Effects of Bipolar Disorder on Families

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Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that can have some lasting impact on a person’s loved ones. The effects of bipolar disorder on families range from mild to severe. Managing bipolar disorder in relationships can be a tough challenge at times. There are also some notable effects of growing up with a bipolar parent for children in households where the adult’s mental health is left untreated. How does bipolar affect not only the person with the disorder but the family and friends who care about them?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that affects a person’s mood, activity levels, and functioning. It is characterized by drastic shifts in mood with notable periods of mania (or hypomania) and depression. These episodes last \ between a few days and a few weeks, depending on the type of bipolar disorder a person has (bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia).

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Again, bipolar disorder consists of two distinct moods or “episodes”: mania and depression.

Signs of a manic episode include:

  • Feeling “up,” high, excited, elated, or irritable
  • Feeling more active, wired, or jumpy than usual
  • Racing thoughts
  • Needing less sleep
  • Feeling able to accomplish many things at once
  • Acting out with risky behaviors
  • Feeling exceptionally important, powerful, or talented

Signs of a depressive episode include:

  • Feeling sad, down, hopeless, worthless, or anxious
  • Feeling slowed or restless
  • Having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities

Effects of Growing Up with a Bipolar Parent

Managing bipolar disorder in relationships is a unique challenge for anyone living with the condition. However, being a parent with bipolar disorder makes things more difficult. There are unique effects of growing up with a bipolar parent that only children in these particular situations can understand.

Parenting while managing bipolar disorder may present unique challenges, but many caring and accomplished parents successfully navigate this condition. Nevertheless, having a parent with bipolar disorder can sometimes pose challenges and complexities for children.”

Children don’t have the knowledge or experience to understand the mood shifts or severity of emotions that come with bipolar disorder. They might not get why mom or dad feels so excited, active, and available some weeks and then sad, disconnected, and unavailable other weeks.

They may feel guilt over their inability to control their parents’ emotions or uncertainty about where their relationship with their parent lies. The effects of growing up with a bipolar parent may also include anxiety or withdrawal caused by their uncertainty and may also include depression or shame.

However, with the right intervention and care, parents and children alike can learn to cope with bipolar disorder. Specialized mental health treatment programs like those at Pasadena Villa can also help parents and their children develop a deeper understanding of one another and learn to support each other along the way.

To find out more about how the programs at Pasadena Villa can help, call us at 407-215-2519 or submit an online contact form today.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Bipolar Disorder.

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