Is Mental Illness an Excuse for Bad Behavior?

July 23, 2012 Natasha Tracy

Some mental illness symptoms can hurt others, but is mental illness an excuse for bad behavior? More at Breaking Bipolar blog.

Recently a commenter talked about how she felt taken advantage of by a loved one who had schizoaffective disorder. This particular individual seemed to take a lot from his family and gave nothing in return. He refused to shower, help out around the house, pay for anything and would eat out at restaurants with no money and then insist his family come down to the restaurant and pay for him.

The person with schizoaffective disorder was being medically treated and the loved one felt that he was just manipulating the people around him.

Now, I can’t say what the motivation was in this scenario, but certainly, this commenter is not the only one to have found herself in that situation. So the question is, is mental illness an excuse for bad behaviour?

Yes, Mental Illness Can Cause Bad Behavior

“Bad,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but yes, mental illness can cause behaviour that hurts others. Certainly when a person is paranoid and screams at you that you are from the government sent to spy on them, or when a person is manic and has an affair, or a person is so depressed that they miss their child’s birthday party, one could say that their mental illness has caused that behavior. And it’s behavior that one could certainly characterize as “bad” under ordinary circumstances. But leeway needs to be given to people who are experiencing acute episodes of illness and simply cannot control what is going on.

Mental Illness is Not an Excuse for Everything

Of course, that being said, I don’t get to just run around hurting people because I have a mental illness. I can’t expect people to accept just any old behavior at any old time because I have a diagnosis. That isn’t right and it isn’t reasonable.

Some Things Can be Accepted, Others Not

So when it comes down to it, it’s really about an individual relationship. Maybe your partner could never get over the fact that you slept with someone else, even though you were manic. Maybe your sister can forgive you for screaming at her because you were delusional. Maybe your children will grow up with the understanding that sometimes you missed important life events because of an illness you couldn’t control.

Or maybe not.

I would like to think that people could find compassion in their hearts for those of us who try our very best but still find the disease gets the better of us now and then. But that being said, no one should have to put up with being walked all over on a daily basis. So there’s a line between when symptoms become manipulation or abuse or just nastiness. And that line differs for everyone.

For me, I know I’m responsible for what I do, symptom or not, and I need to take ownership of that, and I simply try to make things as right as I can when I slip up. But this would be true regardless of the label of a diagnosis.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, July 23). Is Mental Illness an Excuse for Bad Behavior?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

March, 22 2020 at 8:55 pm

Having grown up with a mother, and younger brother, who both have Bipolar (brother diagnosed fairly recently), plus a husband with Social Anxiety Disorder, I am utterly certain that people may use mental illness as an excuse for manipulation, or stupid and bad behaviour. I believe that some people go through life looking to cop out and abdicate responsibility.
My brother is an excellent example. He cited his "illness" as an excuse for dropping out of University and never completing his studies. But it never seemed to get in the way of his socializing - even when he was claiming to be too "ill" or "fragile" to hand in assignments or sit exams, he could still manage to go to pubs and clubs with his mates. He even still attended social societies at University while claiming to be too unwell to attend lectures! Indeed, he quit his studies A WHOLE TERM before telling my parents he quit, and so they were continuing to PAY for him to live on campus at the University even when he had decided to stop studying there. Not only do I think this is manipulative, it is also deceitful and lying. I do NOT believe mental illness lead to such behaviour in any way, shape or form. My brother CHOSE to act this way, probably hoping to pull the wool over my parents' eyes - which they let him do, believing his "illness" excuse without questioning. How is it that only I can see that if he is not too ill to socialise with friends, then my brother is not too ill to study? This is not mental illness. It is laziness and lies!
Another example... my mother is medicated for her so-called Bipolar. But sometimes she refuses to take her tablets. Now, this is odd, as she clearly hates her symptoms and does not like becoming ill, and hates the thought of being hospitalised. She also claims she knows medication keeps her well. So why stop it? If you ask her, sometimes she says side effects are a problem. But other times she just laughs about it. If you tell her to report the side efects to her psyciatrist, or ask him to alter her nedication, she refuses. So, basically, she blocks any solutions offered, but then moans about her symptoms. And she does not care one bit if her behaviour worries, upsets or annoys others. She expects sympathy for her illness and symptoms, even though her act of refusing medication is what causes her to have symptoms which she could avoid having if she took her tablets! I feel this is nothing but irresponsibility, because she is rational and sane (i.e. medicated) at the point where she chooses to stop taking her tablets. She is neither depressive nor psychotic when on medication, so why stop taking it if she knows it keeps her well? She cannot claim her illness makes her do this, because her illness is being treated so long as she keeps taking her pills. And if she has side effects, she has only to talk to her doctor - that is what they are there for!
The worst part is that my mother seems to be able to milk such episodes. She can be abusive, or depressive, or whatever else, but expects this to be overlooked. No apology, it's just "water under the bridge" to her. But after such events, WE often applogize to HER. My father even seems to always end up buying her gifts (is he guilt tripped?). She's had jewellery, clothes, holidays and a new car out of him as a result of such "relapses", incidents which, as I pointed out, are totally avoidable. But, I suppose, if she DID avoid them then my mother would have no arguments with my father, and no reason to demand gifts as applogies. By the way, note she gives NO apology (or gift) in return!
Or my husband, who claims he had a "breakdown" due to burnout and stress, but never told me he felt stressed or worn out at the time. And I kept asking him. Asking him to talk to me. But now he claims not to find talking easy. But at the time I was asking him, he just kept telling me everything was fine. Now, I know this is not bad in the same way as my mother or brother behaved badly but my husband still behaved in a way that prevented me talking with him and helping him. Which had consequences FOR BOTH OF US. Can he not see that?
Indeed, do ANY of them see consequences? Do they care about consequences for others?
What annoys me most is that I know that if I even tried to behave like they do, I would not get away with it. If I make a mistake or do something wrong, they all come down on me like a ton of bricks. Hypicritical, yes! Is "mental illness" an excuse for hypocrisy, too? Some of us have to face our flaws - are made to face them every day. Made to face them by the very same people who are hiding their own flaws, mistakes, or downright silly or bad behaviour behind excuses of "mental illness".

