Bipolar Disorder and Lying


Boy, did I open up a can of worms when I wrote about whether or not someone with bipolar disorder is lying or not! I received more responses than I could possibly answer! I also learned a lot from you, and from your own situations.

One point that really interested me, because it was made several times, was the fact that you say that to the person with bipolar disorder it isn’t a lie, because when they say it, they believe it.

I was talking to Michele (who works for me) about that point, because she does have bipolar disorder, and she said that it’s like when her boys were little, and they would tell her a lie, but then they would say it was a lie, and then say, “Well, it’s not a lie if I tell you it’s a lie, right?”

That’s what this reminds me of. But how do we know when the person is lying or not? They aren’t little any more, like Michele’s small sons, are they?

Or are they? When someone is in a bipolar episode, they do tend to seem somewhat childish, don’t they? Or at least some of them do.

I have interviewed some people for my courses, and they have described this behavior in their

loved ones. I have also interviewed parents with children who describe this lying behavior in their children and teenagers.

I have talked about bipolar disorder and lying before, and have made the point that the person with the disorder should not “get away with” the behavior:

But what we’re talking about here is when this behavior is seen in an adult with bipolar disorder.

And what we’re really talking about is making them be responsible for their behavior. That’s what we really want. That they should take responsibility for their behavior, especially if it involves lying.

That’s what a lot of the responses I got were about. There are a lot of angry people out there, whose loved one tells lies, hurting you and others with their lies. Lots of the responses were like that.

It’s not so much that they lie, but that they get away with it. That’s what makes you so angry, isn’t it? That’s what made me so angry with my mom, anyway. That she got away with it. She would do all the yelling, manipulating, and lying, and I would get all the blame, and be the one left to “clean up after” her. I hated that. And I didn’t think it was fair. It really made me angry and resentful. And it hurt a lot.

I think a lot of you out there are really feeling hurt, more than anything else. And the worst part is that your loved one goes along not even knowing that they’ve hurt you at all!

In my research, I found that it is very common that a person with bipolar disorder will not remember what they said or did when in a bipolar episode, after the episode is over. I usually urge people not to take it personally, and that’s why.

Lying is one of the biggest complaints that bipolar supporters have about their loved ones.

I hear about it all the time, at the support groups I attend, in emails and calls I receive, from people who talk to me, from people who write to me, etc.

And, like I said, I think it boils down to two things: The hurt it causes. And the fact that they are getting away with it.

So what can you do about it? You have to make your loved one take responsibility for their actions. Whether they remember it or not, they must take responsibility for the behavior they did during their bipolar episode. And there need to be consequences to pay for lying or not owning up to responsibilities.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. My biggest problem with my daughter is her anger when she is caught in a lie or avoiding a responsibility. She turns it on me as if I’m the one who is at fault or have no right to be upset with her behavior. If questioned she yells and gets defensive then tells me I’m causing more stress for her than the original problem in the first place, and things end up not getting resolved. I walk away still upset and hurt by her actions and she sees me as the “bad guy”, always questioning her and expecting some accountability. I’m really not sure what to do.

  2. I don’t know about Bipolar people being liar’s. You’ve got people who are suppose to be well; that have alying spirit. What’s their exuse. Not that Bipolar is an excuse for anything; But it is an explainaton of certain behavior’s. There’s one thing that you said that stopped me from reading the rest of your article. And that is describing Bipolar as Child like personalities. I’m here to tell that as a fuctional missionary for our lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His joy and his peace could be misunderstood as a child like behavior. I laugh alot, and joke around alot. I love to spread love and joy to the people who may need it at that time. Of course I don’t know who need it. But GOD does. Another stament you made that I didn’t much care for. And that’s when you said that’s what we want. Meaning for Bipolar patient’s to stop acting child like. My question is who is we? BE BLESSED!!!!!

  3. My boyfriend has been going back and forth between here and Florida. He says that he is inpatient in a program for PTSD run by a veterans hospital for army veterans. When I said I was going there to visit he became very upset. Also when I called there at the beginning of October they said he was not registered at the program.
    The lying hurts me, and I don’t know what is true or not.I always support his going to programs that will help him to feel better and achieve happiness, but if he does not attend those programs he needs to tell me so.

