Sunday, February 25, 2024

How To Deal With Someone Who Is Bipolar

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Supporting a person with Depression or Bipolar Disorder – Breda Dooley

This question has two possible responses. If your partner acknowledges the diagnosis and commits to treatment, you and your spouse may be able to start working together and make your relationship better than ever. Most bipolar disorder sufferers have successful and happy marriages.If your spouse, on the other hand, refuses help, you must learn to defend yourself against abuse. Abuse can take many different forms.Verbal harassment

Put Together Your Emergency Plan

Sometimes, a manic or depressive episode can escalate, and its important to have an emergency plan in place before that happens. Together with a mental health professional, create a written plan with:

  • A list of your medications, including side effects
  • Patterns of what your usual symptoms are, and what worsening symptoms might look like
  • Phone numbers of people in your support network. Ask members of your support team if they are able to be part of your crisis plan before adding them to the list.
  • The contact information for a designated doctors office or hospital
  • Phone numbers of crisis hotlines, for example: 1-800-273-TALK

Helping During Outpatient Treatment

When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support their decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved ones symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect.

Some people find it helpful to write down mania and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:

  • a list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming suicidal or experiencing mania
  • a list of stressful events that may be contributing to their symptoms
  • things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms occurring
  • a list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as 273-TALK
  • a promise from your friend or family member that they will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of their doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe
  • encouraging words such as My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesnt feel that way right now. and
  • reality checks such as, I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and Im feeling on top of the world. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.

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I Wish I Was Manic So I Could Get Things Done

That’s not all there is to mania. There are many symptoms of mania, and comments like this not only trivialize a person’s experience with mania but also demonstrate a harmful lack of understanding of what mania actually is. While a person may indeed have a lot of energy during a manic episode, they can also experience racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and impulsive behavior among other challenges.

What Are The Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

How to Deal With a Bipolar Person

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. An individual with bipolar disorder may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or mixed episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two or sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day. Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are intense and happen along with changes in behavior, energy levels, or activity levels that are noticeable to others.

Symptoms of a Manic Episode Symptoms of a Depressive Episode
Feeling very up, high, elated, or extremely irritable or touchy Feeling very down or sad, or anxious
Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual Feeling slowed down or restless
Racing thoughts Trouble concentrating or making decisions
Trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or sleeping too much
Talking fast about a lot of different things Talking very slowly, feeling like you have nothing to say, or forgetting a lot
Excessive appetite for food, drinking, sex, or other pleasurable activities Lack of interest in almost all activities
Thinking you can do a lot of things at once without getting tired Unable to do even simple things
Feeling like you are unusually important, talented, or powerful Feeling hopeless or worthless, or thinking about death or suicide

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Try Not To Make Assumptions

You might find yourself always looking out for signs that your friend, partner or family member is starting a bipolar episode. This is completely understandable. But this might not be the most helpful way to support them. You can:

  • Remember that it’s possible for anyone to display a range of emotions and behaviour, while still feeling stable overall.
  • Try not to assume that any change in mood is a sign that someone is unwell. If you’re not sure, talking to your friend or family member is the best way to check.

“If those around me are concerned about whether changes are symptomatic of relapse, I encourage them to ask, not assume.”

Helping Them Find Treatment

Be supportive, but avoid being pushy. There are many reasons why a person might hesitate to seek treatment. Focus on being encouraging and positive about your attitude toward getting help.

Offer to help them by driving them to appointments. You might also assist them in locating qualified a doctor or therapist who has experience treating bipolar disorder.

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Listen To What Your Friend Has To Say

Sometimes when someone has bipolar disorder, their feelings may be dismissed by the people around them. This may not be done on purpose or maliciously. However, its easy to start believing that everything someone with bipolar says is because of their illness.

Be a support system by listening to what your friend or loved one has to say. People with bipolar disorder want to feel heard, just like anyone else. You shouldnt make them feel silly for expressing their very real thoughts and emotions.

