It is not always easy to deal with someone who you love and care for if they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; regardless if he or she is your spouse, child, parent, best friend, brother, or sister. I am able to see it from multiple points of view because I am bipolar as well as my significant other.
It can be tough because sometimes you never know when their mood is going to shift. The best thing you can do is get informed and learn about bipolar disorder; including warning signs and symptoms of both mania and depression. We have several articles on this site with information on this disorder. You can click on one of the links below to learn more.
- What Is Bipolar Disorder?
- Bipolar Disorder Info
- Different Types of Bipolar Disorder
- Common Early Warning Signs of Mania or Hypomania
- Common Early Warning Signs of Depression
- Info On Bipolar Disorder: Mixed Episodes
I know when I am in a bipolar-like agitated mood, and I am just going off about something, all I am trying to do is vent and get my frustrations out. During this time, if someone were to argue with me while I am just venting, I will become even more agitated. I just need someone to listen to me and maybe tell me that everything will be okay. If a person were to say I am overreacting, I just go off even more and eventually end up hurting the other person’s feelings without meaning to. Listening is definitely the key to these types of situations.
For my boyfriend, when he is going off, I know to leave him alone and just let him vent and scream himself. He just needs to be able to get out that anger, agitation, and frustration as well.
One thing we both have in common, as that after we are out of that mood or episode we end up apologizing for flying off the handle. It is almost like something takes over our minds and our own logical thinking becomes fully clouded and distorted.
When you learn the early signs and symptoms of depression and mania, you will most likely be able to tell when your loved one’s mood is about to switch over into an episode before they even do. Sometimes, when a person is bipolar, they aren’t always aware that they are heading into a depressive or manic episode. So, when you see these coming on, you can help your loved one prepare by maybe suggesting that they keep a mood journal or that they talk to their psychiatrist or therapist before things spin out of control. It is best to be prepared and tackle things before an episode is full blown.
Be there for your loved one, and try to show them that you support them no matter what. Let them know that you are always available when they need to talk. Try to be understanding without judgment. The worst thing you can do is seem judgemental. That can cause them to trust you less.
If your loved one will allow you too, attend their psychiatrist’s appointments with them. Become interactive in their care. Try to take notice of if they are taking their medications regularly or not. Maybe even ask your loved one if it is okay for you to remind them about their meds. When they are heading into episodes, never say things like, “Did you really take your medicine?” It really drives most people nuts because they start to feel like you don’t trust them, that you are judging them, or that you think they really are crazy. You can think what you want in your own head, but try not to say things like that out loud.
Encourage your spouse or family member to try relaxation techniques or coping skills without being too pushy. Remember, most people who are bipolar have all or nothing thinking. Actually, everyone I know who is bipolar has this type of thinking. Where if they are going to do something, they will overdo it to an extreme or they would end up doing nothing at all. Bipolar basically breaks town into complete polar opposites.
One thing you can work on with your loved one is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). Have them:
- List their early warning symptoms
- Tools they can use when the threat of a crisis starts to come on
- What they have to do to stay well
- What their responsibilities are
- How they feel when they are well
- What they will do and who the will entrust to do things for them – help take care of them – when they are in crisis
- A list of people they can call when in a crisis such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255)
- What their triggers are
- And a post-crisis plan
The WRAP plan is essential and will help both you and your loved one.
These are just a randomized list of ways to deal with a loved one who is bipolar. I really hope some of this information can help someone out there.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave any tips you may know that could help someone else out. Helping others can, in turn, help you as well!
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.