Coping with a Bipolar Family Member

When someone close to you is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, it can be very scary for them; but it can also affect you. Because you are not experiencing the symptoms of the disorder yourself, it can be very hard to deal with a diagnosed loved one as you don’t know what you can do to help. It can feel frustrating when all your efforts go to waste and do nothing but aggravate the situation. It can be difficult to cope with constant mood changes and disturbances in their patterns of behavior.

It’s important to remember, however, that your love and support can help and ease the treatment process. Here’s how you can help:

Therapist holds hand of patient coping with a bipolar family member.

Understand the Disorder

The first thing you have to do is tell yourself again and again, until it is ingrained in your mind, that this is an illness. Just because it is not physically manifested does not mean it does not exist.

Your loved one is not acting out or at fault; it is something that they cannot control. You would not blame someone for having cancer, and so, you cannot blame someone for being bipolar.

The next step is to learn everything you can about the disorder and research so that you know exactly what they are going through even if you cannot feel it yourself. This will help you empathize, and allow you to recognize when they are in a state of depression or mania. It will also help you distinguish between these episodes and normal moods. Bipolar people also experience anger, happiness, sadness, and excitement in completely healthy ways, and it can be frustrating when you associate their legitimate feelings with their disorder.

Ask for Help

If a family member needed surgery, you wouldn’t perform it yourself; you would take them to a hospital. Similarly, if your bipolar family member is in the midst of an episode and attempts something like suicide, you can’t deal with it alone. You need the help of a proper therapist or doctor. Don’t leave them alone in times like these and seek professional help. When your loved one is not in the midst of an episode, negotiate a strategy for when they are in one, and plan ahead to decide what steps you will take when needed; such as hiding away car keys and credit cards, or calling the police to ensure that they don’t hurt themselves or others around them. It’s important to keep calm in these times of crises, and having a plan always helps one remain practical. Don’t take their words or actions personally, and know that they are merely symptoms of a mental illness.

Stay Patient

The most important thing you can do to help a loved one is just be there and be patient. It’s not easy to get through something like this alone, and they will need you from time to time to remind them that you’re in this together. Bipolar disorder can sometimes be a lifelong challenge, but it can be managed. Stay patient and empathizing, but don’t let the disorder take over your relationship. It’s important to think about yourself sometimes too, and not feel guilty about having a life of your own. Being there for someone, both physically and emotionally, can be a huge help and can ease the treatment considerably. Remember that they are struggling much more than you can imagine, and let them have their way from time to time.

Just the fact that you want to help a family member who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder is an indicator of the fact that you’re already supporting them subconsciously. Work together and help them get through this difficulty, and if they relapse, just let them know you’ll always love and support them.

Need an experienced therapist helping those with Bipolar disorder? Contact Jennie Marie.