Unhealthy Relationships: Are They Making You Sicker?

Last Updated: 6 Oct 2020

Outside of medications, carefully choosing the people in your life––and cutting out any unhealthy relationships –– is the #1 way to manage bipolar disorder.

I’ve been managing bipolar disorder successfully for over 10 years. By successfully, I mean that I work on my health every day and learn from my mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

Outside of medications, I think that carefully choosing the people in your life is the #1 way to manage bipolar disorder.

Good relationships keep you healthy, unhealthy relationships can put you in the hospital. If I said this to a member of the general public- they would say, “Oh Julie! That’s pretty melodramatic!” But we know it’s not melodramatic. And the people who love us certainly know what bad relationships can do to us.

I used to have bad relationships in my life. Some people literally made me sick on a regular basis. When I look back, I’m astonished  I let these people stay in my life. One even told me that I was the problem. Interesting. When we no longer saw each other, my ‘problem’ magically disappeared.  That is because he disappeared!

Good relationships are hard work, but always worth it.

Relationships where the other person is unreasonable and hurts you either mentally or physically are not acceptable. Our bipolar brains are so sensitive!

We have to make relationship choices that protect our brains.

You can’t change who people are––even if you tell them you love them and that their behavior is hurting you––it’s their choice how they treat you.

But you can decide for the sake of your health which relationships have to end.


About the author
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
  1. I have definitely experienced how my mood & outlook can be brought down by a friend that consisyently focuses on the negative side of situations. When I interact with people that can always find the positive side of a situation, it definitely helps me. It’s also helpful for me to be around people that have a great sense of humor so that I can laugh.

  2. There are many times that I settled for bad friendships and relationships because I thought that no “normal good person” would want to be around me. I went through a lot of abuse. This one social worker guy (who eventually sexually abused me) told me that “Good people with any sense would stay the hell away from you.”

    Eventually I found a good therapist and psychiatrist who helped me manage my symptoms better. I don’t tolerate abusive people so much any more and I somehow managed to find a kind, compassionate husband.

    I think we believe ourselves to be so rotten and broken for having this disease that we believe we deserve to be abused or just settle for cruel people.

  3. I find it easier to cope with it all alone. Currently in a relationship where he in interested in my mental health but probably too much in some ways and not enough in others. He keeps telling me about it…like I don’t know but then he pushes me to make decisions which are important when I am not in the right frame of mind to trust the judgement; also keeps pushing me to be more social that I feel comfortable being. He is being so sweet and lovely on one hand but then he just called himself my ‘carer’ I mean what?! I work full time, bring home more money, I run the home, I am a great Mum, yet he is now trying to call himself my carer? Oh no, I do not think so! Plus he is blaming ‘normal’ stuff on the bipolar which is annoying. I am not currently sure whether he is a good one to have in my life on this scale but will wait until I am having one of my ‘normal’ periods before I decide on this. Personally I think I probably function better while controlling my own environment but that I do need to force myself to become more social now and then.

  4. Diagnosed in 1982. Had three sisters he’s the youngest of had Down syndrome. When my parents died they left my sisters and I as her guardians. I had to remain in touch with them even though our relationship was very bad for me. My youngest sister died in January of this year and the eternal optimist in me thought things would change. They didn’t and I have moved out of close to my cousins and good friends, I’m happy. They were poisonous to me.

    1. My parents were very poor in conversations. They shout at me all the time, as if that can just throw off the real problem to the window. My doctor suggested I live with other relatives and I did. I felt better.
      I had to go back home after a few months to continue my education. I stay in my bedroom most of the time and put headphones on whenever they start shouting stupidities at me.
      You need someone by your side. Being alone is hard. Hire a nanny if you have to.

  5. I was diagnosed in 1982. For the past 10 years my sisters have made me feel like 10th class citizen. I have been stabilized on my medication for many many years. When I would get legitimately angry about something they would say to me ,” are you still taking your medication? Or when’s the last time you saw your psychiatrist?”. I have finally cut them out of my life and moved away, and so normal. They you’re so bad for me

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