Bipolar Disorder & The Fear of Wearing out Friendships

Last Updated: 27 Aug 2018

Although you may be worried about a friend walking away due to your bipolar disorder symptoms, it can help to remember you share mutual trust.


I have to admit something—I have a huge fear of wearing out my friendships because of bipolar disorder.

I’m aware that sometimes being a friend to a person with bipolar disorder can be really hard. It’s not that I mean for it to be hard, it’s just that sometimes I do have needs that are a bit more than your average friend because I have an illness.

And while most friends will only be sick a tiny percentage of the time, I’m actually sick most of the time. This can make me more challenging, so I have a great fear that one or more friends will just walk away and think that I’m too much effort.

I do have reason to believe this as this has actually happened to me in the far flung past; but, I have to say, the friendships that I have today are wonderful. They are strong and they are beautiful. While I do have this internalized fear of a friend just leaving, that’s likely not the reality of the situation. The reality of the situation is that I love my friends, my friends love me, and it’s highly unlikely one of them is going to turn around and decide this is no longer the case.

So while I do have this fear, I also have to understand that I have this trust with my friends. I trust they’re not going to walk away from me and I also know that I’m not going to walk away from them.


Learn more:

VIDEO: Life with Bipolar—Do People Say, “You’re Too Intense?”

VIDEO: Bipolar Disorder and Too Depressed to Shower

About the author
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant. She has written the acclaimed book, Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression and Bipolar and continues to write her own work on Bipolar Burble and elsewhere. She was also the proud recipient of the Beatrice Stern Media Award from Didi Hirsch in 2014. She works to bring quality, insightful and trusted information on bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses to the public. Natasha is considered a subject matter expert in bipolar disorder and her thoughts on it have been sought by the media and academics. Connect with Natasha on on Twitter and on Facebook.
  1. Saved as а favorite, I love your website!

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I was just diagnosed with bipolar 1 at age 41. I “came out” to my closest few friends and one trusted coworker. They have been supportive but I still feel great fear and shame because I know the full weight of the stigma surrounding this illness. I have been lucky that my disease has not lead to job loss but I worry about my professional reputation because I need to take about one sick day a month. This year I am prioritizing self care and sometimes taking more. I worry that my close colleague will lose respect for me and that I will lose their friendship and trust.

  3. This article is, unfortunately, overly optimistic. My best friend of 30 years abandoned me and my husband of nearly 20 years blamed my bipolar not responding to treatment for his choice to have a long term affair. The reality is that people don’t understand or accept how you can be trying your hardest and still fail. They blame you, become afraid to share their feelings, get overwhelmed, decide you’re toxic and leave.

    I’ve been on pretty much every medication in the book, been under constant care of a string of therapists, and trying to get a handle on my stress reactions, trying to keep decent paying jobs, keep my bills paid, be a high functioning member of society my whole life with mixed success. Trying as hard as I can isn’t enough for people who don’t seem to understand that I love them dearly and would never choose this for any of us.

    I would have done anything to make this easier for my ex husband, my ex best friend, all the people who have come and gone from my life and for myself if I could have. I fear that I will always wind up alone no matter what I do.

  4. How do I deal/cope with a close friend that his family and I feel that he might have bipolar. He won’t get help such as get tested. When he tells to me to leave his life or leave him all together. Do I stop talking and answering him or what shall I do?

    1. You have to be upfront and let them know you’ll be totally sympathetic and you care about them dearly. You’re just being honest because you love them and hate to see them suffering. Try to get them to go to a doctor and offer to go with them. Talk it over with their family, have a united front but don’t gang up on them. Tell them you just want to rule it out to see if their moods are “normal.” Read up and have a good understanding of bipolar. It may take some time. Don’t rush it but don’t let it go too long. Give them reading material, preferably from other people who suffer with similar symptoms and who have come to terms with their diagnosis. Let them know that help is available and you would want them to do the same for you if you had the disease. It’s no their fault.

  5. If you don’t tell them about your bi polar you’ll have a better chance of repairing fractured relationships
    No one wants to hear from a person with a self admitted mental illness after an incident. However if you explain you just freaked out or had a bad day, lost your dog etc, people will be much more willing to patch things up….in my experience. What do you think?

    1. That just supports the stigma that is carried with bipolar disorder. I feel that it is counterproductive in the fight to have mental illness(which is way more common than many think) accepted. I’ve found people to be more understanding when I explain to them that I have an illness rather than “I freaked out. “ that can only work for someone for so long. If someone does not wish to stay friends with you because you are bipolar, that’s their problem, not yours.

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