July, 26 2019 at 3:02 pm

I have a situation like this at the moment. My friend suffers from anxiety and depression and we have cut her slack for so long and brushed so many things under the rug that we wouldn’t have with other friends because we understand how hard it must be going through everything that she is. However recently it’s got to the point where it seems she is using it as an excuse and manipulating situations but when we confronted her about it she had said we obviously don’t care about her and don’t understand how it feels to be in her situation. Did we do the right thing confronting her?

June, 23 2019 at 10:31 am

I’m sorry but there is a line. Growing up with two mentally ill parents has been a nightmare. My father is schizophrenic and my mother is bipolar. Both have also Narcissism but different types. My father is grandiose and mother is the victim type. Both are seriously types of abuse my sister and I grew up with. As adults we have separated ourselves from both of them. Both of us have trust issues and our own problems from growing up with them. My mother needed help leaving him and us kids helped. She was happy and social when it happened.. But after six months she became dependent, lazy, self neglect and avoided any social interactions. Period with no breaks. Not a episode. Got her medicine changed once. Six months later it is worse. Because she became combative when given her meds. Because she is too lazy to take her own meds... So I have to keep up with them. I moved her near me to help out.. But now she suffocates me. I’ve seen her intentionally show up to my child’s events in dirty clothes without brushing her teeth or combing her hair. She’s not depressed she just didn’t care to want to clean up. She wouldn’t unpack for a year and I had to make her get in there and unpack the entire time her cussing at me and throwing things around because I was making her do something she didn’t want to do. She will be late to things and loves to show up to places and convieantly claim she “doesn’t have the money” to participate in the activities forcing someone else to pay.. Only to find she did have the money and all her bills are paid.
She is literally like a overgrown child. So is my father. He is the type to throw tantrums and scream at you. Like how he wears military uniforms with incorrect patches or medals. When confronted that he never served he would scream at you.
This is my nightmare. They are TOXIC and yes you can be mentally ill and USE IT AS A EXCUSE to behave badly.
Both of them have tried to go out of their way to ruin any success me or my sister have tried to achieve. It is frightening hearing from their therapist how our own parents hate us for doing better than they are. That they envy us.
Our parents hate themselves and each other. I’ve already cut my father off. My mother is on verge next. Because I’ve tried to get her proper help. This is including a at home healthcare nurse and a psychiatrist. She has intentionally kept me from telling them her symptoms and things she does that are concerning. Because she knows the things she does are bad enough I could have her committed.
I have children to think about..
So yes I find offense how you defend it so much. Because when you do.. People like my parents are able to use MENTAL ILLNESS as a excuse to ABUSE their loved ones. At some point we should not tolerate it anymore. I know the frustration of feeling lied and hurt and taken advantage of.. and being told..” They don’t know what their doing it is the illness”.. When I can prove they knew very well what they were doing and just do not care about anyone but themselves.
So please.. Understand there is a line.
If you have someone this toxic in your life..
Because you do not deserve to subject yourself to their insanity to the point it corrupts your SANITY.

Tasbih A
July, 3 2019 at 10:43 pm

Omg, I am almost dealing with the same situation in my life, although I suffer from mental illness myself, I can attest, the poor and even depraved choices I made that affected others, was a direct result of my actions and inactions, I made those choices, and now that I have had a break in life to step back and look at myself, I really know now, that my mental illness is made worse by being around toxic people, the people in denial, the people who lets face it, don’t even try to get, I am both in Tortured’s exact position as well as those who replied here, I see both angles, and after all, most of it, is a choice, and if I am to get well, I have to change my perceptions of things and also exercise patience with those depraved family members I cannot control, and I ALSO can choose NOT to be around them as it is very bad for my own anxiety and depression, to be with enablers, excuse makers, denial type ppl who add to my own inner pain. For the sake of my own health and mental health, I choose simply to walk away whenever possible, I can change myself, but not others, so excuse me if I don’t write, call, or visit much, but I do value what life I have left, especially after I ruined mine, through poor mental health choices.

August, 22 2019 at 12:47 pm

Have been through this same situation . Thankyou so much for telling your story ,not many people are brave enough to oppose the " they are mentally I'll so should be allowed to get away with ANY behaviour " philosophy . The people on the other side are human beings too and it's like no one ever thinks about the psychological and emotional effect on the family members . Our feelings and thoughts are just as valid but it's like everyone bends over backwards for those diagnosed whilst neglecting the needs of those in the fallout

June, 9 2018 at 3:54 am

"Bad,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder"
I don't agree. There are things that simply are bad and cannot be excused, no matter. One has to bear the consequences, just like everybody else. Most of the bad things in the world are because of mentally ill and personality disordered folks.

June, 11 2018 at 12:39 pm

Sophia, everyone is entitled to their opinion and unfortunately yours is one I hear too often, perpetuating the myth that people with mental illnesses are able to control it which does nothing but attach shame and guilt to someone who doesn't deserve it. I would highly suggest reading medical articles based on tested science. Our brain is an organ that functions like any other part of our body, when there is a malfunction as it were, there are symptoms. The brain regulates out emotions, decision making skills, etc. So the "bad behavior" you see is just that, a symptom, not a disregard for the well being of others. Granted, it is not an excuse to not seek treatment. Just like someone with cancer, a heart disease or otherwise, we are responsible for our management. But a person with cancer isn't made out to be a bad person when they lay bed instead of getting up, when they withdraw because of the pain, neither should people with mental illnesses. The lack of compassion shown by people who blame people with mental illnesses for "most of the bad things in this world" is short sighted and is one of the major problems that cause the majority of bad things in world. I think it's important to educate yourself on these matters before pointing the finger.

