Ask Amy: Husband’s Outbursts Could be Sign of Mental Illness


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Dear Amy: I have a husband who, I believe, has bipolar disorder. He refuses to get treatment.

He was treated years ago, while married to his first wife, but refuses to seek treatment now.

We have been together for almost 11 years, and married for seven years. His behavior is unacceptable and I don’t know how to get through this without divorcing him, which is something I really don’t want to do.

He has many good periods where he is kind and helpful. In general, he is a good husband.

However, when the mania strikes, he turns from good husband to demon spawn. He becomes very critical, demanding and verbally abusive. He talks continuously without forming rational sentences. He verbally attacks my adult children by yelling at them and telling them they are lazy or stupid.

My sons won’t have anything to do with him anymore.

Sometimes he apologizes afterward but, for the most part, he doesn’t realize he’s been torturing those around him.

Short of divorce, what can I do to get my husband to seek the help he needs? I don’t know how long I can survive never knowing when the next outburst is going to occur.

— Rollercoaster Bride


Dear Rollercoaster Bride: You have accurately described what it is like to live with someone with untreated bipolar disorder. If your husband was diagnosed and treated previously, he should seek treatment again.

You cannot force him into treatment. But during a time when he is calm and well, you should describe your own situation, ask him to get help, offer to go with him to see a psychiatrist, and attach a consequence if he doesn’t. Tell him you want to stay married and see him through this, but that your relationship is on the line.

You should leave the house when he rages and becomes verbally abusive. Don’t return until you know he is calm. Give yourself a deadline where you promise to reassess your own situation.

Tell your sons that your husband is not well; comfort them and let them comfort you.



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