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I Was Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder, How To Tell My Parents?
Ask Dr. Rue

I Was Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder, How To Tell My Parents? 

I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I’m not ashamed of the reality, personally, but I’m not sure how to approach my family with this information.

My mother tends to scream and cry for everything, and my father… is a whole other story. They don’t “believe” in mental illness, so I’m not sure how to address my diagnosis, especially since I may have to move back in with them in a few months.

What’s the best way to ease them into it without causing too much drama?

Diagnosed in Norfolk, VA

Greetings Love! It is common to find that some families struggle with the reality of mental illness and the stigma that comes with it in our communities.

Have your parents ever noticed your changes in mood, whether depressive or manic/hypomanic? I ask because if they have seen a difference in your mood before, it may be something that you can use to broach the subject.

If not, then perhaps starting with some psycho-education on symptoms that you’ve experienced in the past, then working up to what these symptoms mean, may be a good place to start.

However, you’ve expressed concern regarding how they may respond to it. While it is important that they are aware, you also have to be ready to get into that discussion with them. If mom has her typical behaviors in dealing with situations, chances are that telling her now or later won’t change how she responds.

Most importantly, they may not understand or believe in mental illness, nor do they necessarily have to; what matters is that you do.

Dr. Rue | 3.29.19

Break It All Down

I believe, if you are able to express yourself and share your challenges, they will understand that it is a reality for you, regardless of their own beliefs [maybe not right away, but hopefully eventually.]. Educate them regardless of their beliefs, explain your symptoms, and simply inform them of what may be helpful if you are ever in a depressive/manic episode.

I’m unsure whether you have been diagnosed with BPI/BPII; but in any case, your health comes first. Mom and dad will love you regardless. I’d suggest taking your time and share when you are ready but do share. You haven’t moved in yet, so decide if it’s best to tell them before or after you move in. You could even pay them a visit before the official move-in if you think that’s better. Comprise a list of pros and cons, then just do it! It’ll be okay. They will love and support you regardless of the fear that may arise of the things that they don’t fully understand right now.


Ask Dr. Rue is a weekly, anonymous advice column where your most vulnerable mental health + emotional wellness concerns are addressed. Do you have a question to ask or a situation to present, and wondering what Dr. Rue might have to say? Ask Dr. Rue here

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