June, 21 2018 at 4:41 pm

"a person with cancer isn't made out to be a bad person when they lay in bed instead of getting up"- I completely agree, but what if a person with cancer always lay in bed but somehow managed to get up every time it was convenient for them? A person with cancer would be a bad person if they would never work, help around the house, take care of their family ect, but always managed to get up for that new series on TV, or go to the party they wanted to go to, or go out on that shopping spree. There are some people who use mental illness as an excuse to do what they want, and that does make them a bad person.

June, 25 2018 at 3:47 pm

That's true, there are definitely people who take advantage of unfortunate situations, but there are people like that from all sorts of backgrounds. It's difficult with mental illness because it's not a tangible as seeing someone with a broken leg or something like that. It's also difficult because of the nature of mental illness and it affecting the decision making portion of our brain, among other things, it really is difficult to differentiate whether they're using it as an excuse (I've been accused of this) or if the disease is affecting them from making the right choices. I tend to go into it with the benefit of the doubt for those with mental illnesses. Where I draw the line for myself is if they acknowledge they have a mental illness and then refuse treatment. For example, my older half brother has PTSD and Depression. He acknowledges this but is an artist so he refuses to take medication because it will "stifle his creativity". Now I don't think he's a bad person, but that's a pretty sucky and selfish decision to make when you can see your actions negatively impacting others. Another person I met in college also had bi-polar disorder and it's kind of funny when you meet someone with the same disease, it's kind of like, "oh thank god, someone else who gets it'. However he refused to medicate because he liked the manic episodes, which I get, you're creative, you have all this energy, you can do anything, it's an addictive feeling. But it's also one of those damaging phases of the cycle to be in. Which I thought was completely irresponsible on his part. I don't associate with either because I found it's so much harder to keep my disease in check when I'm around others who refuse to, it's not healthy for anyone. I guess my point in all this is there people who will use it as an excuse, but initially, try to give them the benefit of the doubt, It wasn't until I was an adult with the right support that I was even able to begin properly treating it. Up until that point I was really just lost with no help and my symptoms ran amok. I would have greatly appreciated it if people had given me the benefit of the doubt chalking it up to the disease and not that I was some terrible person.

June, 25 2018 at 5:33 pm

It's easy to give someone benefit of the doubt if you're not that close to them, but when that person is your parent or a best friend and you've known them your whole life, its a bit more difficult.
I think it needs to become acceptable for mental health professionals to clearly state to some patients, "you are using your illness as an excuse" or "you are not mentally ill, you're just looking for an excuse". Maybe in other words, but the message needs to get across to some people. I think some research needs to go in to finding out who really is crippled by their illness and who is perfectly in control, because it's like anyone can just rock up to their GP, list a few symptoms and voila, they've got a prescription for anti depressants or anxiety medication.
I'm currently doing my own research on this topic, because I've noticed that a lot of people who have lived with someone mentally ill or spent a significant amount of time with them have a completely different view than anyone who hasn't. Even some professionals haven't witnessed the things we have.

July, 26 2018 at 11:42 pm

The opinions of those who have to live with people with bipolar should not be disregarded either. There are now too many articles that explain away the behaviors of those with bipolar but not enough articles for family, relatives or friends who have to deal with them.
Living with someone with bipolar for more than 5-10 years or more definitely gives you a good idea what kind of people they are regardless of their illness. We ALL have one form of mental illness or psychological issues. Yet we ALL have to deal with them.
Severe introversion for instance is a very difficult thing to deal with in a majority extrovert world. But I don't see many introverts expecting the rest of the world to cater to their adequacies (do not say some forms aren't delibitating). Introversion (the type that gives off physical anxiety symptoms) in fact does not even have specific medication to "treat" it. Either you drink alcohol or take anxiety pills to cope or you are forced to adapt (and many do, without blaming everyone else for their problems).
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar a long long time ago and are medicated, you likely can tell when an episode is coming (this is evidenced in bipolar forums) and there lies the CHOICE.
The worst I have so far come across aren't those who make bipolar as an excuse. It is those who like to see their bad behavior as JUSTIFIED.
Getting into arguments and disagreements for instance is a normal occurrence for many. However, these people with bad behaviors *who happen to have bipolar* have no personal accountability at all when they end every argument with punching walls and screaming uncontrollably like a maniac.
They may later apologize for it, but wait 'til their next excuse for being a hair-trigger timebomb. Unfortunately, whether you do get an apology or not, you will STILL have to go through their outburts and childish tantrums. Their refusal to handle even everyday-type of arguments within a certain boundary (like not crossing the line, acting appropriately in public, minding the neighbors) is absolutely their choice. They have gotten so used to the embarrassment they do not care.
Also, tell those types of people even a little bit about the behavior they committed which resulted in negatively affecting you or other people around them or even themselves/their livelihood (ruining birthdays, missing appointments, not completing jobs) and they will have ALL the reasons in the world and will even either blame you or think it's not a big deal (only THEIR plans are a big deal) or was never a problem at all.
Many times those who have to deal with people with bipolar who have bad behavior have to be on medication themselves BECAUSE of this stress. If you have bipolar and are dealing with it at least to a point where you aren't constantly making those around you live on eggshells, please don't tell us to "just understand" the bad behavior for the rest of our lives. Where is the understanding for US? Because we are "normal" we somehow are immune to being constantly hurt by the ones who we are supposed to always tolerate?
I have come to the conclusion to never help someone with bipolar again whenever they suffer from a consequence that resulted from their own choices (yes, they have choices. It's not like they all jump off the window once you get bipolar). I don't care if they blame me or if they think they deserve the help for the "past wrongs" I have done to them or for the "past favors" they have done for me or based on some "philosophical moral conduct" that they uphold only when it comes to them (typical), they will always blame others either way.
Even rock-bottom does not greatly improve their chances of self-realization.

