Information For Family Carers And Friends
How can I get support?
You can speak to your GP. You should be given your own assessment through NHS mental health services to work out what effect your caring role is having on your health. And what support you need. Such as practical support and emergency support.
These are some other options for you:
- Join a carers service
- Join a carers support group
- Ask your local authority for a carers assessment
- Read about the condition
- Apply for welfare benefits for carers
Rethink Mental Illness run carers support groups in some areas. You can also search for groups on the Carers Trust website:
- Rethink Mental Illness: www.rethink.org/about-us/our-support-groups
- Carers Trust: www.carers.org/search/network-partners
How can I support the person I care for?
You might find it easier to support someone with bipolar disorder if you understand their symptoms, treatment and self-management skills.
You should be aware of what you can do if you are worried about their mental state. It can be helpful to know contact information for their mental health team or GP.
You could find out from your relative if they have a crisis plan. You could help your relative to make a crisis plan if they dont have one.
As a carer you should be involved in decisions about care planning. But you dont have a legal right to this. The medical team should encourage the person that you care for to allow information to be shared with you.
You can find out more information about:
Recognizing Your Triggers And Early Signs
The goal of learning to recognize your triggers is that you can anticipate how a situation will affect you. This way, you can also lower the chance of having a major mood episode such as mania or depression.
Start by thinking of the mild or early symptoms youve experienced before an episode of mania, hypomania, or depression.
Questions you can ask yourself:
- Was I irritable a few days before?
- Did I feel more tired than usual?
- Was it difficult for me to concentrate?
- Was I sleeping more or fewer hours than usual?
There might also be some situations that led to a mood episode in the past. For example, a job deadline, seasonal changes, lack of sleep, or interpersonal conflicts.
Not everyone responds to the same triggers in the same way. This is why it can be helpful to recognize what affects you most.
You might need additional support during these times. By recognizing the trigger, you can move to action and better cope with bipolar disorder.
What Is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental illness that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These changes affect the persons ability to carry out daily tasks. Bipolar disorder most often develops in older teenagers or young adults, and the average age of onset is 25 years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 3 percent of adults in the United States have bipolar disorder.
There are six main types of bipolar disorder. While they have some similar symptoms, these symptoms differ in their severity and treatment. Here are the six types, ranging from the most severe to the least severe:
- bipolar I disorder
- substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder
- bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition
- unspecified bipolar and related disorder
The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are intense emotional phases called mood episodes. These episodes can switch from extreme happiness or joy to deep sadness or hopelessness . Sometimes people with bipolar disorder experience both happiness and sadness at the same time .
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What Do People Experience During An Episode
How long the extreme moods of Bipolar disorder last, and how intense they are, varies a lot from one person to another.Some people experience mainly highs, some experience more lows, while others experience both extremes. Some people may even experience both high and low moods together they may be extremely energised, for instance, but feel very depressed and hopeless too. This is called a mixed mood state. For some people there is a rapid cycling between the two states.
Looking After Your Health
For people affected by Bipolar disorder, its even more important to do things that are good for you.Some people affected by mental illness can be at greater risk of physical health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, because of the effects of symptoms and side-effects of medication as well as lifestyle factors.For this reason it is important to see a GP regularly and have periodic checks of weight, waist measurement and blood tests for cholesterol, blood sugar, and liver function among others.The doctor can also advise on a healthy lifestyle, including an improved diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and sleeping well, for example.For more information on how to live more healthily, please see the Healthy Living guide.
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Will Alternative Therapies Help
Some people nd alternative therapies such as acupuncture or herbal medicine helpful. If you decide to try an alternative therapy as well as your prescribed treatment, make sure that there will be no harmful side-effects. Some alternative therapies are not recommended for people with a mental illness so it is important to discuss using them beforehand with your doctor.Be wary of anyone who suggests they can cure your condition .
Healing And Caring For Yourself After A Breakup
Any breakup is likely going to be difficult, especially if you had a long-term commitment to your partner. Dr. Reiss said that this situation may lead to feelings of guilt.
If you start feeling guilty when the reality is that you had not made the commitment the other person implicitly expected, your guilt will trigger anger, depression, etc. in both yourself and in the other person and make it worse, Dr. Reiss said.
He added, Work through your own guilt as much as possible before, during, and after the breakup.
Itll also take time to heal. Dr. Saltz suggested doing your best to learn from any relationship that didnt work. Its always good for you to review for yourself why you chose this person, what was the draw for you, she said.
