something happens and.
Elspeth Rawlings, 23, a student in Frederick, Maryland, tends to only date people she already knows, which helps minimize anxiety. At age 17, Rawlings was misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder. She was formally diagnosed with bipolar I in early 2015 and is now thriving with the right therapy and medication regimen.
Low-key first dates вЂ” like watching movies together вЂ” are best for her, Rawlings says. вЂњI donвЂ™t really like not having a place to retreat to or get away from crowds if I start to feel bad,вЂќ she adds, echoing Yegneswaran.
Ryan Zamo, 26, feels вЂњhighly nervousвЂќ about dating when heвЂ™s in a period that is stable. вЂњI would be hoping that I really shouldnвЂ™t be spending,вЂќ says the Los Angeles resident that I donвЂ™t start swinging into mania, because then I just get erratic and start spending tons of money. Depressive periods make Zamo not want to go at all: вЂњNothingвЂ™s harder than trying to be interested in someoneвЂ™s story when youвЂ™d rather just not be there.вЂќ Zamo, who is CEO of his own cosmetics that are organic, says he showed signs of bipolar disorder when he was 18, but was only formally diagnosed at age 22.
Should You Disclose Your Bipolar Disorder?
вЂњDefinitely do not tell the person on your date that is first, Zamo says emphatically. According to Greenberg, not disclosing right away is okay if doing so would be uncomfortable. But, she adds, вЂњIf the relationship is getting more serious, it should be revealed by you.вЂќ
вЂњIf you think you might behave in a way that is uncomfortable for the other person,вЂќ says Greenberg, thatвЂ™s another reason to disclose.
Zamo has had that experience. When he discloses that he has bipolar disorder, itвЂ™s usually after heвЂ™s become вЂњfeisty and irritated during a low period.вЂќ Later, heвЂ™ll feel bad about it, and revealing his bipolar disorder is вЂњthe only way to explain being an ass to them,вЂќ he says.
Michelle Mallet, 32, of Seattle, describes herself as outspoken and open with friends and coworkers about her mental health. Mallet, who currently works as a chef, was diagnosed with the condition around age 18 or 19. Despite being outspoken about her condition, Mallet doesnвЂ™t reveal that she has bipolar disorder on a first date.
вЂњI want to know the people I tell this to first,вЂќ she says. Dattaro leans that way, too, in a balancing that is mental of her own. вЂњI try not to think about it as some scary secret that needs to be revealed,вЂќ she says. вЂњItвЂ™s more an aspect of my life thatвЂ™s just a little more personal than regular first-date fodder.вЂќ
Rawlings takes a approach that is different she has anxiety and panic disorder along with her bipolar. From people who arenвЂ™t necessarily accepting when it comes to mental health issues,вЂќ she saysвЂњ I disclose as soon as possible just so I donвЂ™t scare someone, but also to protect myself.
The Risks (and Benefits) of Building a Relationship
You feel like youвЂ™re not quite in control of your emotions, says Greenberg when you have bipolar disorder, dating can make. You could feel like youвЂ™re becoming too angry or being ultra-sensitive, she adds. When it comes to relationship style, research has shown that adults with bipolar disorder display more insecure attachment styles when compared to people without the disorder. Zamo says heвЂ™s definitely scared people off, either because he cut off communication during a low spell, or because his manic behaviors were too much for someone else to handle.
The mood state does matter, according to Mallett. She once reached out to someone she was dating that they turn their relationship into something more serious while she was in a вЂњdepressive, anxious cycle,вЂќ requesting. MallettвЂ™s request was rejected. вЂњThat triggered an anxiety spiral, which triggered my depressive cycle to the max, and I spent the next day in a super-duper fog and then drove myself to the hospital and checked in for suicide watch,вЂќ she explains. вЂњI was in a serious, depressive state for two months,вЂќ she says, and had to take medical leave.