April, 29 2019 at 4:40 pm

I know this an old thread but I wanted to acknowledge your feelings of frustration. Your anger is equally as valid and as important as the person who suffers from mental health issues. I agree that mental illness does not excuse bad behaviour. No matter what hand we were dealt, no matter how much anyone suffers, when someone refuses to get help or own their behaviour, it is incredibly frustrating and undeniably wreckless. You are in charge of protecting yourself from harm, emotionally or otherwise. If someone is acting in such a way that is harmful to you, you have the choice to remove them from your life. Sometimes it takes losing loved ones in order to make that decision to get the help you need to stop. The first time is a mistake, the second time is a problem, the 3rd time shouldn't happen if you acknowledge it and get help.

June, 15 2018 at 5:38 am

Don't push most of the bad things that occur in the world on the mentally ill or those with personality disorders. They are people too. I'm sure you've done your share of bad things too, we all have.

June, 19 2018 at 4:52 pm

There are mentally ill people who are perfectly nice and do good things and live normal lives, which suggests that bad behaviour comes from personality traits not a malfunction of the brain. If it were, then every bad person would be mentally ill and every good person would be mentally stable, which we all know isn't the case. I just feel like, just because someone says they're mentally ill, it doesn't mean they actually are. These are the people I struggle so much with, because society has learnt that if we're ever challenged on our bad behaviour, all we need to do is say we're mentally ill and the challenger must stop and let us carry on.

July, 26 2018 at 11:57 pm

People who have to deal with them are people as well. They aren't bottomless pits that their mentally ill family members or partners can throw all their bad behaviors at. They have feelings as well and they get sick of all of the lack of personal accountability and self-control.
"We all have made mistakes." That is like saying making bad business decisions and robbing a bank are the same thing. It is exactly the type of "mistakes" they are making that makes them horrible individuals. These "mistakes" tend to end up as completely avoidable, controllable and should happen only once or a few times.
Excuse after excuse or having all the reasons in the world for every line crossed.... those are the major red flags.

July, 26 2018 at 11:57 pm

People who have to deal with them are people as well. They aren't bottomless pits that their mentally ill family members or partners can throw all their bad behaviors at. They have feelings as well and they get sick of all of the lack of personal accountability and self-control.
"We all have made mistakes." That is like saying making bad business decisions and robbing a bank are the same thing. It is exactly the type of "mistakes" they are making that makes them horrible individuals. These "mistakes" tend to end up as completely avoidable, controllable and should happen only once or a few times.
Excuse after excuse or having all the reasons in the world for every line crossed.... those are the major red flags.

May, 25 2018 at 4:00 am

I've had some terrible experiences with someone else's mental health issues. Firstly, my dad is Bipolar and hasn't worked for 13 years. He isn't such a horrible and potentially dangerous character like I know some people with bp are, I mean he was never violent or used drugs or anything. He is just so lazy and self-centred. He uses bp as an excuse to do anything productive for someone else, yet whenever it came to something he wants to do, bp can never hold him back. He becomes massively unpopular in everything he was involved in, it's so embarrassing. He used to spend his benefits and my mum's earnings uncontrollably, it must've been so stressful for my mum. My parents eventually divorced because of this, and he moved 200 miles away, so I barely have any contact with him anymore. He is always going to the doctor, and self help groups, and isn't embarrassed to talk about his condition. But I've noticed, he keeps to the people who support his behaviour, if a psychologist ever challenges him he takes this as criticism and refused to se them anymore. If he wants to get better, then surely he would accept the criticism. I often wonder if he actually likes this lifestyle - no job, no responsibility, benefit money, nice chat with a psychologist who doesn't challenge him? Honestly, it was like living with another teenager, he wasn't really a father to us.
Two years ago, I got a job in the same place as my best friend. On the day I told her we were going to be working together, she was quite clearly disappointed. Up until that day we did so much together and we always used to say how we'd still be friends when we were 80. It hurt so much when she turned on me.
I didn't have a car at the time, so being as we live so near each other I asked if I could travel with her, she agreed but I always felt like an inconvenience. She was so horrible to me in the car when we were alone, but would be perfectly nice to everyone else when we were in work and she barely bothered with me socially again. I felt I couldn't tell anyone because they wouldn't believe me, she was so nice and "normal" with everyone else, why would they believe she could be so horrible when we were alone. I was under so much stress keeping this from everyone, I didn't know what to do for the best. I thought so many times about refusing to be alone with her, but that would make things awkward for everyone else.
After about 3 months of suffering in silence, I told her how she was making me feel. She was defensive and dismissive and made me feel like I was just being pathetic. Eventually, after giving several examples of her behaviour, she admitted she does it because she has anxiety. If anxiety was making her do this, then how could she be perfectly nice to everyone else, why was it just to me? As soon as we went back to work, she was even worse, as if I'd angered her even more because I'd challenged her. After another 3 months, she refused to let me travel with her anymore because "I was the one so unbearable to travel with". This is what she had told our colleagues. She turned the whole situation to be my fault, and no matter how hard I tried to tell the truth about what happened, everyone just thought we had just had a silly argument. When I told my boss how awful the past 6 months had been, she just dismissed it with "well she's got problems, and if she doesn't want help, then we can't make her". Surely your boss can make you get help if you're causing massive problems for others in the workplace, but my boss just wasn't interested, probably because it didn't affect her.
From the day it all came out in the open, and everyone else was aware of our situation, she would go out of her way to be excessively nice to me, it was so fake. If she really wanted to make things better, she would've apologised and told everyone the truth. I couldn't bare to even look at her, let alone talk to her.
I eventually left that job, and I've only seen her about 3 times in the past year, only because we still had mutual friends. At first, these friends were supportive of me, they agreed that she was the one in the wrong, but somehow she's managed to convince them that we just don't get along anymore and we've just drifted apart. This couldn't have been further from the truth, she bullied me for months and changed over night when I got the job. She also managed to win their sympathy with how bad her anxiety is. It's like they think she was allowed to do what she did because she has anxiety.
I try to explain to my friends how bad it was, but they don't seem to quite believe me, it's like they just can't imagine it, because she is of course perfectly nice to them. They think this all ended when I left the job last year, and they wonder why I still talk about it. But they can't (or won't) quite grasp how she is a bully, and how she never even apologised for it. They won't try to talk to her about it because they don't want to offend her.
I have been so stressed these past 2 years, I've even had to seek counselling myself, because I'm struggling to cope with the situation she has left me in. I do have other friends, and I'm always keen to make new ones, but finding new friends takes time so I'm just not quite there yet.
Basically what I'm trying to say is, was she really suffering with anxiety, if she was only horrible to me? I think it was more like jealousy because I got the job, but obviously she doesn't want to admit this. Also, the taboo around mental health has made a complete U turn. It's shifted from people with the mental health issues can say and do whatever they want because they are "ill", and for the rest of us who are on the receiving end of their behaviour, we have to suffer in silence. My dad was diagnosed in 2008, but my "friend" has never had a diagnosis, she just says she has anxiety. We don't even need a diagnosis anymore, we can just decide what mental health issue we have then we've got a get out of jail card for anything bad we do. Absolute nonsense!