Is that something that, in retrospect, you feel good about, or does it fit some pattern that hasnt been good for you? Just try to learn from a relationship that didnt ultimately last and understand more about yourself in that regard.
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What Medications Are Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder
Certain medications can help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. You may need to try several different medications, with guidance from your healthcare provider, before finding what works best.
Medications healthcare providers generally prescribe to treat bipolar disorder include:
- Mood stabilizers.
- Second-generation neuroleptics .
If youre taking medication for bipolar disorder, you should:
- Talk with your healthcare provider to understand the risks, side effects and benefits of the medication.
- Tell your healthcare provider about any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or supplements youre already taking.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if youre experiencing concerning side effects. They may need to change your dose or try a different medication.
- Remember that medication for bipolar disorder must be taken consistently, as prescribed.
Mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder
People with bipolar disorder typically need mood-stabilizing medication to manage manic or hypomanic episodes.
Types of mood stabilizers and their brand names include:
Thyroid gland and kidney problems can sometimes develop when taking lithium, so your healthcare provider will monitor the function of your thyroid and kidneys, as well as monitor the levels of lithium in your blood, as levels can easily become too high.
The following are signs of lithium toxicity . Call your healthcare provider immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience:
What Does A Person With Bipolar Disorder Experience
Bipolar disorder does not have a set pattern and differs from individual to individual. Patients may feel a particular emotion several times before switching to another state.
Symptoms of mania are:
- Patients may feel that they are on the top of the world
- Highly irritable
When medication therapy is ineffective, electroconvulsive therapy might be considered. During electroconvulsive therapy, an electric current is passed through the brain to treat the disorder. In some, talk therapy has proven to be beneficial in treating mood episodes. Another part of treatment is psychoeducation where patients and their families are educated regarding symptoms and importance of medication compliance.
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What Are The Side Effects Of Mood Stabilizers
This physiological mechanism of stabilizing membrane systems, promoting conduction delay, would allow you to predict possible therapeutic benefits as well as side effects.
This would apply to most organ systems and could include side effects such as constipation, sedation, or conduction delay.
Each mood stabilizer may have additional side effects unique to the medication, as opposed to the common general class of medications. Examples of this might include:
- Depakote: potential liver damage
- Lithium: potential effects on the kidneys and thyroid
- Lamictal: potential for Stevens-Johnson syndrome
- Topiramate: potential for word-finding issues, kidney stones, or altered taste for carbonated beverages
Keep in mind, these arent all of the side effects that can occur with these drugs. Talk with your doctor to learn about other side effects that may occur.
Tip : Reach Out For Face
Having a strong support system is essential to staying happy and healthy. Often, simply having someone to talk to face-to-face can be an enormous help in relieving bipolar depression and boosting your outlook and motivation. The people you turn to dont have to be able to fix you they just have to be good listeners. The more people that you can turn to who will be available and good listeners, the more likely you are to manage your moods.
Dont isolate! Support for bipolar disorder starts close to home. Its important to have people you can count on to help you through rough times. Isolation and loneliness can cause depression, so regular contact with supportive friends and family members is therapeutic in itself. Reaching out to others is not a sign of weakness and it wont make you a burden. Support for bipolar disorder starts close to home. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. In order to manage bipolar disorder, its essential that you have people you can count on to help you through rough times.
Join a bipolar disorder support group. Spending time with people who know what youre going through and can honestly say theyve been there can be very therapeutic. You can also benefit from the shared experiences and advice of the group members.
10 tips for reaching out and building relationships
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How To Recognize Bipolar Disorder Triggers
Unexpected fluctuations in mood and activity can characterize bipolar disorder. These mood episodes intrinsic to bipolar disorder might sometimes appear spontaneous and unpredictable, but certain triggers can also cause them. You may be able to identify triggers when a generally easygoing individual starts to grow irritable. You can also look for signs of an impending shift to mania or depression based on certain signs.
Understanding and recognizing the triggers and signs for bipolar disorder is extremely helpful as a part of a treatment plan to help your loved one avoid stressful situations, maintain stable moods, and seek treatment after a reaction has already occurred. It also helps to know what to expect and seek the necessary resources when your loved one is going through a challenging time.
The following are some of the most common early warning signals of a manic episode:
Changes in sleep routines or sleep deprivation
Sleep disruptions can serve as a trigger for depressive episodes and mood shifts. According to research, sleep deprivation is the most frequently reported trigger of mood episodes in people who have bipolar disorder.¹
Drug or alcohol use
Drug and alcohol use for recreational purposes are well-known bipolar disorder triggers resulting in bouts of manic or hypomanic behavior or depressed episodes due to several neurological causes. When it comes to bipolar disorder, heavy, long-term alcohol and drug use is especially a matter of great concern.
