Kim Kardashian and Kanye West: How Can You Support a Partner with Bipolar Disorder?

Kanye West recently appeared on David Letterman’s Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, to talk about his career and life with bipolar disorder. West revealed how the diagnosis has affected him and his relationships. The artist expressed his frustration with being written off by others and stigmatized. “Here’s another one that they love to do when you get the stigma of crazy. They love to write you off,” he told Letterman. “They love to cut your sentences off halfway. What you say doesn’t mean as much.” he continued.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, how can you support him or her? Showbiz Cheat Sheet spoke with Patrice N. Douglas, a marriage and family therapist and owner of Empire Counseling and Consultation to learn more.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian | Marc Piasecki/GC Images
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian | Marc Piasecki/GC Images

Showbiz Cheat Sheet: Can you briefly explain to our readers what bipolar disorder is?

Patrice N. Douglas: Bipolar is a mood disorder that contains up and down moods that aren’t controllable. There are two types, bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I is your upper moods where you may have a burst of energy throughout the week, making irrational decisions, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep and even feeling powerful to the point you may put yourself in dangerous positions for about a week; it’s called a manic episode. Many with Bipolar I need medications to stabilize their moods.

Bipolar II is what was considered to be the milder of the two, but it can be just as dangerous or more due to the low moods it brings. Bipolar II is more on the depressive side of moods, so sleeping more, isolation, suicidal thoughts, irritability occur for four to five days. It is addressed as a hypomanic episode, hence why in the past it was considered milder than Bipolar I.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West | James Devaney/GC Images
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West | James Devaney/GC Images

CS: How does bipolar disorder affect romantic relationships?

PD: In the manic stages of bipolar I and hypomanic stages of bipolar II, it may be difficult to read if your partner is going through an episode or they’re just going through normal human emotions. When in a relationship, it can become difficult not to take what the other person is doing personally regardless of the illness. People with bipolar disorder may put the relationship at risk by spending excessive money that was meant for bills or lashing out at anything someone does without warning or explanation to wanting complete isolation from their partner. These problems can weigh heavily on a relationship if they’re not understood and addressed properly.

CS: How can you support a partner with bipolar disorder?

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

PD: Lend a listening ear; you don’t always have to find solutions or recommendations for the things they’re dealing with. Sometimes your partner just needs to be heard and to process some things (unless they’re doing something that is harmful to them, then intervene).

Spend time with your partner; even if he or she turns down your invitations, keep trying. Your partner needs someone they know cares even when they feel at their lowest. Encouraged them to continue to take their medications and attend therapy; if they are hesitant and you feel comfortable, offer to attend with them for extra support. Remember to always remain calm; don’t take what they do as a personal attack! The behaviors are from the disorder, not specifically for you, so avoid reacting and lashing out.

CS: What relationship advice would you give Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, who are learning to navigate Kanye’s recent diagnosis with bipolar disorder?

PD: Always be patient with the process, as it is not an easy journey. It is important for them to be in constant communication about what is occurring, so Kim is able to be as supportive as possible. Keep track of when symptoms are elevated so you can get a timeline of when to possibly expect an episode. Lastly, remember the road is hard for Kanye. While he figures out his journey, have patience and understanding. Learn how to be supportive without being demanding.

Read more: Pete Davidson: How Can You Support a Partner with Borderline Personality Disorder?

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