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How To Support Someone With Bipolar

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How To Work With A Bipolar Coworker 10 Tips

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Nowadays there has been raised awareness about mental illness. However, there is still a lot of miseducation on the subject of bipolar disorder. Being informed about this mental illness can help you learn how to work with a bipolar coworker and deal with issues that you might face at work.

People with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood shifts combined with erratic behavior which can create challenges in the workplace.

Employees working with a bipolar coworker might have to deal with the following issues:

  • Disrespected boundaries
  • Lack of motivation
  • Erratic behavior

Getting informed about bipolar disorder can help you find ways to make your work life more bearable and less overwhelming. By learning about this mental health issue, you will also be in a position to help your coworker who is struggling with bipolar disorder.

This article focus on how to work with a bipolar person if you are a manager or part of the HR team you might want to know how to deal with a bipolar employee.

Here are 10 tips to help you out when it comes to learning how to work with a bipolar person.

Bipolar Disorder And Other Conditions

Some bipolar disorder symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses, which can make it challenging for a health care provider to make a diagnosis. In addition, many people may have bipolar disorder along with another mental disorder or condition, such as an anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, or an eating disorder. People with bipolar disorder have an increased chance of having thyroid disease, migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other physical illnesses.

Psychosis: Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression may experience psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions. The psychotic symptoms tend to match the persons extreme mood. For example:

  • People having psychotic symptoms during a manic episode may have the unrealistic belief that they are famous, have a lot of money, or have special powers.
  • People having psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode may falsely believe they are financially ruined and penniless, have committed a crime, or have an unrecognized serious illness.

As a result, people with bipolar disorder who also have psychotic symptoms are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed with schizophrenia. When people have symptoms of bipolar disorder and also experience periods of psychosis that are separate from mood episodes, the appropriate diagnosis may be schizoaffective disorder.

Anxiety: It is common for people with bipolar disorder to also have an anxiety disorder.

Be Supportive And Encouraging

If you notice behavioral changes in your colleague, it might be that they are going through a depressive episode. This can leave your bipolar coworker feeling helpless and extremely negative.

A good way to counteract and uplift their mood is by encouraging them to stay positive and offer your support.

Active listening will help your coworker to feel supported and not isolated. Remind them how great they have been performing and how well they fulfill their tasks.

A little praise can do wonders in improving your bipolar co-workers mood.

  • Of course, make sure that you are genuine with your praise.
  • Its not a good idea to praise them for behaviors you dont feel positive about. It could actually worsen things as they might sense that youre not being sincere.
  • Being supportive and sincere is a good way to improve your work experience with a bipolar coworker.

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Types Of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is generally broken up into four types³ bipolar I and II, Cyclothymic, and unspecified bipolar disorders.

Bipolar I

This is the most severe type of bipolar disorder. An individual diagnosed with bipolar 1 must have had one or more manic episodes and at least one major depressive episode, including mixed episodes. Individuals experiencing extreme mania often require hospitalization.

Bipolar II

Individuals with bipolar II experience hypo-manic episodes. Hypo-mania is a milder form of mania.


Individuals with cyclothymic disorder have long periods of hypomania and mild depression. These individuals do not require hospitalization, but often seek therapeutic intervention for their symptoms.

Unspecified bipolar disorder

If you have manic episodes but do not meet the criteria for bipolar I, you are diagnosed with an unspecified type of bipolar disorder. If your doctor thinks that your symptoms fit the diagnosis of bipolar disorder but cannot determine your specific type, you will be diagnosed with unspecified bipolar disorder.

Stay Connected To People Who Support You

How Do You Help a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

When you are not feeling your best, it can be tempting to withdraw from the people who know you and care about your wellbeing. You may start to miss appointments with your therapist or physician. You may skip social events that usually appeal to you. You may avoid conversations with people who can help you.

Studies show that having positive social support can make it easier for you to cope with and manage your emotions. Supportive relationships can also build your resilience during times of recovery.