Being a support system doesnt mean youre providing advice or even doing anything to be helpful besides active listening. As an active listener, stay calm, pay attention, and dont try to engage in arguments or debates.

Overview Of Bipolar Disorder

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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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You’re Just Overreacting Again

Overreacting is a symptom of bipolar disorder, but phrases like this minimize the person’s experience of this symptom. When supporting a loved one living with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder, it’s important that your words demonstrate empathy rather than exasperation.

Your loved one may very well be overreacting compared to how you would perceive the situation, but describing their feelings as “just” overreacting trivializes their lived experience and communicates shame rather than compassion.

How To Love Someone With Bipolar Disorder: A Helpful Guide

Can a bipolar person love someone? Absolutely. Can someone with bipolar disorder have a normal relationship? With work from both you and your partner, yes. When someone you love has bipolar disorder, their symptoms can be overwhelming at times. But it is possible to work past this mental health condition in your relationship. Although we provide drug and alcohol detox in Boca, we also work with those people who struggle with mental illness and are sharing some tips on dealing with a loved one who has bipolar disorder.

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How To Talk To A Loved One With Bipolar Disorder

Talking to someone with bipolar disorder can be confusing and overwhelming, particularly if the person is in crisis. Here are some key words to use to connect with your loved one.

Tell me.

  • Tell me what youre feeling. This gentle command can be powerful. It shows interest and investment and gives us an opportunity to be open.
  • Tell me how I can help you/what you need. Sometimes, we dont know the answer. But other times, we know exactly what we need and just have to know that someone cares enough to give it.
  • Tell me what this state is like. Recognizing states and symptoms is important for you and for us. You may be better able to organize symptoms and identify states or episodes.

Let me.

  • Let me help you. Ultimately, you cant help us unless we let you. Youre acknowledging this gives us a small sense of control when we often feel out of control.
  • Let me call your doctor. Again, youre giving us a sense of agency makes us want to cooperate and be allies.
  • Let me hold you/hold your hand/hug you. Physical affection can be powerfully grounding, but some states make it overwhelming. Youre asking permission lets us keep that sense of control while getting the comfort we need.

Help me.

Your illness is telling you that.

It is not your fault.

Im here.

Im proud of you.

I love you.

The best part of easy scripts like this is that, if they are sincere, they can work again and again. Learn what works for your loved one.

How To Be A Supportive Friend

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Accept their diagnosis

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to control at times. If someone with bipolar disorder is going through a phase where theyre experiencing symptoms, its not possible for them just to snap out of it. It wont help to tell them to calm down or get over it.

Be informed

It can be really difficult to understand what your friend is going through. Learning as much as you can about bipolar disorder can help with knowing what to expect and what you can do to help.

Be there to listen

Give your friend opportunities to talk about how things are going. Ask them about what theyre going through and let them know youre there for them. Try to find out what they find helpful during these times.

Encourage medication and discourage drugs and alcohol

If your friend wants to stop taking their medication, remind them of its benefits. If they do stop taking it, encourage them to see their GP straight away. Consider activities you can do with your friend that dont involve drugs and alcohol, which can have a negative impact on mood and interact with medication.

Look out for warning signs

Sometimes, even when someone is on medication, they can start experiencing changes to their mood. You might notice some of the early warning signs for example, if theyre experiencing low mood they may become more isolated and stop replying to messages or calls. If their mood is becoming more elevated they might become impatient, sleep less and express strange ideas.

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Signs You Are Dating Someone With Bipolar Disorder

If youre dating someone with bipolar disorder, symptoms may present themselves. Some common signs that youre dating a bipolar man or woman include:

  • Feeling as if youre their caretaker
  • Experiencing frequent burnouts from caring for them
  • Sacrificing your goals or needs to be with the person
  • Frequent mood swings that mimic the symptoms of mania and hypomania in your partner

If you recognize the signs or symptoms of bipolar disorder in your partner, the first thing you should do is get them help. The Banyan mental health program offers a variety of mental health treatments that can help your loved one regain control over their life and learn how to manage their symptoms properly.

