Bipolar disorder can be challenging to live with, both for those suffering from the condition and their loved ones. It can be even more challenging watching a loved one struggle with bipolar disorder and not knowing how to help them get through the rough patches.
But with determination and a lot of patience, it is possible to help a loved one with bipolar disorder and make their life a little easier.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. People with this disorder may swing from feeling energized or high (known as mania) to extremely sad or low (known as depression).
These mood swings are often extreme and erratic and can make it difficult for people with bipolar disorder to lead a normal life. One day you’re on top of the world, and nothing can bring you down, and the next day you’re down in the dumps, feeling hopeless and helpless.
Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 7 million adults in the United States every year. People with bipolar disorder often have problems holding down a job, keeping friends, and getting along with family members. Bipolar disorder can also lead to substance abuse and suicidal behaviors.
What You Can Do
Most people with bipolar disorder will need treatment to help stabilize their moods, but there are also some things that you can do to support your loved one with their condition. These include:
Educating Yourself About the Disorder
Bipolar disorder is unpredictable, and it can be hard to understand why your loved one is acting a certain way. By educating yourself about the disorder, you can better understand what they are going through. This will help you to be more patient, tolerant, and supportive when they are experiencing extreme symptoms or acting irrationally.
Encouraging Them to Seek Treatment
If your loved one is not already on treatment, encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. There is no cure or easy fix for bipolar disorder, but most people can manage their symptoms and lead productive lives with the right treatment.
During their “highs” and “lows,” your loved one may act in ways that are out of character for them. Try to be patient with them and remember that they are not acting that way on purpose. Getting better will also take time, so try to be patient as they work on managing their symptoms and learn to cope with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.
Your loved one may not always want to talk about their bipolar disorder, but it’s essential to be there for them when they do. Listen to them without judgment and acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to “fix” their problems but knowing someone understands what they’re going through can make a big difference for someone with bipolar disorder.
Being Active in Treatment
Extreme mood fluctuations can make it difficult for someone with bipolar disorder to stick to their treatment plan. You can offer to help them keep track of their medication and accompany them to doctor’s appointments.
Helping them stick to their treatment plan can prevent a relapse and make it easier for them to manage their symptoms.
Encouraging Healthy Habits
Certain lifestyle choices can help improve the quality of life in bipolar patients. These include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting enough sleep. Help them make small gradual changes towards these goals. Small but consistent changes can make a big difference when managing bipolar disorder.
Being Their Cheerleader
It’s easy to feel alone and lost when you have bipolar disorder. Help your loved one see the positives in their life and cheer on their progress, however small it may be. Remind them of their strengths and accomplishments, and let them know that you are proud of them.
Doing Things Together
Having bipolar disorder can be isolating, so remember to include your loved ones in your plans and help them stay connected to the outside world. This could mean inviting them for walks and picnics, attending social events together, or just spending time doing activities you all enjoy.
Also, remember there are times when they will need a little space and time to themselves. Don’t take it personally if they need to cancel plans or take a step back from social activities.
Planning for the “Highs” and “Lows”
The only constant thing you can expect from bipolar disorder is that it’s unpredictable. Try to have a plan in place for when things get out of control. This could include knowing who to call when your loved one is feeling suicidal during a depressive phase or having a list of activities to do during a manic phase that will help them stay productive and safe.
Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can be emotionally and mentally draining. Make sure to take time off to do the things you love. This will help you avoid burnout and help recharge your “emotional battery.” And most importantly, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help if you are struggling to keep up with the demands of caring for someone with bipolar disorder.