How You Can Help a Loved One With Bipolar Disorder

Photo by Dennis Brendel on Unsplash

The moods and behaviours of a loved one with Bipolar Disorder can be distressing to witness as well as challenging for them to experience. Although the notion sounds easier said than done, dealing with the illness requires acceptance and the willingness to keep learning. The challenge often lies in finding a balance between encouragement and support – tough love often isn’t the solution.

  1. How can I learn to accept my loved one’s Bipolar?

Bipolar is sadly a word often thrown around as a means of describing a person whose moods flip like a switch. Bipolar Disorder is a lot more complex than that. It’s important to recognise that your loved one is unable to control their moods and thoughts. The worst thing you or them can do is try and fight the mania or depression – in this instance, self-control and willpower hold no relevance. Learn to adapt appropriately to the situation and your loved one’s needs.

2. How can I reduce stress?

Stress isn’t good for anyone, but particularly for a person who’s battling their own inner demons. Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help and manage some of the person’s responsibilities. The practical elements of day-to-day is of key importance to an individual’s life, whether it’s establishing a sense of routine or managing to get out of bed. These things help our mental wellbeing, but equally, they can cause a person to feel overwhelmed when a mountain of tasks is ahead of them.

Gently encourage them to talk through with you how you can help reduce their stress. Acknowledging their struggle as well as recognising you can be there to help will mean a lot and take some of the burden off of them.

3. How can I communicate openly?

Being open and honest is necessary for creating a safe space for conversations and improving how the family copes with the illness, as well as your loved one who may be struggling with it. Ask questions when appropriate, listen to their needs and respond with care.

4. Don’t take BD symptoms personally

In the midst of an episode your loved one may say or do things that are hurtful or out of character for them. Manic episodes can cause a person to be reckless, critical, or aggressive. When depressed they may be irritable or hostile (or other).

You must remember that these are symptoms of the illness and not a reflection of the individual.

5. Have a plan ready for times of crisis

Planning ahead for times of crisis is vital in enabling you to act quickly and effectively. This plan could include a list of emergency contact information for doctors, therapists, and friends and family who can help. It could include items that help such as chewing gum, herbal remedies, or even reminders of phrases and tones of voice that help. As a witness of a loved one in crisis it can be distressing and therefore easy enough to panic rather than stay calm. Remember that staying cool. calm, and collected is what will help the person. Try not to react and keep the necessities nearby at all times.

You can find further information and guidance on Bipolar Disorder through the links below:

Please note I am not a professional, the information provided in this blog post is purely from research and personal experience.

Ciao for now x

Posted by

Wellbeing writer, host for The Inspired Narrative podcast and mental health support worker.

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