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Are Bipolars Abusive?

Question:

I’ve heard that bipolar people aren’t dangerous, but my Mom has bipolar disorder, and she mentally and physically abused my siblings and I. Is there some other stage to bipolar disorder that she might have?

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Answer:

There is no specific relationship between bipolar disorder and abuse perpetration, per se. Bipolar Affective Disorder (also known as Manic-Depression) is a mood disorder characterized by regular shifts in mood between depressed and manic/energized states. A person’s disposition to abuse is not a mood disorder, but rather is determined by complex and not completely understood personality, (lack of) coping skill and developmental history influences. Bipolar people can be abusive, but then, so can non-bipolar people. The above notwithstanding, the extreme mood shifts of bipolar disorder may sometimes have a disinhibiting effect on abusive impulses that would otherwise not get expressed. Also, if your mother drinks alcohol or abuses drugs (as sometimes is the case), this could also have a releasing or disinhibiting effect on her behavior. This is to say that it is possible that your mother’s bipolar disorder may have made it easier for her to be abusive towards you, even as her being bipolar probably did not cause the abuse.

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p> You use the past-tense when speaking about this abuse you’ve experienced. I hope that you are now safely out of reach of your mother during times when she is abusive. If this is not the case – if you are still being abused by your mother, please take steps to make your situation safer! Get away from your mother when she is abusive. Tell a responsible adult, or authority figure (such as the police, a teacher, or a child protective services officer). Get your mother into treatment for her disorder(s). Also, help your mother to become treatment compliant if she is not (to the extent that this difficult task can be done). There are medicines that can diminish the mood swings and help your mother to lead a more normal life – but they only work if she takes them regularly.

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