Asked by despairing


do bipolars flip from love to hate regularly


Hi, Despairing. I'm guessing you found a wonderful person in your life, but this person is now driving you nuts with his or her unpredictable behavior. The tendency these days - judging by reader commments on this site - is for the confused and aggrieved partner to make bipolar the prime suspect.

I tend to caution readers that when something goes wrong in a relationship, there are numerous prime suspects, and that bipolar probably isn't the main cause of things going wrong - even if the person in question does happen to have bipolar.

You don't give us much to go on here, but your love/hate dichotomy gives us something to work with:

When you mention this kind of emotional extreme - love/hate as opposed to up/down - the first thing that comes to mind is borderline personality disorder. But this is as prejudicial as making bipolar a prime suspect. We need to know a lot more about the individual's behavior.

Having said that, the two illnesses are worth comparing and contrasting:

Catch someone with bipolar or borderline on their game and you're likely to fall head over heals in love very quickly. We are talking about exuberant and charismatic live-wires who have "soul mate" written all over them. But then things change. It's as if aliens have abducted your soulmate and replaced him or her with a soul-less and noncaring stunt double. And here you are, desperately waiting for the return of your soul-mate.

What is going on? Individuals with borderline tend to view others in terms of black and white. There are no shades of gray. Either you are wonderful or the devil incarnate. So, on a good day you are receiving full strength love, and on a bad day you are getting an unbelievable blast of hate. Individuals with borderline can turn on a dime, with no warning. The most insignificant thing can set them off. Those close to them are literally walking on eggshells.

In the early stages of the relationship, everything is perfect. He/she thinks you are wonderful and he/she is giving you every reason to believe the same. Inevitably the bubble of illusion bursts. Their world falls apart. The only way they can cope is by recasting you as a bad person. Significantly, those with borderline have huge trouble maintaining relationships.

A different dynamic is going on with bipolar. When a bipolar's mood heads south, a number of things may happen: You are likely to remain wonderful, but the bipolar individual may be too depressed to put energy into the relationship. May feel guilty, may lose confidence. Certainly, he/she is no longer any fun to be around.

Or the depression may introduce reality into the relationship. He/she more realistically assesses both his/her and your flaws and all the practical things that can interfere with a long-term relationship (such as perhaps few interests in common).

Or the depression may lead to unrealistic assumptions (such as he/she is not good enough for you).

A further complication is the depression may come loaded with anger or agitation, which may generate "hate" outbursts.

On the surface, it is very difficult to assign other people's behavior to either bipolar or borderline, which is why I urge extreme caution. Keep in mind: we all have mood fluctuations whether bipolar or not. With bipolar, the mood fluctuations are more extreme and interfere with our daily lives. Also, we all have personality issues whether borderline or not. With borderline, the personality issues are more extreme and interfere with daily living.

So the bottom line for you - whatever the cause or dynamic. Are you going to get your old "soulmate" back, or are you entertaining an illusion? If your soulmate does return, are you prepared to put up with the antics of his/her "stunt double" replacements? If your are prepared to take on the challenge, are you ready to put your foot down, set boundaries, demand accountability, and at the same time make allowances and be understanding?

Food for thoiught. Hope this helps ...

Answered by John McManamy