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Bipolars and Internet Romance

Part 1: What Makes Internet Relationships So Desirable?

By PaulaHOST

Updated April 14, 2009

People are drawn to cyber-romances for the same reasons they are drawn to face-to-face romances - either they don't have a "real-life" love relationship, or there is something missing in their "real-life" love relationship. On the internet, they may indeed find what they are missing. Or, because of the partial anonymity of cyberspace - which allows lots of room for fantasy and imagination - they may only THINK they have found what they are missing.

The "exotic" and/or "magical" quality of a cyber-romances might be one factor that attracts some people. The lover's presence enters your home (or office) without the person physically being there, which feels very magical. People also enjoy the secrecy that an internet romance provides. An internet romance can be carried out from home or office without the knowledge of others around us.

It's well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn't ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world. They loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly. Researchers call this the "disinhibition effect." When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can't be directly linked to the rest of their lives. They don't have to own their behavior by acknowledging it within the full context of who they "really" are. When acting out hostile feelings, the person doesn't have to take responsibility for those actions. In fact, people might even convince themselves that those behaviors "aren't me at all." In psychology this is called "dissociation."

The Problems

  • Online relationships can happen incredibly fast.

  • When involved online with someone, you don't experience the negative body language or warning signals that may occur when you meet face to face.

  • You are taking the other person's word on trust - while he or she may be romancing four or five others with the same lines that you find appealing.

  • You may be giving a false impression of yourself due to disinhibition.

What Makes Bipolar People So Vulnerable?

  • Hypersexuality - hypersexuality is a real problem for the manic bipolar. Because it feels very good, and very powerful, it can be a driving force that propels all thought, all feeling, and all motive. Hypersexuality often causes us to engage in flirtatious, seductive behavior that we would never otherwise consider. Hypersexuality often causes us to abandon real relationships, and it can lead us into dangerous online (and offline) situations. Worst of all, it often causes irreparable damage to integrity, dignity, and reputation.

  • Perceptual problems - the bipolar often wrongly interprets subtle nuances in voice and body language even when having a physical conversation. In the surreal, artificial environment of the internet, those nuances are further limited by our inability to express them electronically. It's very easy for you - and the person with whom you are communicating - to misinterpret intentions and motives.

  • Poor impulse control - the desire to live in the moment (without consideration of future consequences) can be real a problem, especially during periods of mania and depression.

  • Poor self-esteem - bipolars often have a desperate need for attention, friendship, and validation from other human beings. These feelings make us very, very vulnerable to internet stalking, manipulation, and deceit.

  • Grandiosity - when afflicted with grandiosity, we think we have absolute clarity and can do no wrong. All of our decisions - even the horrifically bad ones - "feel right," and they all make perfect sense.
The second installment of this three-part series looks at things to watch out for when you feel attracted to someone you meet online. The third and final article will cover ways to protect yourself if you decide to take the relationship to the next step - face-to-face meeting.

PaulaHOST was a long-time volunteer at About Bipolar Disorder. She hosted Medications Chat and was forum moderator for the Medications folder on our Main Forum.

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