When To Seek Help
Moods are a part of being human. Most people experience ups and downs due to the events in their lives. But bipolar disorder is more than fleeting emotions. If you are experiencing mood swings that interfere with your emotional state or your daily life, reach out to a doctor.
Your primary care doctor can evaluate your symptoms and refer you to a mental health professional. Or, you can look for therapists directly.
Some people prefer to confide in family and friends first. Its important to remember that an emotional support network is essential, but it is not a substitute for professional care.
There are several obstacles to receiving a bipolar disorder diagnosis, including:
- getting a misdiagnosis, often of anxiety, major depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- experiencing mental health stigma or being afraid to get help
Youre not alone, and having bipolar disorder isnt your fault. You deserve the care and resources you need to heal and thrive.
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Tip : Develop An Active Daily Routine
Your lifestyle choices, including your sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns, have a significant impact on your moods. There are many things you can do in your daily life to get your symptoms under control and to keep depression and mania at bay.
Build structure into your life. Developing and sticking to a daily schedule can help stabilize the mood swings of bipolar disorder. Include set times for sleeping, eating, socializing, exercising, working, and relaxing. Try to maintain a regular pattern of activity even through emotional ups and downs.
Exercise frequently and avoid sitting for long periods of time.Exercise has a beneficial impact on mood and may reduce the number of bipolar episodes you experience. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming dancing, climbing or drumming all activities that keep both arms and legs active are especially effective at treating depression. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of activity into your daily routine. Ten minutes here and there is just as effective as exercising for longer periods of time. Walking is a good choice for people of all fitness levels.
Keep a strict sleep schedule. Getting too little sleep can trigger mania, so its important to get plenty of rest. For some people, losing even a few hours can cause problems. However, too much sleep can also worsen your mood. The best advice is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Healthy sleep habits for managing bipolar disorder
Overview Of Bipolar Disorder
If you want to know how to support a friend or loved one with bipolar disorder, learning more about the condition can be a helpful first step. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme fluctuations in mood. These shifts in mood make it difficult for a person to function in their daily life including at work, at home, and in relationships.
The mood fluctuations that people experience can include mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. It is also important to recognize that bipolar disorder is strongly influenced by genetics, but environmental factors, such as poor social support and trauma, are also thought to play a role in triggering the onset of the condition.
Statistics suggest that around 4.4% of adults in the U.S. have bipolar disorder.
Some things that you should never say to someone who has bipolar disorder include the following.
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Encourage Your Loved One To Take Bipolar Disorder Medication
Medication is the cornerstone of treatment for bipolar disorder, and most people need it to regulate their moods and avoid relapse. Despite the need for medication, many people with bipolar disorder stop taking it. Some quit because theyre feeling better, others because of side effects, and yet others because they enjoy the symptoms of mania. People who dont think they have a problem are particularly likely to stop taking medication.
You can help your loved one stay on track by emphasizing the importance of medication and making sure they take all prescriptions as directed. Also encourage your loved one to speak to their doctor about any bothersome side effects.
Side effects can be very unpleasant if the dose of the medication is too low or too high, but a change in medication or dosage may solve the problem. Remind your loved one that abruptly stopping medication is dangerous.
Learning More About Bipolar Disorder
If you received your diagnosis of bipolar disorder recently, the first thing you can do is become an expert on your condition.
Learning more about what it means to live with bipolar disorder can provide you with the tools to manage your symptoms and advocate for yourself.
Theres a wealth of information out there about bipolar disorder including the basics, the research, and lived experiences.
Not all information you find will be useful, though.
Try to look for trustworthy websites that provide accurate and research-based content, or advocacy groups such as the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance .
While youre digging in, consider taking notes on:
- Symptoms of bipolar disorder. This will help you recognize and understand your symptoms and type of bipolar disorder. Taking notes may come in handy if you develop new symptoms down the line or things change. Itll also help you\ track progress if youre getting treatment.
- Symptom activators. What types of events can lead to mood episodes or symptoms? You can compare the things you find in your research with what youve experienced first hand. You can start recognizing what incidents cause mood episodes and start avoiding those.
- Treatment options available. Knowing your treatment options means you can play a more active role in choosing the plan thats right for you. It also means that if your treatment needs to be adjusted at some point, youll have knowledge ready to discuss with your healthcare team.
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