  4. I would like to know how to hold someone accountable what does one do without being totally attacked and then removed from every consent?

  5. I just want to say that being bipolar over the years I have said things that were not true and spoke my mind without censoring myself. However, I must say that if I said something that was not right or true and I remembered it I apologized. I have also apologized when something was brought to my attention that I could not remember saying. What I do have a problem with is that if I can do this why can’t others do it. All people need to own up to their actions and comments whether they are bipolar or not. You are right in what you say but it also hurts when others say things that hurt you and act like because you are bipolar you should be able to take it or that it won’t hurt you because you are sick. That is not fair either. Sometimes you do not give bipolar people outside of the ones that work for you the credit they deserve when they are doing the best they can working,caring for families and making some sense out of this illness.

  6. Boy does this hit home, particularly the childish part and of course the lying with the confidence that it is factual. Both hurt. And it is so hard to hold someone accountable for something they seem not to remember or not to remember the way it actually happened. How have you been able to do that and has it been successful with future episodes.

  7. I have been reading all of your post and oh how true my daughter lies so bad and she dont even care knowing its a lie she hast to have drama around her all the time or shes just not happy that is why I cant have her live hear with me. and the rages she goes through is unreal she is like a mad person ready to kill that is another thing I dont want her hear for Im afraid that shel be raging and kill me or someone else she is raging on Im afraid of her.why she cant get on the right meds I dont know I dont think that she takes them right arnt thay suppost to make them calmer or something? I dont know that much about Bipoler and really dident beleave in it tell I started reading your post hear on it thank you for makeing me a beleaver Joyce

  8. My boyfriend usually tells me the truth (unless he is in a very bad episode when he doesn’t know what he’s saying and doing). However, he has recently been lying to his doctors. While he is taking his meds as prescribed, he is also drinking like a fish, spending money like crazy and wanting sex all the time. He has been hypomanic for a couple of months now. In one way I’m happy to have him back, I can see some very alarming signs developing and don’t understand how the health professionals don’t see it. We have had some fun and loving times together, but I know it won’t be for long unless I can talk sense into him before it gets worse. A couple of weeks ago we went to a pub and he said some very rude things to some ordinary people minding their own business. They thought it was the drink, but I know different. When he stays with me he wants sex all night and doesn’t let me sleep. He bought me an expensive Christmas present and tells me he loves me 20 times a day. The first time all this happened (3 years ago), the next step was religiosity, then raging anger leading to hospitalisation. I love him a lot. His love for me is more of a need than anything romantic. He knows I will help him and to some extent I can help him, but he also has to help himself. I know by the way he looks at me at times that he is asking me for help. I was very upset when he shaved his head again. Apart from (he knows) that I hate that fashion, it’s also always a bad sign. He always does that when he is developing towards an episode. For now he still realises he is going through a phase and told me he will give up the drink in the New Year. If he does, I hope to be able to talk to him and hope he will see sense and saves himself from a major episode. I pray for him every night.

  9. i tend to lie when i am in my up mood, i call this my fantasy land, the lies i tell are childish, and usually bragging or exagerating in nature, only on two occassions have i really hurt someone and had to apologize, they forgave me but do not accept that it was due to my bipolar, it’s hard living like this, but with my medication, i rarely have these episodes, but i do admit, i like to go off of them on special occasions, like my birthday, so i can have fun and laugh, not feel like an outsider like i do when i’m on my meds.

