How to Help Your Loved One Deal with Bipolar Disorder

When a loved one’s wellbeing is affected by bipolar disorder, there’s no overstating how important family wellness is to their recovery. Your love and support can make all the difference to that person, whether you do that by learning about the illness, offering hope and encouragement, keeping track of symptoms, being a partner in treatment or all of the above. It’s important not to neglect your own wellness in caring for someone close to you, so remember to find a balance between supporting your loved one and taking care of yourself.


Helping a family member or friend with bipolar disorder can be difficult, even though you’re not the one with the mental health issue. Your loved one’s moods and behaviour affect you and other family and close friends, as you have to cope with reckless antics, outrageous demands, explosive outbursts, and irresponsible decisions. Once the whirlwind of a manic episode has passed, it’s often up to you to deal with the consequences, and if your loved one is going through a period of depression, it can fall on you to pick up the slack. Most people with bipolar disorder are able to stabilise their moods with proper treatment, medication, and support, but your support can be instrumental in reaching that goal. Let’s take a closer look at what that involves:


1. Educate yourself: While it’s important for your loved one to be well-read on the subject, it can be really beneficial if you learn about bipolar disorder too. If your loved one does educate his or herself and you don’t, it can be frustrating for them to talk to you, as you don’t fully appreciate the details of the disorder. If you learn everything you can about bipolar disorder and your loved one doesn’t, on the other hand, you at least will be equipped to help your loved one and keep things in perspective. As the more mentally stable one in the relationship, education about the symptoms and treatment options is a more feasible option for you right now, and your loved one can learn from you when they’re able.


2. Encourage your loved one to seek help: Even if you become an expert in all things bipolar, you alone are not enough to help your loved one through to recovery. You are not a medical professional, or a magician, and so your loved one should seek help from someone who can do the things you can’t. Your loved one’s prognosis will be in much better shape if he or she seeks treatment early on, so make sure you do what you can to encourage them to get professional help. Don’t wait to see if your loved one will get better without treatment – they won’t.


3. Be someone your loved one wants support from: It’s important that you demonstrate real understanding during this time, as you’ll be no use at all if your loved one doesn’t perceive you as someone worth talking or listening to. Make sure your friend or family member knows that you’re there if he or she needs you, whether that entails lending a sympathetic ear, giving encouragement, or providing assistance with their treatment. Don’t assume that your loved one knows you’re there for them; remind them that you care about their wellbeing and will do what ever you can to help.


4. Be prepared to wait: In all areas of wellness, patience is key. Even if your loved one is committed to treatment, is diagnosed early and has the best medical and personal support teams in place, getting better will take time. There’s no quick fix or permanent cure for bipolar disorder, so be patient with the pace of recovery and be ready for setbacks and challenges.

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