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.

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If Your Spouse Has Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder

Its sometimes possible for a person to have bipolar disorder and be unaware of their condition, particularly during a manic episode. One reason is that symptoms may be confused with other conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, substance use, and more.

If you believe your spouse might have undiagnosed bipolar disorder, you might be noticing the following behaviors.


  • Lack of interest in daily activities
  • Thoughts about death or suicidal ideation

If you observe some of these symptoms in your spouse, talk to them about what youre seeing and see if they are open to seeking help.

If they are open to the conversation, make sure that you:

  • Let your spouse know what youve noticed without being judgmental.
  • Let your partner know that your concern comes from a loving and caring place.
  • Ask them about how theyve been feeling and if theyve noticed changes in their mood as well.
  • Listen to what they think and what this might mean for them.
  • Inquire about their thoughts on seeking help.

If your spouse is open to seeking treatment, let them know they have your support. If they are not open, you can let them know you want to support them, and ask how you can provide support or at what point they might realize its time to seek help.

Lean On A Support Team

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In addition to seeking professional help, it can help to put together a group of friends, family members, and other trusted adults who can support treatment. Its not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to feel like a burden to others. When they do, it is common to self-isolate. It can help to remember that there are people who have a common goal: to help you cope with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.

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Bipolar Disorder At A Glance

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood fluctuations. Periods of mania , hypomania , and depression can occur.

There are different types of bipolar disorder, including:

  • Bipolar I: A person with bipolar I experiences at least one episode of mania or elevated mood. They will most likely experience depression as well.
  • Bipolar II: In bipolar II disorder, hypomania and depression are present.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This is diagnosed when symptoms of depression and hypomania persist for at least two years, but do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar I or bipolar II.
  • Mixed states: Mania and depression symptoms occur within the same period of time.
  • Rapid cycling: Here, a person experiences at least four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression within a single year.
  • Unspecified: This is when the condition is characteristic of bipolar disorder, but does not meet the full criteria for any of the other specified bipolar spectrum disorders.

Treatment often includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Every person with bipolar disorder has a unique experience of the condition. Being educated about symptoms and treatment options can provide insight into ways to better support a spouse with bipolar disorder.

Recognizing symptoms or patterns in their spouses behavior allows a partner to support their spouse, determine the ways they can take care of themselves, and tend to the things that need attention in the life theyve built together.

How Is Nimh Addressing Bipolar Disorder

The National Institute of Mental Health conducts and supports research on bipolar disorder that increases our understanding of its causes and helps develop new treatments. Researchers continue to study genetics and bipolar disorder, brain function, and symptoms in children and teens who have bipolar disorder, as well as family history in health and behavior.

Learn more about NIMHs research priorities and current studies.

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How Do I Get Help If I Think I Have Bipolar Disorder

The usual first step to getting help is to speak to your GP.

It can help to keep a record of your moods. This can help you and your GP to understand your mood swings. Bipolar UK have a mood diary and a mood scale on their website. You can find their details in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.

Your GP cant diagnose bipolar disorder. Only a psychiatrist can make a formal diagnosis. Your GP may arrange an appointment with a psychiatrist if you have:

  • depression, and
  • ever felt very excited or not in control of your mood or behaviour for at least 4 days in a row.

They might refer you to a psychiatrist at your local NHS community mental health team .

Your GP should make an urgent referral to the CMHT if they think that you might have mania or severe depression. Or there is a chance that you are a danger to yourself or someone else.

Your GP should refer you to your local NHS early intervention team if you have an episode of psychosis and its your first one.

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because it affects everyone differently. Also, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be experienced by people who have other mental illness diagnoses. It can take a long time to get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

You can find more information about:

  • NHS mental health teams by clicking here.

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