May, 14 2018 at 7:14 am

It's always strange how they can Say horrificmthings to you and be kind to others. I've been told I was disgusting to look at, was a s---, was a b----. But the worst is simply that I am a horrible person. These people come out of left field with their vicious words. Theynsense weakness is in their prey. I don't care what they have or don't have. They did a number on me and no, I don't forgive them.

Courtney T.
May, 26 2017 at 10:15 am

One of the safest and best ways to deal with some mentally ill people is to always have two people present especially if that person is passive aggressive. Having a would-be witness helps signal the mentally ill person that he/she needs to try to be responsible for behaviors. Try. I said. I have, e.g., a mentally ill in-law who used to rant and scream at family gatherings, a lot, I sense, because siblings had grown up and "moved on", and this was his way of trying to pull they dynamic back to an earlier stage and to get the attention. This person said to me once as an excuse for the screaming, "I am mentally ill."
I said, "Yes, but you have learned to use it and your siblings don't want to be around you" and carry reactive behaviors, caused by pain back into their own lives. After that, the person starting controlling himself much better. The other thing is when conversations start heading into "Woe is me" and you are the appointed counsellor of the moment, just say, "It's best you talk with your therapist. Then add that we all, mentally ill or not, have to interpret life with the glass half empty metaphor OR the glass half full. Tell the person to make a list of "what's good" in their lives and to CHOOSE to focus on those thoughts when the bad and/or irrational ones come up.
Perpetuating "sick" family dynamics by caving in to the ill person controlling the situation does not a. help the person and b. has the potential for making others sick. Be authoritative and loving, but do set up boundaries. They help the ill person and they help YOU.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 20 2017 at 10:23 am

I agree on your take with the brother. I have horrible behavioral disorders and it can be frustrating to condition myself to factor what is considerate to others with my impulses. I want to talk over others and push my opinion like a willful child.. but allowing myself or others allowing me isn't good. I've been around others who don't restrain themselves and litterally gloat that they're being an asshole.. and when someone gets upset with them, they eagerly and loudly say they have a behavior condition. It's very much like a person with the "terrible two's or rebellious teenager issues". I'm not saying it's the fault of others who humor the person with the condition.. At my worst I can barely control myself.. in an inpatient facility I was terrorizing the staff, other patients, and even myself. I still knew that I had to try to help the staff help me. I also seen other patients act up purposely. I got on this site because I'm curious on ill behavior vs. being "bad". I think the difference is when someone knowingly and deliberately acts up beyond what their illness provokes them to do.

March, 10 2017 at 7:02 pm

To all of you who have posted on this page, these comments are exactly what I needed to read at this moment. Sel, your post is so intelligent and insightful. Ond of the best discussions I've read on this subject.
I was diagnosed with BPII 21 years ago after my older son was born. Now his brother, my son who is 16, is showing signs and his behavior is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to manage. Thank God I have my own experience to understand, and hopefully help, him. He has his first appointed with a psychiatrist in a few weeks. I hope it goes well and that he will be receptive to taking mediation. He is so angry at me now. It really is hard to take, but I understand what he is experiencing and his anguish about it.

