Bipolar: Reinforcing Negative Bipolar Behavior – Stop It!


It’s obvious that things like a heart attack or stroke would be considered a trauma, wouldn’t you

Well, experts liken the following things to trauma level as well:

• Change in job
• Marriage
• Divorce
• Having a baby
• Graduating from school
• Buying a house
• Getting a new car
• Moving
• Having an operation
It’s easy to see how these things might be considered so, when you think of it in light of the fact that they are all major changes in a person’s life. But the reason they consider these things actual
traumas is that they elicit physical responses in people – remember the old “fight or flight”
response? Well, it’s something like that. They can bring about high anxiety or nervousness,
and high amounts of stress in a person’s life.

When facing something like a trauma, like one of the things I listed above, or any major change,
your loved one may experience an actual bipolar episode. If they do, they may start taking things out on you, just because you are the person closest at hand. Believe it or not, they may treat you poorly because they trust you so much. I know that it sounds like a contradiction, but it’s true.

It could also be because you’ve accepted this behavior in the past, so they feel that they can
do it again and get away with it. If you have let them get away with poor treatment of you in the past, they have no reason to believe that you won’t accept it in the future.

It doesn’t even have to go that far. For example, it could be anything to get their way. Say your loved one doesn’t get their way. So they pick a fight with you. And you give in, so they get what they want. This way they learn that every time things don’t go their way, all they have to do is fight with you, and they will get what they want.

All you’ve done is reinforce their negative behavior, whether you meant to do it or not. I’m sure you don’t like this. You probably want this to stop. So what can you do about it? Well, stop it, of course! But how?

Well, you need to set limits. And you need to establish consequences for poor behavior. Then you need to be consistent in meting out those consequences if your loved one breaks the limits you have set. It’s almost like dealing with a child. What did your parents do when you were a child and you threw a tantrum? Well, for certain you didn’t get what you wanted. In other words, they set a limit. Then you probably either got spanked, or they just ignored you (didn’t reinforce your negative behavior).

In other words, you paid a consequence for breaking the limit they set. You need to do the same thing with your loved one. Say you want them to stop fighting with you and getting their own way. So you might say something to them like: “I love you, but if you insist on fighting with me every time you don’t get your own way, I’m going to ignore you when you do that.”

You have established a limit (their fighting)…And a consequence of their behavior (you will ignore them). You could even make sure they understand what will happen if they do it again by having them repeat it back to you.

Then comes the crucial part. The very next time they fight with you, you MUST ignore them!
And you must do it every single time they fight with you, until they stop the behavior. When they see that this no longer works, believe me, they will stop doing it.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,



  1. You are right On! I’ve never been under this much composure till I learned what “poor behavior” was.

    p.s. My teeth have also never been this clean – I am trained and equipped for “other people’s craziness”.

    well thank God we dont have to take our school mates and coworkers home with us. sometimes the problem is within though — it is who you live with! trust me I have plenty of friends with kids – they usually walk their kids to my house and then pick them up at the right times. woe is you if you have one of those loose cannon parents of small children or an imaginary spouse (evil spirit) within your domain.

    Ignore em and they will all disappear

  2. I absolutely HATE it when my boyfriend ignores me, which he does almost everytime I am in a depressive funk. When I was a child, my father used to send me to my room with the admonishment “And don’t come back downstairs until you have an improved attitude!” I learned LONG ago, that no body likes me when I am not happy. (Or pretending to be.) It’s obvious that people would rather see me always smiling and cheerful, but that is not the truth of my disease. I have to have someone around who loves and supports me unconditionally.
    Right now, I am attempting to quit smoking and would like some encouragement about it, but, for the past 3 days, he has been ignoring me. All I really feel like doing is finding some way to punish him back. (Not very mature, I know.)
    He reads your emails every day and yet, I swear, he does nothing to bring it into our life together.

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