Convince him to consider there's a problem? -- Sherrie's

Q: I suspect my husband suffers from a mild form of bi-polar disorder. From what I've read, maybe cyclothimia. I am having trouble convincing him to speak with a doctor, openly and honestly, because he plays the blame game -- if I were more loving, he wouldn't be so angry/tired/remote . . . etc. When I try to get him to read articles, he points out that he is highly functioning (good job), and his behavior is seldom reckless to the point of causing severe consequences. We are educated and in a mid -to -high income range, with debt, but nothing that impairs our ability to maintain a fairly high standard of living. We have two small children. After years of severe problems associated with his alcoholic behavior, he quit, totally and hasn't had a drink in 16 months. While that has eliminated a lot of problems, the negative outlook and mean temperment still surfaces regularly, mixed with periods of withdrawl and irratic sleep patterns -- mostly sleeping too much and at inappropriate hours of the day. He is competitive to an extreme (golf, sports, on-line interaction) and seems to obsess; i.e., will get into something like on-line golf matches and needs to play every night for hours (keeping him from family interaction and responsibilities). Can you help me find a resource that may convince him to consider there's a problem and a solution? Thanks, Sherrie

Hello Sherrie -- In addition to reading the reply to Leah, in your case you may be able to try having him read about bipolar II rather than bipolar I.  He might be less rejecting of the idea if you emphasize in advance, as reflected on that site, that "bipolar disorder" is a spectrum of symptoms ranging from severe to moderate to minimal to none; and that the question is whether he might be on this spectrum and thus in a position to benefit from treatment. 

However, obviously you also have to convince him that the "targets" you describe -- that "treatment" would be supposed to address -- are legitimate targets, not just your problem.  That will be trickier.  Again as with Leah, is there someone he trusts who might be recruited to support you in describing these behaviors as clearly a problem, i.e. his problem?  In this realm you are facing more of a marital problem than a "bipolar" problem, perhaps?  If so the solutions might be more in the realm of "marital therapy", at least initially?  Not to say that getting that treatment going is easy either!  Good luck to you.

Dr. Phelps

Published January, 2001