Helping Someone With Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder can be challenging not just for the person living with it but also for others who are affected by it. When a person with bipolar disorder behaves in an unpredictable manner, it affects everyone around them, in particular, their loved ones and close friends. Your relationship may be put under strain, disrupting all aspects of your family life. 

In a manic episode, you may have to deal with reckless behavior, unreasonable demands, violent behavior, as well as irresponsible behavior. After the spell of mania passes, you are usually left to handle the consequences. During times of depression, it may be necessary for you to help a loved one struggling to meet work or home responsibilities.

How Can You Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder?

Fortunately, most people with bipolar disorder’s moods can be stabilized due to effective treatment, medications, and support systems. The patience, love, and understanding you show your loved one can significantly impact their healing process. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make a huge difference in how they perceive things and how they feel about themselves.

Taking care of someone with bipolar disorder can also exhaust you when you don’t take care of yourself, which is why you need to strike a balance between being there for them and looking after yourself.

Other Ways To Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Supporting a loved one can also be done in the following ways:

Learning About Bipolar Disorder

Find out what the symptoms are and what treatment options are available. Having a better understanding of bipolar disorder, you will be better equipped to assist your loved one with a more balanced perspective.

Encouraging The Person To Get Help 

It is important to note that the earlier bipolar disorder is treated, the better the chance of recovery, so it is important to encourage your loved one to get professional help as soon as possible. It is not a good idea to wait until they get better on their own.

Being Understanding

Ensure that your friend or family member knows you are available to provide sympathetic listening, support, and treatment assistance. It is often difficult for people with bipolar disorder to reach out for help due to their fear of burdening others, so make sure you let them know you care and will do everything you can to help. 

Showing Patience

A person’s recovery takes time, even if they are committed to treatment. Don’t expect to recover quickly or to be cured permanently. Expect setbacks and challenges along the way, and be patient with the recovery process. The management of bipolar disorder is a lifelong task.

Bipolar Disorder And The Family

A family’s living environment with a member who has bipolar disorder can be stressful and tension-filled. In addition to the challenges associated with your family member’s symptoms and their effects, many family members suffer from guilt, anxiety, anger, and a sense of helplessness. It is ultimately possible for the strain to cause serious problems in relationships. There are, however, better ways of coping.

In order to cope with bipolar disorder successfully, the first step families must take is to accept the illness and the challenges it poses. Whenever you feel angry, frustrated, or guilty, know that bipolar disorder isn’t the fault of anybody. In order to accept bipolar disorder, you must acknowledge the possibility of things never returning to normal.

Treatment can improve the quality of life of your loved one, though it may not eliminate all the symptoms or limitations they have. Rather than being disappointed or feeling resentful, it’s best to maintain a realistic outlook. It may not be a good idea to expect too much from your family member. The opposite is also true; too little expectation can impede recovery, which is why it is important to strike a balance between supporting independence and offering support.

Tips For Coping With Bipolar Disorder In The Family

Accept Your Loved One’s Limits

An individual with bipolar disorder is incapable of controlling their moods. It’s not possible for them to recover quickly from depression or recover their mental balance during a manic episode. The symptoms of depression or mania cannot be overcome by self-control, determination, or reason. Thus, telling your loved one, “ Put an end to this crazy behavior,” or to “ Keep a positive attitude” isn’t going to help.

Accept Your Limits

It’s impossible to rescue your loved one who has bipolar disorder, nor can you tell them what to do or force them to make positive changes. You can support the person with the illness, but ultimately it’s the individual who is responsible for recovery.

Reduce Stress

It is widely believed that stress worsens bipolar disorder, so take steps to reduce stress in the life of your loved one. Find out what you can do and volunteer to take on some of the person’s tasks if necessary. Maintaining a daily routine, including waking up at regular times, eating regular meals, and sleeping at regular hours, also contributes to reducing family stress.

Communicate Openly

Communicating openly and honestly with family members is essential for coping with bipolar disorder. If you have concerns, share them in a loving manner. Inquire about how your loved one feels, and pay attention to what they say, even if you disagree with them or do not relate to their opinions.

Convincing A Person With Bipolar Disorder To See A Doctor

Apart from providing emotional support, helping someone with bipolar disorder can be achieved by supporting their treatment and encouraging them to continue it. Sometimes, that can be more challenging than it seems. Since people who have bipolar disorder can have difficulty understanding their condition, getting them to a doctor can often be challenging. If someone you care about is manic, the person feels great and doesn’t realize their condition. In the case of depression, your loved one may realize something is wrong yet lack the strength to seek help.

In case your loved one refuses to accept the possibility of bipolar disorder, do not argue with them about it. Be sensitive to their fears, as the idea might be unsettling for them. Instead, suggest a regular medical checkup, or an appointment for a particular symptom, for example, restlessness, irritability, and fatigue, and privately let the doctor know of your concerns.

Here are a few things you can say to make a difference:

  • Like diabetes, bipolar disorder is an actual illness. It is a medical condition that requires treatment.
  • There is no blame to be placed on you for bipolar disorder. There was no cause for it on your part. The fault is not yours.
  • It is possible for you to feel better. Treatments are available that can help.
  • Usually, bipolar disorder gets worse if left untreated.

Supporting A Loved One During Bipolar Disorder Treatment

After your friend or a family member has agreed to see a doctor, you can work with them to make sure they get the best treatment. Your support could make a significant difference in their recovery progress, so be there for them in any way they need or want.

Here are some things you can do to support a loved one who is undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder:

  • Locate qualified physicians and therapists.
  • Make an appointment and follow through with it.
  • Share your insights with the doctor.
  • Keep an eye on the mood of your loved one.
  • Become familiar with their medications.
  • Follow up on treatment progress.
  • If you notice any signs of relapse, take action.
  • Inform the doctor if there is a problem.

