Recently, celebrity news has been dominated by the Kim Kardashian – Kanye (or Ye) divorce saga. In summary, what has come to light are; Kanye has been accusing Kim of kidnapping his children or preventing him from seeing them, criticising her relationship with her current boyfriend Pete Davidson, questioning her parenting, insulting Pete repeatedly on social media and asking his followers to yell at Pete on his behalf. Additionally, he believes that he is fighting for his family and that God will bring him and Kim back together.
Kanye has previously been transparent about his bipolar disorder and has apparently said he has stopped taking medication. Kim has largely remained silent on this issue on social media, except for one post where she says Kanye is making co-parenting “impossible”.
Here below is a chat with Taylor’s University Psychology lecturer Pang Chia Yee, who specialises in sex and relationships.
How can you tell if your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse has bipolar disorder – what are some of the red flags to look out for?
First of all, we need to understand that bipolar disorder is a spectrum, meaning it can range from mild to severe. There are also a few types of bipolar disorder according to the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual – Five). Generally, a bipolar sufferer will shift from extreme highs (also known as mania) to extreme lows (as known as depression) – or vice-versa, with the presence of a “normality” mood in between the two extremes.
Some possible red flags to look out for are:
- Alcohol or Drug abuse
- Reckless spending
- Frequent mood swings
However, in the context of a relationship, do note that it is harder for you to put the pieces together and identify that your partner has bipolar disorder as compared to a third party. Such disorders require a professional diagnosis rather than a partner potentially mislabelling the other in the relationship.
Would you say that the things Kanye is doing to Kim (and Pete) right now are a symptom of his disorder, or are people reading too much into it? Are there other factors in play apart from just bipolar?
Based on the presentation highlighted by social media, it does indicate symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, it cannot be concluded solely based on media presentation as there are maybe other unknown facts and details.
What causes bipolar disorder? What are the triggers that will ‘set off’ an episode?
There are some risk factors that may cause bipolar disorder, such as environmental stressors, genetics (you may find a relative who has this disorder if you trace your family history), chemical imbalances in the body, or changes in the brain.
Some triggers include stress, lack of rest or sleep, breakdowns in relationships or divorce, alcohol, drugs, the weather (winter tends to be more depressing), pregnancy (because of the change in hormones), loss of job, loss of any sort, financial stress, and environmental and external pressures such as the pandemic.
If you’re in a committed relationship with someone who has bipolar, what can you do to help him/her and work towards a strong relationship?
Identify things that trigger them and hopefully, they will be honest and open up to you through sharing their ups and downs. Do not take it personally or blame yourself when they are in one extreme of mood.
It is also useful to:
- Encourage your partner to seek professional help
- Accept and understand your own limits
- Be patient and accepting
- Seek to understand and find out more about his/her disorder/ difficulty
While I encourage the person to also persuade the partner to seek professional help, understandably social stigma or self-pride would be a challenge as it really depends on how the individual perceives mental illness in general and the idea of seeking help.
Some tips to help persuade a loved one is to demonstrate how much this therapy means to the relationship. Another way is to let them know that you don’t know how to support the other half (who has the issue) and you want to know how to assist them, hence you require their ‘assistance’ and you are willing to be there at therapy with them. Also note that finding a suitable therapist is important, so if your partner does not ‘click’ with the therapist or psychiatrist, find another one.
If say Kim came to you for advice on what to do right now, what are some tips/steps you would tell her to do?
I would say to continue to keep herself calm and grounded.
I am not sure about what is her current relationship with Kanye like, but hopefully, she can continue to be his friend and be mindful of the things that trigger him. However, at this point, it seems like whatever Kim’s response is, it will most likely be a trigger to Kanye – hence he screenshots their texts and exposes them on social media. So part of me is glad that she remained quiet about this issue on social media. Because the danger about this medium is that it is not about the intentions that you have when you make your statements, but about how those statements are perceived – as readers will always interpret their own meanings, and make their own assumptions.
It’s tricky to say whether she should continue to engage or respond to Kanye because if Kanye is bipolar, whether she replies or not, it can still be a trigger to his mood swings.
I would evaluate the situation and their current condition of the relationship, not from social media’s perspective but as individuals. How Kim thinks and feels about Kanye as a person or as the dad to her children, matters.
If an ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to escalate in their actions towards us, what should we do – how would we know if it has reached a dangerous level and professional help/ legal methods are needed?
Always remember that your safety comes first. If your ex-partner or ex-spouse with bipolar or mental health disorders starts to be physical or verbally abusive or aggressive towards you, you need to inform the authorities (police officers), your family, and neighbours. As for professional help, you do not need to wait till the situation becomes dangerous to seek help.
I know of people who have very bad and sudden tempers, and they overreact to the smallest issues. Is this a symptom of bipolar disorder?
It’s hard to make a conclusion based on just these statements, and more investigation is needed. Sometimes these behaviours develop from certain causes, such as pent-up emotions/stress or childhood trauma, and may not necessarily be a disorder. However, it’s possible for bipolar disorders to develop depending on how these stressors have impacted the brain over time.