How Do Couples Best Cope with Bipolar Disorder?

Further considerations

Bipolar disorder can be challenging to live with for individual and couples. Having a detailed understanding of what coping strategies are useful for maintaining stability in long-term relationships from experienced couples identifies tools which may be helpful for couples. Because of high rates of separation and divorce among couples coping with bipolar disorder, and heightened risk due to the illness itself, it is important for couples to do everything reasonable to build resilience in order to enjoy the greatest individual and shared quality of life they can, focusing on positive and constructive efforts, rather than getting caught up in negative, destructive cycles.

Resilience in general is bolstered by active coping, identifying and preventing problems before they happen, cultivating a strong sense of agency and a healthy sense of control in dealing with adversity, fostering flexible thinking, challenging oneself in healthy ways to grow stronger, maintaining good self-care and healthy routines, using social support, and practicing religion and spirituality effectively as applicable. Based on this research, couples with bipolar disorder describe coping strategies consistent with good practice, rather than relying on more brittle coping, such as denial, though distraction can be a healthy and necessary coping tool at times if it does not lead to long-term avoidant coping, which allows problems to grow unchecked.

Future research will be important to sort out which coping strategies are most effective, and how to integrate them into treatment, including therapeutic interventions for couples. Additional factors, including personal, religious, and cultural differences, play a significant role in determining what coping strategies are most useful and may fruitfully be explored further. Based on the current research, couples report do best when they are open and communicative, supporting one another pragmatically and emotionally, setting aside time for self-care and personal time, and using external supports and clinical care appropriately. By collaborating to manage bipolar illness, couples can better maintain longer periods of well-being and achieve a greater sense of efficacy in dealing with a serious challenge together.

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