Encourage Your Loved One To Take Bipolar Disorder Medication

Medications are key to treating bipolar disorder, for which most people need them to regulate their moods and prevent relapses. Even though medication is necessary for bipolar disorder, many patients give up taking it. Some people quit because they feel better, some quit because they have side effects, and others quit because they like the symptoms of mania. There is a higher likelihood of stopping medication for people who do not think they have a problem.

In order to ensure that your loved one stays on track, you should emphasize the importance of medication and make sure they follow their prescriptions exactly. You should also encourage your loved ones to inform their doctor if any side effects are causing them discomfort.

It is possible to experience negative side effects if the medication dose is too high or low; however, changing the dosage may alleviate the issue. Keep your loved one informed about the dangers of quitting medication suddenly.

Watch For Warning Signs Of Bipolar Disorder Relapse

Despite your loved one’s commitment to treatment, their symptoms may worsen from time to time. Whenever you notice troubling symptoms or changes in mood, take action immediately. Identify the emerging signs of bipolar disorder and alert your loved one’s doctor. The sooner you intervene, the greater the chance of preventing mania or depression from taking hold. 

Symptoms And Warning Signs Of Mania Include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Mood elevation
  • Feeling restless
  • Rapid speech
  • Activity level increases
  • A tendency to be irritable or aggressive

Symptoms And Warning Signs Of Depression Include:

  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Getting more sleep
  • Concentration problems
  • Disinterest in activities
  • Refusing to interact with others
  • Changing appetites

Coping With Mania And Depression: Tips For Family And Friends

In the event that you are unable to prevent your loved one from relapsing, you can cope with the symptoms of manic or depressive episodes by learning how to cope with them.

Don’t Take Bipolar Symptoms Personally

When people are experiencing a bipolar episode, they often say or do things that are offensive or hurtful. During a manic episode, a loved one may act recklessly, cruelly, critically, and aggressively. In a state of depression, they may be dismissive, impatient, agitated, and moody. Sometimes such behaviors are difficult to ignore, but keep in mind that they are directly related to the mental illness of your loved one and not their lack of maturity or self-centeredness.

Be Prepared For Destructive Behaviors

A person with bipolar disorder may act in an unresponsible or harmful manner when they are manic or depressed. The best way to deal with such behavior is to plan ahead. After your loved one is in good health, make sure you negotiate a treatment contract that assures their protection in the event that symptoms recur. Establish specific steps you will take, for example, removing credit cards and keys, visiting the doctor together, and taking responsibility for household finances.

Know What To Do In A Crisis

In times of crisis, planning ahead is essential so you can respond rapidly in case of an emergency. It can be helpful to have a crisis plan. Don’t forget to include a list of emergency contacts such as doctors, therapists, and other family and friends that can assist you. In addition, you should include the name and address of the hospital you will be taking your loved ones to in the event that they need medical attention.

Call 911

If someone you love has bipolar disorder and is at risk of suicide or violence, reach out to someone for help. In case you suspect your loved one is going to harm you, do not hesitate to call the police. Be sure not to leave your suicidal loved one alone. Keep an eye on your loved one until the ambulance arrives.

Supporting Someone Who Is Manic

  • Take time to spend with the person you love. The feeling of isolation from others is common among people who are manic. It is beneficial to take the time to spend time with them, even for a short period. When your loved one is full of energy, take a walk with them. It allows them to enjoy their time on the go while still sharing your company.
  • Be honest when answering questions. Avoid arguing or debating with anyone during a manic episode. Don’t engage in intense conversations.
  • If you receive a negative comment, don’t take it personally. When your loved one is experiencing a manic episode, they may make strange statements or act in ways that seem out of character, such as focusing on negative elements of others. Don’t get into arguments.
  • Ensure that the meals and drinks you prepare are easy to eat. When someone is manic, it can be difficult for them to sit down and eat, so make sandwiches, apples, cheese crackers, and juices available to them.
  • You should avoid overstimulation and too much activity for your loved one. If possible, keep the environment calm.
  • Make sure your loved one gets enough sleep when possible. As a result of high energy levels, it can be difficult to sleep; however, taking short naps during the day can help. When a person is manic, even a few hours of sleep can make them feel rested.

Taking Care Of Yourself When A Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder

If you care for someone with a mental illness, you are likely to neglect your own needs. But without taking care of yourself, you may burn out, making it harder for you to help your loved one. Maintaining your health both mentally and physically will allow you to be more resilient to stress when providing care to a bipolar loved one. The more energy you have, the better it is for you to support the recovery process.

Focus On Your Own Life

As you support your loved one, you may have to make changes in your own life, but it is important not to lose sight of your objectives and aims. Be sure to keep the friendships, plans, and activities that bring you joy in your life.

Seek Support

Having a loved one who is suffering from mental illness can be sad and isolating. Ensure that you have the mental and emotional assistance you need. If you’re going through a tough time, talk to a trusted friend or family member. Joining a support group or getting your own therapy can also be beneficial.

Set Boundaries

It’s important to be realistic about how much care you’re capable of providing without becoming frustrated or resentful. You should set limits on what you can and will do so you don’t exceed them. It’s not healthy for you or your loved one to let bipolar disorder control your life.

Manage Stress

You can feel the effects of stress on your body and mind, so make sure you keep it under control. Take care of yourself by eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly. It is also possible to reduce stress by engaging in relaxation exercises, for example, meditation.

Ask For Help

If you can’t provide as much assistance as your friend or family member needs, consider asking for help. Consider contacting other family members or close friends or reaching out to a support group for bipolar disorder.

Would you like to know about child abuse and neglect? Read our blog to learn.