December, 25 2016 at 11:12 pm

@jan I know this is coming a couple months late, so I hope things have gotten better for you and your daughter. And while I don't feel my sharing with you my experience will give you the answers you are looking for, I'm hoping it will help somehow.
First off, I'd like to comend you for your obvious love of your daughter and the efforts you're making to support her. Not all of us receive this and I know it would have meant the world to me. Even though I have the suspicion that at that age, I'm 33 now, I may have responded very similar to her.
I had an early onset of bipolar at 13, I also suffer from ptsd from multiple traumas I've experienced throughout my life beginning at 3. Needless to say I've been a mess most of my life. The thing about bipolar is, unfortunately, it's different for all of us. Oh we share the same inability to physicaly regulate our moods and thus the cycling within the vast spectrum of human emotion, but because expression of emotions does have it's own uniqueness to the individual, no matter how many bipolar sufferers you speak with, you'll realize that your daughter will always have her specifics you'll need to watch out and adjust for.
That being said, I can sympathize with her "bad behavior" you describe. My mania was at its worst ages 13-18. I was unmedicated and had mostly absentee parents. I ran the streets and any attempt to reign me in, even though I knew it came from a good place, just blew up in the innocent parties face. That doesn't mean whoever it was handled or approached me perfectly, but even those that did, as close as humanly possible anyway, suffered.
I was defensive and irritable and got to points where emotionally I felt nothing, which was the worst because at those moments I could cut and hurt the ones I loved so bad. And only after that disconnect passed did all the hurt I caused mean something, which then spiraled me into a self-loathing depression. Being manic is like a motor running with no gas in it, it runs so hard for so long and then it siezes, leading to a crash.
I made so many bad decisions, got myself into so many bad situations I could easily be dead right now. And I honestly don't think anyone could have stopped me, as much as I wish they had.
I thought I had it down, that I could handle anything, could do anything. For me that was part of the grandiose symptom some of us suffer from. I later realized I only felt that way, one because of the disease, and two, because at those times I had a relationship I felt supported in, usually a boyfriend.
However, they were supportive because what I told them was specifically geared to elicit that response. I, like others I've spoken with, crave that attention, especially with someone new, hence why adultery can be an issue for bipolar sufferers.
My inclination is that your daughters boyfriend is satisfying that craving. Unfortunately though, you'll be able to count on people leaving her side as quickly as they joined it. Some of us can be quite charming drawing others to us almost immediately, but as soon as the crazy starts to show, and it will, they flee, like we're lepers. And to some extent, emotionally we are. So know that she will be back and she will need you so desperately then.
Other than being there to love and support her especially in those times of need, to a point that is healthy for you mind you, I don't know that I would suggest anything else for you to do. Applying for guardianship, if it was me, would be met with the strongest resistance, possibly inciting me to sever that connection. It would be wrong on my part to respond that way, but it would happen all the same. But do not let that solidify your decision, you will know what is best for YOUR family.
The choice for people like us to get better is exactly that, a choice. But let me clarify, that does not mean cured, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. But just like with any other disease, diabetes, cancer, we can take steps to mange it. To live the best life we can in spite of it.
I make this choice everyday twice a day when I take my medicine. When I see my psychologist and tell him everything, the good and the bad because I know that honesty will lead to real help. When I catch myself expressing a symptom that hurts others and employ the tools I've developed to stop reacting and show myself the space to ride it out. That last fails quite a bit, but I do rejoice in the victory when it doesn't.
It has taken me 20 years to get to this level of awareness. And my genuine commitment to that didn't happen until I had my first daughter at 20. I often say she saved my life. It's been a long hard road with so much heartache along the way and I have so much further to go, but I have hope.
As much as you can handle it healthily, please don't give up hope on her. Encourage her to take responsibility for her own well being, don't push and ensure her that you're there to support her through it, if you really mean it.
Another sufferer said "stability is a place bipolar people visit, none of us actually live there". This has helped me keep a realistic view of the disease and thus keep my expectations reasonable. For nothing can be so defeating and demoralizing as feeling like a failure because we expect more than we're really capable of.
My one real piece of advice is take all advice with a grain of salt. Some things that work for others will also work for you and some won't, but that does not reflect negatively on you or her.
I apologize for the length in my response but hope that you are able to glean something that brings you comfort if nothing else.
If you're interested, in regards to medication I take, lamotrigene (lamictal) is an anticonvulsant. There have been studies that have found synaptically manic episodes are similar to seizures. I have had only one episode in 6 years. I am currently scheduled to meet with a psychiatrist to start treating the depression.
Your family is in my prayers <3

Derekikan r
November, 14 2016 at 4:20 pm

We have a caregiver who has a fake wife and cats. He even shows us pictures of his cats and wife...yet they are Stock fotos off Net. Wtf r we dealing with hete? He talks to himself, too, but is a great w schizo affective..yet also takes on dx of his patients/clients..ease help..we r we seeing here..

October, 29 2016 at 3:06 am

I'm in a bit of a crisis but in the dark, because my daughter is 18 and therefore, her counselor no longer speaks to me.
Here's the situation. At 16, her counselor (a different one, who had to quit) stated that my daughter was one of only two "true bipolars" she had ever seen in children. So yes, I've considered that part of her. Further, I was told she'd probably need to live with us forever, so we should get adult guardianship. However, she constantly spoke of wanting to live with us forever, and since she never had friends, let alone dated, I thought nothing of this. Then she turned 18, and TWO WEEKS after meeting an older boy online, said she wants to move out. (She spent a weekend with him soon after, and came home, calling me "overbearing," a word I'd NEVER heard her say about ANYbody. Obviously, whatever she was saying over there got them to respond that way.) She has no job, and we're still in the application process of trying to get her SSI, with the intention to still get her an education so she could at least get a part time job.
All that said, I get so frustrated with her behaviors. I have NEVER known her to take ownership of her own behaviors, but maybe twice. However, she is GREAT at taking everyone else's inventory. Someone say, "May I help you?" is perceived rude to her. Today, I restarted the computer, and it made a SINGLE, very loud noise. She started screaming at me and then justified that behavior. BUT when I simply CALLED her and didn't hear her reply, so I got loud so she could hear me, she said she got "p.o.'ed" at me for screaming at her, as if I were mad at her.
I've heard others say she just doesn't make connections. She really doesn't SEEM to, but for that amount of bullying and manipulating, what else could it be?
If the others are right, what type condition prevents someone from making those connections? I don't have a clue how she's going to survive on her own, even with a boyfriend, if she can't distinguish between someone calling her loudly because they can't hear her being okay, and shouting a whole lecture over a single noise NOT being okay.
I've thought about getting adult guardianship, to prevent others from taking advantage of her, but not sure if it's smart or not. Being she's 18, I don't even know who to consult.
I'd LOVE to know what others think about this whole situation.

