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Q:  Hi David,

 I hope maybe you can give some input as to if I am dealing with a bipolar man or something else.

I met a man a year ago who was everything I could ever want. We talked of marriage but because he lived in a different state and my children were in  high school we decided to wait. He would write and tell me the most wonderful things in the  world. We talked on the phone daily and managed to see each other monthly. He all of a sudden stopped calling. No warning. I called and e-mailed without response and finally came to the conclusion it was over. Two months later he wrote to say that he had been very busy and overwhelmed with his business and a few personal things. He said this has  happened to him several times in his life and during times of stress he shuts down. We resumed the relationship but again he started to get overwhelmed by his workload and he has again stopped calling or answering my calls.  The last letter he sent stated that he was working long days and he  sounded very stressed.

Is this something that sounds like bipolar? He also stated that his mind does not work normally when he is pushed. Apparently he has "shut down" several times in his life. I would really appreciate your input and if this is bipolar behavior how should I respond.

Thank you very much

Dear C,

     You need to know that it takes an average of 7 to 10 years from the time an individual with bipolar first shows up on a clinician's doorstep to the time they are actually properly diagnosed- this describes the complexity and course of the disease and diagnosis.  In other words, it's almost impossible to say if what you are describing is bipolar disorder or not and it would be inappropriate and unethical for me to say so.  You certainly talk about some personality and/or behavioral features that would raise some questions about the possibility of some sort of unusual patterns/traits.  Only a psychologist, physician, or psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about bipolar disorder with whom the patient can communicate openly about all of their behaviors and symptoms over time can diagnose the possibility of manic depression via complete psychiatric history/interview.  Sorry I can't be of more help in answering this particular question.  Whether or not you might be dealing with bipolar disorder, concentrate on the behavior and actions you are dealing with and not so much on what the label might be.  How might you manage someone who "shuts down" and locks you out for long periods of  time numerous times during their lives?  How do you handle someone who will not be "pushed"?  Like any other relationship issue, I believe that communication is the key.  See if he is receptive to sitting down and at least talking about these issues.  If he recognizes his own "shutting down" as a problem, it may be that he will be willing to accept help to work on this with you.  Perhaps the two of you could pursue counseling at some point in the future.  Again, this need not be a bipolar issue.....this can be a relationship issue with a communication approach to solving your concerns.  Good luck.

David Schafer, M.Ed.
Staff Psychologist

Published July, 2006

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