Its a good idea to develop a wide, diverse support network. You could connect with professionals in the mental health community, local or virtual support groups, people in volunteer organizations, civic groups, or faith communities, colleagues, family, and friends. At different times, these connections may be able to support in a variety of ways reminding you that you are much, much more than a diagnosis.

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Reflect On Your Boundaries

When working with someone with bipolar disorder, its important to reflect on what you can tolerate to establish boundaries. While you want to be supportive and compassionate, your coworkers behavior might cause you distress. Take some time to reflect on their positive qualities and the type of behavior that causes you anxiety or stress at work.

For example: if your coworker calls you late at night to discuss something regarding work, calmly let them know that its inappropriate. You dont have to feel guilty about it. Its completely understandable that you would want to establish some boundaries. And this brings us to the next point.

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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:

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:

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Lack Of Racially Diverse Mental Health Providers Means Fewer People Of Color Can See A Professional Who Understands Their Lived Experiences

People who share the same racial or ethnic backgrounds as their doctors are more likely to report a better care experience than those who do not, suggests a study published in November 2020 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

However, in 2015, 86 percent of the psychology workforce was white, according to a . In comparison, 5 percent of that workforce was Asian, 5 percent was Hispanic, and 4 percent was Black or African American. Similarly, only 2 percent of the psychiatry workforce is Black.

Stay Away From Platitudes

How to manage bipolar disorder – 6 Strategies

After all, if someone could calm down or cheer up, they would, right? People cant simply snap out of it or choose to be happy, no matter how well-intentioned your advice might be, Dr. Singh says. Its hard to know how to react but platitudes end up antagonizing people more than they actually help.

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Listen To Your Loved One

People with bipolar disorder often have confusing thoughts that make them doubt themselves. Your loved one needs to understand that they have you, and that youre willing and want to listen to them, that you care about the challenges they face daily.

While you listen, be mindful of your own attitude and responses. Remember, you may not be able to fully comprehend what they go through on a daily basis. Be careful not to get offended or be angry with them as they express their feelings.

Bipolar 1 Disorder Vs Bipolar 2 Disorder

There are three types of bipolar depression. Bipolar 1 Disorder is characterized by manic episodes lasting seven days or more and depressive episodes lasting two weeks or more. Manic episodes may be severe enough to require hospitalization. For people who have Bipolar 1, its also possible for them to experience a mix of depressive and manic symptoms in rapid succession.

With Bipolar 2 Disorder, depressive episodes are broken up by episodes of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Symptoms are milder and last for several days instead of a week or more.

Cyclothymic disorder is a rare mood disorder that causes emotional highs and lows that may go on for months at a time, but are not as severe as what happens with Bipolar 1 Disorder or Bipolar 2 Disorder.

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Adopt The Right Attitude

How you see things does matter. With the amount of stigma and discrimination that exist in society at large, the last thing a patient needs is misguided thinking coming from family and friends. More support is needed, not more shame. The more your response is based on reality and not on myths, the more your support can make a difference.

All too often, family members make a loved one feel as though it isnt bipolar but rather a character flaw or something brought on by the person. Some even view an occasional setback as though it spells permanent doom. Such flawed thinking may be common, but its harmful to the person facing bipolar who needs constructive feedback, not destructive rhetoric.

Create A Sense Of Stability

How Do You Help a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned above, it is vital that you create a sense of stability with your loved one. Oftentimes, they can feel like the entire world is against them. You can show them that you are on their side by being supportive. You can simply say, Hey, Ive got your back, without condoning any of their harmful or negative behaviors or attitudes.

It is easy for someone with bipolar disorder to feel worthless or hopeless. If you notice that they are in a depressive episode, you can give them some positive affirmations. Remind them of their strengths and positive attributes. Doing so might help them more smoothly transition out of their depressive episode.

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Lean On A Support Team

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.

