Q:  Dating a Person with Multiple Diagnoses

I have been dating an Awesome guy who has recently been diagnosed with Bipolar II and also ADHD, OCD, and Borderline Personality.  The doctors are still in the process of figuring out the right medications but he is leaving tomorrow for a year-long program called Teen Challenge.  This program works with meds.,and also therapy (teaches responsibility, boundaries, social skills, etc.)  I have heard so much "bad" things about all of the conditions that he has been diagnosed with.  My question is would someone with all of these disorders ever be able to lead a "normal" life???  In your opinion, how do you feel about a person dating someone like this.

I love him very much, but right now.. it is hard to put up with all of this.

Thanks so much!!

Anxious to hear back,


Dear Jennifer -- 
First of all, whether you choose to stay with somebody or not would, in an ideal world, not be based on their diagnoses.  This might be like the price of something really expensive, where they say "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" -- like, "If you have to ask, or if you're already very aware of it [his diagnosis], you may already have reasons to be very cautious".  Someone who's got their act together might have one or even a few of these diagnoses but could have them pretty much under control with treatment, in which case it would be like they didn't even have those illness hardly at all.  So if it's pretty early in your relationship and you're already really aware of symptoms of these diagnoses, that might be a bad sign -- although he's apparently trying to get treatment, looks like. 

Second, and I tell this to people all the time because it's not a common point of view, in my opinion the bipolar diagnosis "trumps" all the others, at least ADHD and certainly the personality disorder diagnosis.  You wouldn't know if the personality thing was an issue until the bipolar thing was fully controlled (see my little essay on the difference between these, or lack thereof). 

So, overall, I hope you get to decide about this guy based on who he is separate from his symptoms.  That can be pretty tricky though; sounds like it already is. 

Dr. Phelps  

Published August, 2001