  10. My daughter Rachel is in her 30s she has 2 children and she lives with bipolar.
    I have noticed when Rachel is elevated to the extent she is in need of professional care – lying becomes one of those characterising symptoms of that state(episode) as is screaming and abusive language and physical abuse.
    These are not the common attributes one would associate with Rachel( she is not an mentally or physically abusive person normally nor does she lie when she is well and she certainly would never hurt someone’s feelings for no reason at all)
    Having read David’s blog and talked out some of these strange behavious with professional support as well as readindg anything I can get my hands on – I consider her lying as a symptom of the disease and I reflect these anomalies back to her in simple language a child can understand so she gets the message immediately.
    what is interesting, Rachel, after a few moments of yelling in order to avoid having to address her lying or manipulation – or what ever behaviours she is in – will most times accept that she has been caught out and after a time may apologise for her behaviours . You see, she ( in the middle of her episode ) thinks that everything is a game of words – and as far as she is concerned during this time, everything every thought, all previous plans and agreements are up for grabs. Rachel can be highly manipulative during this time
    The one thing I am learning presently is this: I have to learn how to shut down my sceptism ( once bitten twice shy )when Rachel is well. It is a very difficult task. Recently Rachel went off to another part of the country on her own to her father’s family reunion. A first for her since her illness.
    We both planned for every eventuality . I found it so difficult to let go my natural fear for her in this situation so far away from me, and all those negative feelings that I experienced when Rachel was unwell flooded back: I could not believe her when she said she could handle everything. I could not believe she would not turn our little family’s lives upside down if she went into an episode while she was away.But I managed to stop myself from manipulating her decision to go knowing what the every present risks were.
    Rachel is coming home tonight. She made it through all that family reunion ( it took 5 days ) she did it by herself and she took her medication religiously, and she slept every night ( sleep is her friend) , and she is coming home because she missed her kids and she missed home and she missed me and she needs to renew her medication,and she was concerned I might still be worried.
    WOW.. I was impressed and amazed and grateful and excited and I will give my daughter a great big hug when she comes in the door.and I will strive to remember that that aberrant behaviour takes place when Rachel is unwell when she is in an episode and NOT when she is well.
    I love my daughter ,she is my hero.

  11. Thanks David your posts -they always hit home! My boyfriend is bipolar and an alcoholic. He lies about many things to me and others in his life. This has completely impacted our relationship in negative ways. I believe I have learned to detect when he lies to me by the why he responds and the words he chooses. Because of this it seems as if he is aware that he is lying. Although I love him a future together seems unlikely. I say this b/c he has also stopped taking his medication and does not believe in therapy. And not sure what the future holds.

  12. My question is how do you handle the situation when after their bipolar episode they do not remember and you tell them about it and they say they did not do that? I am starting to think that I am the one that is having a problem, at least that is how he makes me feel. I am trying to support him but he makes it very hard. It is not that he lies but he just does not open up and tell me so to me if you are holding something back you are lying.

  13. I am bipolar and i know if i dont take my meds,i will be in trouble. i donot act chilish and i have no reason to lie about anything’I am as normal as anybody with out bipolar when takeing my meds,if i am not on my meds i have trouble sleepin,i tend to drink what i am stressing to ,is if you dont take your perscribed meds you are heading for disaster, such as raceing thoughts,tremmors,irritability,sever ups and downs,doind thing you wouldnt normally do such as drugs.getting in trouble with the law.basically emmbarsing your self and others.and thats where the lieing comes in,of coures you are going to lie it may be out of embarrasment,shame,and guilt. in all honesty the person didnt mean to do those things if only they took thier meds to all the other responces are the people you are talking about on any medication, such as a antidepressant,and a mood stabilizer and asleep med like seriquil whitch also hels with bipolar.i take my meds every day and night, i have 2 jobs i take care of my 12 year old and my elderly mother. the medication works.

  14. Boy, this was so timely. As usual. Thanks, David for all you do!!!

    Fredia, I liked your comments. It reminds me of that important 12 Step, “And when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.”

    Not “if”, “When”. And if you can, you are so right, why can’t others?

    I am still friends with my wasband, the boys’ dad. He is bipolar, among other things. I ended up spending a lot of time with him this holiday. Long story.

    He sat, talking, saying one thing, then another, oblivious to the fact that he was contradicting himself.

    I kept hearing Dr. Phil say, “Perception is reality.”
    We sure have differing perceptions!

    It is so sad. His lies, his contradictions. The cruelty, then not getting that it was cruel.

    I just stopped listening. I stopped trying to help in any way other than physically. (Willing to drive him to an appointment. Not willing to give advice, share thoughts, or deeply listen.) I remember John Gray saying “The opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is indifference.”

    This disease, and mental illness in general, is a thief. It has cost me so much, cost him so much.

    It was so sad to see. What comes out of his mouth means nothing to me any more. It can be true, untrue, it will change in seconds. It’s just percussive air. What a sad thing. Sad to see the impact it has on his boys, too.

