No votes yet
Your rating: None
January 5, 2012

Bipolar Disorder: How to Help a Friend or Family Member

Nearly six million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, so if you have a loved one with this serious illness, you're not alone. While it may often be challenging, there are many ways you can provide help and support. One of the most important ways to help your loved one is to become more familiar with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, which is a serious mood disorder that's characterized by dramatic mood swings between opposite "poles" of mania and depression. By learning as much as you can about bipolar disorder you'll be better equipped to support your loved one and keep things in perspective. When a person has bipolar, family members and friends are affected as well. It's not uncommon to experience a range of feelings. You may feel completely alone, overwhelmed, angry, resentful, afraid or even guilty. Rest assured these feelings are completely normal. However, experts advise against trying to play the role of therapist. Instead, it's much more important to be patient, willing to listen, and supportive of your loved one's treatment plan. Helping to ensure your loved one gets professional help and stays faithful to their medication can feel like a tremendous responsibility. Don't try to go it alone. If possible, enlist additional family members and friends to help. You may find it useful to keep track of the emotional changes you see in your loved one, and to collaborate on a specific plan of action should symptoms worsen. Studies show that people with bipolar disorder whose family members and friends are involved and supportive may experience fewer episodes of mania or depression, and endure milder symptoms. In addition to taking an active role in your loved one's treatment, experts say that being optimistic, expressing confidence, support and hope for the future may go far in improving their state of mind. In the meantime, help your loved one feel connected by maintaining normal activities. Take the dog for a walk, go to a movie, or have dinner at a favorite restaurant. Experts recommend that you don't try to do everything for your bipolar loved one. But do find ways, especially during bad periods, to help reduce his or her stress by offering to help with household chores or errands. Yet it's important to accept your own limitations. Take time for yourself. You may even consider talking with a therapist or joining a support group. Overall, remain patient, managing bipolar disorder is a lifelong process and your encouragement and support can be vital to your loved one's recovery. To learn more, see the video series on bipolar disorder on this site.


Share this story:

Last Updated:
December 20, 2012