Living with bipolar disorder: the impact on patients, spouses, and their marital relationship

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Abstract

Objectives:

Patients with bipolar disorder are characterized by an unusually high divorce rate. As such, the purpose of the present study was to uncover information relating specifically to the impact of bipolar disorder on patients and spouses individually, and on the marital relationship from the perspectives of both patients and spouses.

Methods:

Eleven patients with bipolar disorder and ten spouses were interviewed separately about the impact of bipolar disorder on their lives and on their marital relationship. Data were analyzed using the grounded theory method.

Results:

The impact of bipolar disorder for spouses included self-sacrifice, caregiving burden, emotional impact, and a sense of personal evolution. The impact of bipolar disorder on patients included an emotional impact, responsibility for self-care, and struggling socially and developmentally. When comparing patient and spouse perspectives on the impact of the disorder, neither the patient nor the spouse was able to accurately assess the impact of the disorder on their partner's lives. The impact of bipolar disorder on the relationship included volatility in the relationship, strengthening the relationship, weakening the relationship, and family planning.

Conclusions:

The research indicated that patients and partners alike struggle with the tremendous impact of bipolar disorder on their lives and on their relationships. Given the high rates of divorce and volatility in these relationships, healthcare professionals can provide (or refer to) emotional and practical support both to patients and spouses on their own, and as a couple in their clinics.

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