Supporting Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder affects millions of people, including adults and children. It’s non-discriminatory, meaning no one is safe from its corrosive grasp. The symptoms may creep up before you notice them; however, you may need to consult a medical provider once they reach a point of noticeability. With knowledge and time, you can support someone with bipolar and help them get better.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).”

When you’re depressed, you may feel sadness or other low feelings. When your mood moves to mania or hypomania (less intense than mania), it’s not unusual to feel euphoric, high energy, or even irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and whether you think clearly.

Know The Symptoms

Symptoms and their seriousness differ by person. Someone with bipolar disorder may have distinct manic or depressed states but could also go for an extended time, sometimes years, without any symptoms. The extremes can happen simultaneously or in quick order.

Acute bipolar incidences of depression or mania may be paired with hallucinations or delusions. Usually, these symptoms reflect a person’s intense mood. People with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms can be incorrectly diagnosed as experiencing schizophrenia.

Supporting Someone With Bipolar Disorder

One of the answers to your continued existence as a caregiver is recognizing bipolar disorder as an illness of the brain, not just a mental health issue. It’s acceptable to be angry with the disease, the illness – but never someone who’s afflicted. Your spouse, partner, soulmate, or child is suffering horribly, and, therefore, you’re feeling scared, bewildered, and powerless. Your observation is that you can’t exert control over what’s happening. That’s not true because you have power – the power to fight for their right to get the care needed from their medical professional and other specialists. By wielding that power, you can give the emotional support they require to fight the good fight by wielding that power. Remain steady in connecting with your loved one, which is most difficult given moments of constant stress.

Ways to support someone with bipolar disorder

  • Become knowledgeable about bipolar disorder. No one expects you to become a nationally recognized expert but researching the condition and using that information for your loved one’s benefit is a good place to start. Try the internet, your local library, medical center, or national or local support groups for books, videos, or pamphlets about bipolar disorder.
  • Be attentive. People with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses sometimes feel like society has turned their back on them, so instead – learn to listen. Let your loved ones talk about their symptoms without interrupting or being judgmental.
  • Recognize symptoms and triggers. Helping your loved one do the same is another good start, but the effort can be more impactful if you document symptoms and mitigating circumstances. This information can help your loved one talk to their healthcare provider and possibly inform treatment options.
  • Stay connected. As the benefits of listening, personal contact is another key to helping the person deal with bipolar disorder. Offer to do things together, but on their terms and comfort level.
  • Make a plan for dealing with low points or tough times and stick to it. It’s a good idea to have it in writing to talk through before something happens.
  • Talk to your loved one about possible treatment options. Now that you’ve educated yourself about bipolar disorder, what are the prevailing treatment programs? Is it medicine? Ongoing psychotherapy? Diet or lifestyle changes? Or something as revolutionary as ketamine therapy?
  • Stay respectful, loving, and hopeful. Nothing’s more powerful than demonstrating your commitment and support during dark times.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis depends on:

  • Physical examination to identify any medical problems which could trigger your symptoms.
  • Psychiatric assessment to talk about your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. You may also complete a self-assessment or questionnaire. Your healthcare provider may talk with family members or close friends about your symptoms with your permission.

Finally, your symptoms will be compared to criteria for bipolar disorder and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

If you’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder, your clinician may recommend antidepressant medicine, ongoing psychotherapy, self-help, or newer ketamine therapy.

Final Thoughts

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness affecting millions of people, many suffering in silence without the benefit of someone who’ll support them. If you know someone with bipolar disorder, take steps to help that person get the care they deserve and walk with them along the path of recovery.

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