Daughter Dating Someone with Bipolar
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Q:  Daughter Dating Someone with Bipolar

Our 16 year old daughter a "nice" girl is dating a 16 year old with Bi-polar.  We like him and are trying our best to educate ourselves on this.  However, we do have some concerns/questions.  First on our concerns...most everything we read makes a comment about sexual behaviours, but doesn't explain further.  Could you please expand...are we taking obsession, lack of sex drive, over agression i.e. date rape, inappropriate public displays? In other words should we be "tuned in" maybe a little more than most parents of 16 year olds?

As best we know he does seem to be doing all the "right" things for his bi-polar.  He was diagnosed at age 5 his father and uncle have it.  He takes his meds, eating and sleeping routines seem normal etc.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Gayle -- 
As my kids aren't 16 yet, I don't know how much "tuning in" is possible to sustain, as a parent.  It looks to me as though when we get there, I'll want to be as tuned in as possible (short of intrusive -- whoa, I'll bet that is a fine line!) regardless of who's in the picture.  As for your question, though, I can understand your concern.  Perhaps it would help to know that I doubt (nothing in my business comes with a guarantee, unfortunately) you'd ever see sexual acting out without seeing something else that would alert you that his bipolar disorder was no longer fully controlled, particularly if you know him pretty well.  You'd see accelerated speech, action, some evidence his thinking or his emotional reactivity was different, something.  The earliest sign of all seems to be decreased need for or ability to sleep, but that would be harder for you to see, of course.  

I wouldn't want to encourage too much vigilance as that is the kind of thing that people with bipolar disorder struggle against, you know, i.e. a sense that they are being judged and treated differently because they have this illness.  So, it sounds like you're trying to strike a balance there between paying a reasonable degree of attention, perhaps just a bit more than you might otherwise think to; versus pre-judging and intruding.  I can only guess what this is going to be like, as a parent, and already it looks pretty nerve-wracking, so I can imagine this is quite a difficult balancing act to do.  Beyond that I fear I have little to add to help you.  If you find yourself struggling further over this, you could look for a local child & adolescent psychiatrist who treats kids with bipolar disorder and see if she/he is someone you feel comfortable talking with (ask for a "one-time" consultation, offering to pay privately for same, if the feel of the place is okay as you arrange this on the phone) -- and see if someone with more direct experience in this area has something more to add to help you. 

Dr. Phelps  

Published September, 2001


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