How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder | Banyan Mental Health
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How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

If you are living with someone with bipolar disorder, then you understand how challenging this condition can be.

The erratic behaviors and extreme shifts in mood can be difficult for a person with this condition, as well as for their loved ones. It’s important for those with bipolar disorder to better understand how to cope with their symptoms so they can live full and happy lives. However, it’s equally important for the people in their lives to learn how to help someone with bipolar disorder. Our mental health rehab in Florida is sharing ways that you can help a loved one with this condition.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes extreme shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and activity levels. These shifts or changes affect the person’s ability to carry out their day-to-day tasks, making things like grocery shopping or working nearly impossible. Bipolar disorder usually develops in older teens and young adults, with the average onset at 25 years.

There are six types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia)
  • Substance/medication-induced bipolar and related disorder
  • Bipolar and related disorder due to another medical condition
  • Unspecified bipolar and related disorder

The most common symptoms of bipolar disorder are phases of intense emotions called “mood episodes” or “manic episodes.” The person can switch from extreme happiness to extreme depression and hopelessness. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder who are in a mixed state of emotions may experience extreme joy and severe sadness at the same time. With these shifts in mood also comes other symptoms, like severe changes in their energy and activity levels, sleep patterns, and other everyday behaviors. Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions may also occur during manic episodes, which can be frightening for the individual and the people around them.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t usually go away. While many people with this condition may have periods in their lives where they don’t experience symptoms, these symptoms can return at any moment for any given reason. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder become anxious about their symptoms returning because they’re unsure of when they’ll experience another shift in mood. Oftentimes, loving someone with bipolar disorder means that you’ll look for these changes and motivate your loved one to speak to a therapist if their symptoms become too severe. Banyan Mental Health offers bipolar disorder treatment that can help your loved one learn how to manage their symptoms and regain control over their life.

How to Help a Bipolar Person

Living with bipolar disorder isn’t easy, but you can make a huge difference in someone’s life just by showing your support, especially during mood changes. Below are ten examples of how to help someone with bipolar disorder live a happier life despite their condition.

Don’t Say Things Like: “Why Are You Acting Crazy?”

Crazy, cuckoo, nuts, and basketcase are a few of the many hurtful and flat-out rude names you should avoid saying to someone with schizophrenia. Unfortunately, movies and TV shows have contributed significantly to the many misconceptions about schizophrenic behavior and symptoms. In an attempt to entertain, the media often makes people with schizophrenia seem crazy, violent, or aggressive. In reality, they’re just struggling with their mental health. Avoid using hurtful or derogatory language when talking to someone with schizophrenia to avoid hurting their feelings or making them feel ashamed about their condition.

#1: Educate Yourself About Bipolar Disorder

The more you know about bipolar disorder, the more you’ll be able to help your loved one. Learn about the symptoms and treatment options offered for this condition. Research various facilities and find out basic ways that you can help the individual when they’re experiencing a shift in mood. The more you know about this condition, the more you’ll know how to be there for someone with bipolar disorder.

Don’t Discuss Their Conditions With Others

While this tip may not involve communicating with the person, it’s still important. When dealing with a family member with schizophrenia, it can be tempting to spill the beans or release your concerns or frustrations with others. However, this can quickly go south. A person’s mental illness is a sensitive topic, and discussing their condition with others without their permission or knowledge can perpetuate harmful rumors and misconceptions.

Many people don’t understand schizophrenia, so when they hear of the person’s condition, they may treat them differently or say certain things that can be insensitive or hurtful. Unless they give your permission, ask you to, or if they bring up the conversation themselves, don’t discuss your loved one’s condition with other people.

#2: Listen More Than You Speak

Encouraging someone isn’t always about knowing the right thing to say. It could even be not saying anything at all. In fact, simply offering your undivided attention is one of the best things you can do for someone with bipolar disorder. They may want to talk about their challenges or vent about their day, and that’s normal. Offering your understanding can go a long way in making someone with this condition feel heard and understood. Whenever they’re venting or talking to you about their struggles, actively pay attention, stay calm, avoid arguing, and avoid any topics that may irritate or frustrate them.