arjun zaware
August, 22 2016 at 2:39 am

i am a very emmotionaly at every time

Lisa Ramos
July, 7 2016 at 2:11 pm

I am a 50 year old woman managing with my own problems including clinical depression. Because we lost our home, my husband, children, and I came to live with my mom and schizoaffective brother. It's like I'm 12 years old again, living in fear of my older brother. I try to be as understanding as my mom, but I simply have a hard time being verbally abused by him. He is selfish and just doesn't have a clue what an affect he has on our living environment. No matter how nice and caring a person is to him, he still disrespects you. We are oppressed by his anger. He believes we owe it to him to do housework for him, while all he does is listen to music and surf the internet. He becomes irritated if the house is out of order. For the past two years I have taken care of my elderly mother and done the household chores, but I began to have an issue with my meds and became severely depressed which meant I couldn't take care of things well enough. This angered him and he would yell at all of us. This gave me panic attacks but he still had no compassion. His house wasn't clean. You see he believes he owns everything my mom owns. He is the lord of the manor in his mind. We have to ask his permission to use my mom's car or else he throws a tantrum. he often slams doors and breaks them. He never apologizes for degrading you, insulting you, making you miserable because of course he's ill and he knows it. We are moving out soon when we get money for renting a home but it won't be soon enough. I have just become Tired of my mom excusing him for the pain he causes. To a certain degree he deserves compassion, but my mom has spoiled him. Nobody else's feelings count to him but his because of course he is mentally ill and he knows it.

December, 10 2015 at 2:32 pm

I grew up with mental illness in my family. Both parents were loving but my father's war ptsd turned into severe ocd with psychosis which turned him from loving to a monster - restricting and controlling every aspect of our lives. My depressed mother was helpless to protect us and I developed complex ptsd which has lasted my whole life. I loved both my parents deeply (I still caretake for my mom) but if their mental illnesses had been treated or even addressed (which was hard to do in the 1960's and 70's), I doubt I would be writing this entry. We need to educate children and teachers how to respond to mentally ill parents so they don't suffer in silence. Talk helps erase the stigma and the shame.

June, 5 2015 at 12:43 pm

I struggle to find balance between bad behavior and mental illness. My bf's mother is bipolar and she is manipulative, sneaky, dishonest, and verbally abusive towards her own son and myself. I try very hard to be compassionate, understanding and patient, but there are days when I just can't give any more. I have to keep a distance from her on days where she is looking to fight. Boundaries seem to never work, she violates our trust, our privacy, and she does everything she can do to sabotage my relationship with her son. I've had enough and wish that my bf could see how much damage she is causing him and our relationship. I know he loves his mom, but boundaries and limits need to be placed in order to move forward. I suppose it's easier said than done.

October, 15 2014 at 1:13 am

I have Bipolar II, so I am no stranger to mental illness. My close friend is schizoaffective, and I notice that she consistently asks for loans, and hints that she wants me and others around her to buy her things, clothes, meals, etc. She is able to work, spends all she earns, then has nothing, and expects others to rescue her. I used to do this, and I have money troubles myself. She is a nice person, but is also very jealous and annoying. I wonder if manipulative behavior is part of schizophrenia or just her way of getting whatever she wants because she feels she has been screwed in life.

July, 29 2014 at 5:16 pm

As a community health worker, I work with many clients who are striving for health, and work very hard to reach positive goals. Most of my clients are struggling with other issues such as low incomes, traumatic family relationships, and physical ailments as well, which makes managing their mental health very difficult. I am occasionally faced with the person who is manipulative, deceitful, and so uncaring of others that I use the one and only true response to make certain this person will not eat up my time and resources that are designated for my clients. I say NO. I say NO to clients who call me demanding unreasonable requests at all hours. I say NO to clients who insist on lying about their symptoms, for example, they proclaim they are incapable of calling to make their appointments when they can call me to demand a ride to the gas station two blocks away to get their cigarettes. I say NO to these clients who will happily dismiss other client's needs by insisting that they "need" to have their personal whims satisfied immediately when I am with another client who has real needs. The majority of my clients are working hard to attain some level of independence and productivity. There is that minority of people who will use the system to drain resources away from those who can benefit from our support, and these few are the ones who hear a firm and resounding NO!

August, 14 2013 at 5:24 pm

AMEN to that! Beautifully (well, maybe 'candidly' instead) and succinctly written. EXCELLENT!

July, 24 2013 at 12:41 pm

I had to work with two people who have worse disorders than I have. One was a compulsive liar, the other had a lot of repression that caused him to act out a lot during work. Yet the supervisors would turn the other way and their so-called friends would laugh behind their back. I asked the supervisors why these two were never talked to about their behavior, and I was accused of "judging" them. So they think my concern over their mental state wasn't real? That they could at least help them stop these bad behaviors? Or were they making it worse because they were more concerned with not paying them enough?
Things like that are disheartening. I no longer work for that company or go to that location, but it's truly saddening that the company claimed to have respect for the individual, but couldn't see that letting them get worse is the biggest form of disrespect you can show a person who needs help.

June, 7 2013 at 8:07 am

I on-and-off was in a long-distance relationship with a man with BP for five years and, despite being in other relationships since, have floated into and out of each other's lives for the last seven years. Seven!
We both have had an extraordinarily hard time letting go of the other person. I many times have thought he was my soul mate but then was too emotionally exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed with his behavior and would cut off contact for a time, thinking no matter what I could not be in any kind of relationship with this person.
Twice now in the last year he has professed deep love for me, said he was stable, and wanted to try our relationship again, in a real way (aka not long-distance this time, actually live together). I wouldn't say much during these conversations. I've learned to be very cautious. Not long after these declarations, he'd have a manic break b/c at some point he had taken drugs. I know he's used weed, alcohol, even psychedelics and even meth once, I believe!
I can accept and love the BP - I think it's a blessing and a curse, when treated right. But he's been diagnosed for almost a decade (he's almost 29) and he still uses drugs, knowing full well how badly they affect him.
I feel like a fool for opening this Pandora's Box over and over again. BP or not, this drug use (and weed is maybe one thing, but meth frightens me) is unacceptable. It's pulled my emotions to such extremes that I feel codependent, like I'm losing what clarity/stability I have.
This was the final straw for me, his recent manic break where he told me he loved me but it won't work out and he was going on a date w/ someone else. This happened this week. I should've drawn and stuck to this line a long time ago, b/c it's been the same damn cycle again and again.
It's not the BP, it's the damn addictions.

