Bi-Polar Disorder and Divorce
All mental illness effects divorce but Bi-Polar Disorder and Divorce can be a terrible combination. This must be managed carefully and with intention. Some parents are unable to have unsupervised parenting time. Other times, the condition can be managed and divorce proceedings can occur without a mental health or custody evaluation. Manic depression may lead to wasteful spending or irrational and dangerous choices. You need an attorney who understands the disorder. This podcast episode is a great place to start if you suspect a personality disorder.
If you are your spouse has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder you may be experiencing or seeing:
- Long bouts of extreme sadness, hopelessness, or feelings of despair
- Depressed or irritable mood on and off, or persistently
- Loss of interest in activities and loss of pleasure in hobbies, life, sex, and socializing
- Weight gain or loss, difficulty controlling appetite, and related eating issues
- Increased sleep, tiredness, and feelings of exhaustion
- Insomnia, inability to stay asleep, or irregular sleep patterns
- Appearing slow or unable to function at a “normal speed”
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Shame and feeling not good enough
- Fatigue, energy loss, and difficulty finding energy for even mundane tasks
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing, as well as trouble making decisions
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide, or making attempts or plans at either
- Emotional extremes that are out of line with what the situation warrants
These symptoms are usually easy to spot if you are married to someone with the condition, but it may be harder to notice if it happens slowly over time. When these symptoms are compounded by a failing marriage, it can be easy for them to be overlooked. People’s perception is often distorted by depression, which means they can’t see things as they are and may have delusions or false perceptions of reality in extreme cases.
Behaviors associated with Bi-Polar Disorder and Divorce
People who struggle with bi-polar or major depression at this level of severity will have several different unusual behaviors that may indicate something is amiss. Based on the symptoms discussed above, you should watch for things like:
- Sleeping all day or sleeping during hours when they are supposed to be doing other things.
- Eating more than normal or eating at odd hours.
- Avoiding social situations or staying in their room or home for days at a time.
- Feeling like everyone hates them and that no one cares if they are around.
- Missing work, school, or other obligations with a lack of urgency and sense of apathy about it all.
- Some people with major depression may use their condition to manipulate their partner or to get the upper hand in a situation.
- Using depression as a tool or weapon against the other person in a way to say “you don’t care about me” to fulfill their false thinking and feelings of worthlessness.
- Withdrawing from or no longer participating in activities that they once enjoyed, such as hobbies, social engagements, or even work parties.
- Falling out of contact with family and friends and isolating themselves to “stay out of the way” and not bother anyone because they don’t feel worth it.
Someone suffering from major depression is going to do whatever they can to fulfill their false beliefs that the world is terrible and their life is miserable and they shouldn’t be here. Their symptoms will typically cause them to spiral into a dark hole that can last for weeks or even months, and may eventually result in hospitalization for their own safety.
How Do These Conditions Manifest During Divorce?
In the divorce process, things are rarely amicable. The entire end of the relationship can feel like a failure to anyone, and especially to those with mental health and personality disorders. These people have a distorted sense of importance about things in the world around them and as such, they will see the divorce as yet another way they have screwed up, in many cases.
Stress is the name of the game with divorce, so naturally, the mental health conditions that people have will continue to get worse during this time. People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme bouts of depression, or even have manic periods where they think they are infallible and don’t need a qualified lawyer to help them through their divorce case.
Someone with major depression might have withdrawn themselves so far from the marriage that when their spouse finally leaves, they see that as a sign that they were right about being worthless. Even though they essentially created their own self-fulfilling prophecy, they will allow the divorce proceedings to continue to fuel their condition until or unless they seek help.
Bi-polar disorder and divorce- expect Lashing Out
In some cases, if there is a lot of anger that comes with the manic episodes, people can become mean or even violent. Their reactive behaviors will become harder to control and they will lash out in various ways as a stress response especially when combining bi-polar disorder and divorce. This could come out in several forms, and if you are the one struggling, you can’t guarantee that you will be immune. Be careful to watch for increased stress so that you can plan to avoid these potential risks.
We already mentioned how some people might use their condition or diagnosis to manipulate their partner in one way or another. They may also attempt to pit the children against their spouse or cause other drama because of their condition and insecurities. The anger can come out in many forms, but is often seen in yelling, confrontation, and threats of or perceived violence.
It isn’t common for people to get violent as a result of stressors related to bipolar disorder and divorce and major depression, but it can happen in situations where things are extremely stressful or where people’s conditions are severe and not well maintained or treated.
While a lot of the consequences and issues that arise from dealing with mental health conditions and emotional disorders during divorce are simply annoying and sometimes additionally stressful, lashing out can become dangerous for everyone involved and it needs to be stopped before it starts.
There are some instances where the courts may need to get involved because the effects of bipolar or depression can impact the wellbeing of the children or other parties involved in the divorce. Courts will want to see that people are seeking treatment and doing their best to be healthy and functional, otherwise, they aren’t going to rule in their favor in most cases.