#3: Express Your Support

For people with bipolar disorder, sometimes it can feel like everyone is against them. There’s a lot of stigmas about mental illness that make it difficult for people with conditions like bipolar disorder to speak about their struggles and ask for the help they need. While you may not have to agree with all of their choices, verbally assuring the person that you’re on their side and you have their back will mean a lot to them. People with this condition often feel worthless and hopeless, so affirming their strengths and ensuring them that you’re around for the long haul can help them in their recovery.

#4: Be Mindful of Your Language

No, this isn’t about cursing, but rather about using words like crazy, psycho, nuts, or cuckoo. So much of the prejudice that people have for those with mental disorders stem from the language people use to describe these individuals, as well as a lack of education on the topic. It’s important to educate yourself on this condition and be mindful about the language you use around your loved one and when you’re talking about them with others. Our jokes often stem from a place of truth, so be mindful of your words.

#5: Be Active in Their Recovery

It’s easy to say, “I’ve got your back,” and then never actively contribute to their recovery. Mental health treatment usually consists of many therapy sessions and doctor visits. While you shouldn’t always attend these appointments, offering to pick them up and drive them to their visit or calling them after they’ve finished their session to see how it went will mean a lot. You can even visit them after their appointment or take them out for a bite to eat. These appointments can sometimes be complicated and stressful for people with bipolar disorder. Having someone there for them who shows up consistently can give them something to look forward to and encourage them to continue.

#6: Make an Emergency Plan

The most challenging aspect of bipolar disorder is its unpredictability. It’s important to have an emergency plan set in place in case it’s needed when the person is experiencing severe mood episodes. This plan should include what to do and say if the person feels suicidal or if they physically get out of control. You should also have daily plans set in place that can help the person get through the anxiety and other challenges that may occur during the span between episodes. These plans can include coping mechanisms, things the person can do when they feel a shift in mood happening, or ways to complete chores and tasks when they’re feeling low in spirits.

#7: Support Without Pushing Them

Your support means a lot, but it goes from supportive to pushing when you’re pressuring the person to do certain things. It’s important to know when to step back and get the person professional help. While people with bipolar disorder are perfectly able to make conscious decisions, you also have to understand that they may not be themselves when their mood or behaviors get out of control. It’s not them. It’s their condition. It’s imperative that you don’t pressure them or try to push them into doing something when they’re in an elevated emotional state.

#8: Be Patient and Understanding

It can be difficult for people with mental disorders to understand what they’re experiencing. They could have the same condition for years and yet, every day still feel like they’re learning something new about themselves. Those with bipolar disorder may not understand why their moods or behavior change. That’s why it’s important to practice patience and be understanding about their situation.

#9: Practice Self-Care

It’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself when you’re taking care of someone else. But before you help someone with bipolar disorder, you need to make sure you have the time and the energy to do so. If you do decide to help someone, do not neglect self-care. This means getting enough sleep, eating properly, and exercising regularly.

#10: Recognize When It’s Too Much

Unfortunately, helping someone with bipolar disorder sometimes gets to the point where it becomes too much, and that’s okay. No one knows how to treat this condition other than the specialists trained to treat it. If you’re dating someone with bipolar disorder and it feels like things are becoming too difficult to manage, get them professional help. Call 9-1-1 if the person becomes abusive or threatens to hurt themselves or someone else.

Learning how to help someone with bipolar disorder can be a challenge. The person’s moods and behaviors may be unpredictable, making it difficult to know how to react. But if you make an effort to be there for that person, this can make a world of a difference. Knowing they can rely on you for your help and support can further encourage them to get help and stick with treatment.

If you’re searching for mental health services for yourself or a loved one, call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn how our inpatient mental health rehab in Florida can help.

Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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