April, 14 2013 at 7:05 am

My heart goes out to everyone who has had to deal with abusive behavior from mentally ill partners and friends. I honestly have to say that if a person, mentally ill or not consistantly verbally or physically threatens / abuses you or close family members, you need to disengage from the ralationship. As much as I feel for the mentally ill individual, when it comes to personal safety (and preservation of ones self-esteem) your well being is the most important.

December, 31 2012 at 6:34 pm

I really appreciate all of the shared stories and advice that everyone has posted here. I've been dating a cop for over a year now, and I really love him. He is extremely depressed, and says that he has been for a good portion of his life. He has been married twice, and both wives left him and remarried shortly after. I probably should have taken these facts as "red flags," however, continued to date him.
One of his favorite hobbies is "gaming," which divides his attention from me and I think it's too soon for that in only a year. He can sit at the computer for 14 hours to play without any hesitation, and he does this frequently because it's his depression/stress outlet. Whenever I bring up gaming (which has come up several times), he loses control and calls me horrible names, throws things at me, and even last night punched me in the face. He threatens to throw me out of windows. He threatens to "lost his job" to make me pay for disrespecting him. Of course, more than gaming has come up as issues for us. Reasonable conversations are never possible.
He has never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but a lot of these stories feel very close to home for me. He hates the idea of taking medication for his mental health, especially since it might affect his career, but I would really like to be able to give him advice or guidance on how to approach taking medication (what I think he may benefit from). He took anti-depressants for over 6 weeks and said that sometimes he felt "worse" because of them. Even more evidence to bipolar? I don't know, I'm looking for any help here.
Whenever I mention that I'll move out to give him space and for both of us to move on with our lives (and attempt happiness elsewhere) he bursts into tears and is an emotional wreck. He apologizes, sometimes tells me to leave... I can never predict the outcome of the hour but it always comes around to "I love you more than anything and I want you to stay in my life."
Thanks again everyone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 26 2018 at 10:06 am

Only coming across this page in 2018 amd wish I had seen this earlier! I feel this partner was abusive to you and as the author noted, mental illness can drive episodes of bad behavior but his behavior toward you was emotionally manipulative and abusive-- the emotional outbursts when you express the wish to leave a situation that was hurting you is a classic symptom of emotional abuse-- I hope that you were able to move on from this relationship.

November, 13 2012 at 4:39 pm

I have had an on and off relationship with a woman that has bipolar, very severe at times and quite scary when manic. I have been very proactive in her treatment went to doctor visits and counseling. I have help her out financially with her medication and transportation issues many times. She has ranted on me, called me horrid names and accused me of bizarre things. I deeply cared for her, however it was taking an emotional toll on me and we broke it off for a couple of months. She recently reached out and told me how much she missed me and wanted things to workout and promised to control he temper and rage. She has been going through intensive therapy and did talk the good talk. This lasted a week and she lashed out and I politely told her it was over for good, of course she said she was joking and was sorry....I drew a line she crossed it and that was it.....I feel somewhat remorseful that I should have given her "one more chance" but when is enough a enough?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 16 2018 at 5:00 pm

I’m not gonna tell you what to do, but if it was me, I would give her annother chance. Even in a relationship of two neuro-typical people, mistakes are always made. Especially in the case of someone with a mental disorder, it is really difficult to curb behavior associated with your illness. In both cases, the key is to realize your behavior and apologize.
Since you mentioned that she immediately apologized, it seems like she knows she made a mistake. Mistakes can never be eliminated completely, but communication does get better and it becomes easier to talk about when you are hurt and expect an apology.
If it’s love, then you will feel drawn back to her and whatever you’ve been building together will seem more important than a mistake.

September, 5 2012 at 6:45 am

I liked this article - thanks for the input. Again, as I've posted before - my husband has MDD and can be VERY hurtful. I constantly wonder if he has any control over the hurtful way he behaves? He says he hates himself - I believe he does. Does he have any control over the hurtful way he speaks to me and our daughter? He seems to be jealous of the people in his life (& even strangers) who are not mentally ill and of people who have more than he does (money, things, etc) sigh.... I love him despite his illness but it can be difficult.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 24 2017 at 10:48 am

Your husband got very unlucky, but he can take control of his actions. If you haven't seen a psychiatric therapist I recommend it. You can also check in to a psychiatric ward. It might not sound great but I have lived my life with ADHD, OCD, and mood disorder. Trust me, it really will help.

July, 24 2012 at 3:34 pm

The examples you gave of man with schizoaffective disorder may not be part of his mental illness but manipulation, such as eating out without money and then calling family to come pay for him. That would stop if they just said no. Other unpleasant behaviors like not showering are known to be possible symptoms of mental illness. Taking advantage of others should not be allowed.... don't be co-dependent.

Barb Long
July, 24 2012 at 7:46 am

Thank you for the refreshing and balanced view of responsibility. While acknowledging that any diagnosis affects how one acts and responds, others likewise have the right to choose how to respond. Sometimes the most loving thing to do, even when one opts to stay in a relationship is to set clear boundaries, step away when they are violated, and come back later.
Thank you for your openess that brings blessing to so many by uncovering myths of mental illness.

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