In family law, the mental stability and emotional wellness of all parties involved are essential to the courts. If someone has major depression or bipolar disorder, it’s assumed that they are not in their best frame of mind. The courts may decide that the affected parent is not allowed to have custody of the child or children, or that visits must be supervised.
They may also designate a required treatment plan for the person with the mental health disorder and require their care to be monitored so that it can be assured that they are safe and healthy for themselves and any children involved. The stress of divorce can take its toll, but you shouldn’t let it impact how you feel about yourself and your ability to parent if you can help it.
Plus, you should already be getting help (or getting help for your soon-to-be ex) just because it’s the right course of action to take. It can be hard for people with these conditions to believe that they are worthy of help, of course, so that’s a big part of the process. Sometimes, it takes that court mandate for people to step up and do what needs to be done. This is another area, however, where it’s important to use the court mandate as a beneficial tool and not a manipulative move directed toward your spouse or soon-to-be ex.
A lot is going on in a breakup and divorce. When there are mental health disorders like bipolar and clinical depression present, the pile just gets bigger. It can be a lot to handle, but it can also be effectively managed if you know what to do. Read on to learn some valuable insights and tips for managing stress during a divorce to avoid further complications with bipolar and depression.
Managing the Added Stress of Divorce Proceedings and Bi-Polar Disorder: Tips and Tools
You already know that you need to have a plan. Now, however, it’s time to discuss the details of how to create a plan and be successful in managing the stress of your divorce or family law case even when depression or bipolar disorder is present.
Here are some tips to consider that will help you prepare for what you are about to embark upon. Of course, keep in mind that the path you take will depend on who is dealing with the mental health disorder and how well (or not) they are handling it.
- Consider past behavior or experience to try to anticipate what may happen during the divorce process. Typically, the symptoms tend to repeat themselves or continue on the same type of path.
- Think about the severity of the condition and the symptoms regularly. Those with milder forms of the condition may be less likely to struggle through divorce than others.
- Make sure that a therapist and proper treatment plan are involved right from the start. Whether it’s mandatory or not, it can make all the difference for everyone.
- Make sure that you document everything carefully and keep your lawyer informed of anything that happens that could impact your case.
- If one spouse has a problem with spending excessively related to their manic episodes, it might be a good idea to request the courts to put certain assets into a fund so that they can’t be spent entirely during the process of the divorce.
- If you are the one struggling with bipolar disorder or major depression, make a plan ahead of time. Talk to your lawyer and do your best to learn what to expect so that you can reduce your stress and thereby, the likelihood of symptoms flaring up or creating problems.
- Always make sure that you are documenting everything and letting your attorney handle matters to the letter of the law. When a mental health disorder is involved in the divorce or custody case, even the smallest slip-up or lack of proof can result in an undesirable outcome because the severity of the situation is difficult to prove.
- If you are unable to reason with the individual that has bipolar disorder or another mental health condition, you may be better off letting the courts handle things. Don’t try to force things or make them worse than necessary because there are resources available to help you.
- It may take longer to get through the divorce process when mental illnesses like bipolar disorder are severe and out of control. Expect to spend longer than normal trying to work things out, or waiting on the court to handle the details for you if they cannot be worked out amicably.
- Ask your lawyer what to expect from the courts and what your options are. When you work with a qualified, experienced lawyer, you will be able to trust that you are prepared for anything even when there’s a serious mental health disorder like bipolar or depression involved in your divorce or custody case.
Safety Concerns with Bi-Polar and Divorce
Although it can happen with different mental health disorders, those who have bipolar disorder are often more likely to become outwardly violent during stressful experiences like a breakup or divorce. If you are separating from someone with severe symptoms that has a tendency for self-harm or has threatened in the past to hurt themselves or others, this is an important thing to look for.
Some people become suicidal or think about harming themselves. They may make rash decisions and have delusions or hallucinations that they have to “save” their children or protect themselves from you in some capacity. These people may also make threats or damage property, and have even been known to exhibit stalking behaviors when under extreme duress during the divorce process.
If any of the symptoms or behaviors of bipolar disorder (or other mental health disorders) become violent or dangerous, you need to find safety immediately and contact law enforcement right away. You should always take immediate action to protect yourself and your children, as well as the individual struggling with bipolar disorder or major depression.
If domestic violence becomes an issue, the courts will become much more involved in the hearing and the custody process and it might be taken out of your hands entirely. This isn’t necessarily the outcome that people want, but it’s always about what is in everyone’s best interest. When it comes to safety, that’s always priority number one.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst with Bi-Polar Disorder and Divorce
It’s one of those paradoxical statements that people love to hate, but in the case of divorcing someone when mental illness is involved, it’s absolutely true. You need to hope for the best possible outcome that is fair for everyone involved, but you also need to plan ahead and prepare for the worst possible scenario.
With any luck, the worst won’t be what happens. However, when you are dealing with mental health disorders like bipolar and major depression, you can never really know what to expect. Use the tips and insight above to help you plan for your case and get to know what you’re up against.
If you are experiencing a crisis call the national mental health hotline.