Create An Action Plan For When Symptoms Change

Theres always the possibility that youll have breakthrough symptoms or a relapse at some point in your life. If youve made a plan to guide how you and those around you will respond, you may be able to minimize the disruption and quickly get the help you need.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that your plan include these items:

  • names and contact information for your healthcare team, including your primary care doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, and any other healthcare professionals you need
  • names and contact information for key family members you trust
  • phone numbers for local crisis centers and healthcare facilities near you, especially those with respected mental health centers
  • a list of your medications and any allergies you may have
  • a brief timeline of any other mental health crises, hospitalizations, or suicide attempts
  • information about your triggers, special needs, and what has helped in the past

Some people decide to include a psychiatric advance directive, which is a legal document that names a person to make decisions on your behalf if youre not in a position to make them.

Its a good idea to let the people you trust know that the plan exists and where they can read it if necessary. You may also want to keep copies of the plan in several easy-to-find locations in your home, as well as in your vehicle and on your phone.

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Taking Care Of Yourself When A Loved One Has Bipolar Disorder

Its easy to neglect your own needs when youre supporting someone with a mental illness. But if you dont take care of yourself, you run the risk of burnoutand that wont help you or your loved one. When you take care of yourself both emotionally and physically, youll be able to better cope with the stress of caring for someone with bipolar disorder and have the energy you need to support your loved ones recovery.

Focus on your own life. Supporting your loved one may involve some life adjustments, but make sure you dont lose sight of your own goals and priorities. Dont give up friendships, plans, or activities that bring you joy.

Seek support. Dealing with a loved ones mental illness can be painful and isolating. Make sure youre getting the emotional support you need to cope. Talk to someone you trust about what youre going through. It can also help to get your own therapy or join a support group.

Set boundaries. Be realistic about the amount of care youre able to provide without feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Set limits on what youre willing and able to do, and stick to them. Letting bipolar disorder take over your life isnt healthy for you or your loved one.

Manage stress. Stress takes a toll on the body and mind, so find ways to keep it in check. Make sure youre eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise. You can also keep stress under control by practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation.

Is Dbt Good For Bipolar

Profile: Phil Y., Living with Bipolar Disorder

In a recent study of people with bipolar disorder who completed a DBT 12-week group skills class, 88% of participants reported they felt they benefited from the program.

People also saw substantial increases in psychological well-being, distress tolerance, and mindfulness. There were also notable decreases in emotional dysregulation and emotional reactivity. Even more critical, manic bipolar symptoms remained low from post treatment to a follow-up 3 months later.

While cognitive behavioral therapy was originally the first-line treatment for bipolar disorder, DBT gives people an effective alternative option.

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Watch For Warning Signs Of Bipolar Disorder Relapse

Even if your loved one with bipolar disorder is committed to treatment, there may be times when their symptoms get worse. Take action right away if you notice any troubling symptoms or mood changes. Point out the emerging bipolar symptoms to your loved one and alert the doctor. With swift intervention, you may be able to prevent an episode of mania or depression from developing fully.

How To Help A Loved One With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a manageable condition and with proper treatment, your loved one can successfully manage their symptoms and cope with the condition’s highs and lows. That doesn’t mean, however, that watching a loved one struggle with the challenges of bipolar disorder isn’t difficult. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help ease the burden.

If someone you care about has this condition, you know that the symptoms of bipolar disorder can present a number of challenges. Significant shifts in mood and difficult behaviors can have a major impact on the individuals lifeand yours too, as a loved one just trying to help.

While bipolar disorder can put a strain on your relationship, it’s important to remember that you are an important source of love and support in that person’s life. There are things that you can do to take care of yourself while you are still helping a loved one with bipolar disorder.

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How To Help And Support Someone With Bipolar Disorder

If you have a friend or loved one with bipolar disorder, you know this condition can be a challenge. The erratic behaviors and extreme shifts in mood can be hard for the person with the condition, as well as the people in their life.

Its important for people with bipolar disorder to understand how to cope with their condition. However, its also important that the people in their lives such as friends or family members know how to help when theyre going through a manic or depressive episode.

Read on for a list of ways to help someone you care about who has 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

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