    Thanks for having this place where I can share.

  15. Thanks Pati, I can see that you understand exactly what I meant.
    This comment:
    This disease, and mental illness in general, is a thief. It has cost me so much, cost him so much. It was so sad to see. What comes out of his mouth means othing to me any more. It can be true, untrue, it will change in seconds. It’s just percussive air. What a sad thing. Sad to see the impact it has on his boys, too.
    really makes me want to cry. It is so true. In my case, this is my 22 year old daughter and I have to keep holding on for her sake knowing exactly what you said above that it can be true untrue or change in seconds. It has an impact that not many understand. I pray that we can find the right professionals and right medication for her. So far, we have not gotten her to a very functional place for any amount of time.

    While not all who live with bipolar will behave in the same way it is good to be able to vent in a place where many will understand and you know you are not alone. Thanks David

  16. When I was younger (in age as well as my younger experience w/ bi -polar disorder), I didn’t always see in myself what others saw in me. I was also closed minded, unwilling to consider what they were telling me about my behavior. I ended up making the same mistakes, bad choices over & over until I finally saw what these people; family, friends, & my therapist were trying to help me understand. It’s better for me today. I still have bad periods; not every day & not continuously day in & day out. Coping has become easier w/ experiences I face daily. I don’t drink/do street drugs, & take my medications faithfully every day.

  17. I have seen the effects of bipolar my whole life my mom was diagnosed with this disorder when I was very young. I am now taking care of her under the hospice program she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Treatment was not recommended because of her mental state to make a long story short she has said and done some very very bad things including lying and let me tell you they are the most believable lies I have ever heard. My question or problem is that how do you make someone responsible for something they have no idea they said I don’t see a lesson being learned from this not like a child who knows they told a lie. You tell the child they lied and you correct them now they know what they said is a lie but they know they said it. If someone doesn’t even know they told a lie they aren’t going to take responsibility for something in their mind they didn’t do. It does anger me that she tells these lies and they do hurt but what is she really getting away with? This behavior is not going to continue or stop by trying to convince someone of something they did or said in one of these episodes. It will happen over and over as long as the episodes occur not because she wasn’t made responsible for her actions. I do correct her at the time she tells the lie but she doesn’t remember that either so I really don’t see a lesson learned. Don’t get me wrong I am not giving her an excuse or condoning the behavior but She really isn’t responsible for something she does in these episodes we just have to work at not having the episodes so the lies and horrible behavior doesn’t happen.

  18. You used a quote from the book “Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar But Were to Freaked Out to Ask.” by Hilary Smith.

    “You can’t force people to understand,
    but you can leave the door open.”

    You went on to say:

    ‘I really like that line, because it
    addresses the stigma that still
    comes against bipolar disorder.
    We can’t help that some people,
    usually uninformed people, still
    hold a stigma against people with
    a mental illness in general, and
    bipolar disorder specifically.
    Unfortunately, it’s up to us to
    educate them (should you decide

    Is that what you think you’re doing when you say:

    ‘When someone is in a bipolar episode, they do tend
    to seem somewhat childish, don’t they?
    It’s not so much that they lie, but that they get
    away with it.
    And the worst part is that your loved one goes
    along not even knowing that they’ve hurt you
    at all!’

    As someone who has bipolar, I am offended that you group me among liars, manipulators, abusers, alcoholics and the like.
    It makes a depressive episode that much harder to bear because this is how someone sees me when they become aware that I too have this ‘most irresponsible’ of mental illnesses.
    One of my biggest problems growing up was knowing that I will never be like my brothers and sisters. No matter how hard I try to be normal, I will always be apologizing for who I am, because I was born with a mental illness.
    No one else is required to do this. Bipolar patients are not the only liars out there. They are not the only addicts. They are not the only people who make life miserable for everyone else, but because we have this flaw, it’s easy to blame us for behaviors that are only magnified by an illness.
    I have done what I can to claim responsibility for my actions. I no longer drive. I don’t have a bank account. I don’t leave the house. I have always apologized to my husband after a fight whether I know what I said or not. I knew feelings were hurt and I wanted to make it right.
    So, if it makes it easier to deal with the hurt, blame me. I’m used to it. I’m bipolar.

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