Coping With Bipolar Disorder
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but there are ways to help make it easier for yourself, a friend, or a loved one.
- Get treatment and stick with itrecovery takes time and its not easy. But treatment is the best way to start feeling better.
- Keep medical and therapy appointments and talk with the provider about treatment options.
- Take all medicines as directed.
- Structure activities: keep a routine for eating and sleeping, and make sure to get enough sleep and exercise.
- Learn to recognize your mood swings and warning signs, such as decreased sleep.
- Ask for help when trying to stick with your treatment.
- Be patient improvement takes time. Social support helps.
- Avoid misuse of alcohol and drugs.
Remember: Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, but long-term, ongoing treatment can help control symptoms and enable you to live a healthy life.
How To Help Someone Stay On Their Bipolar Medication
Just like someone with type 1 diabetes will always need insulin, a person with bipolar disorder will likely need to take medication for their whole life. Research shows that many of those who stop often find their symptoms return within a year.
As important as it is, people often don’t stay the course with their medication. There are some common reasons why someone might skip doses or stop taking drugs. If you have a friend or family member with bipolar disorder, you can help them stick with it. And knowing the reason the person quits using the medicine can help.
Make sure you tell them that you care about them, that you believe medication is key to their being well, and that you’ll be there to support and help them along the way.
The reason: The drugs don’t seem to be working.
Encourage patience. Many medications can take up to 8 weeks to kick in. So it’s not unusual to think they’re not working at first. Sometimes, they and their doctor may need to experiment for months or even years before settling on the right drugs and doses. Reassure them that most people are eventually glad they stuck with the process because they end up feeling a lot better.
The reason: They just forget.
The reason: They hate the side effects.
The reason: They just refuse.
There could be a number of reasons someone refuses to take a medicine. They might have a concern they’re not willing to talk about. Or they may not want to accept that they have a mental illness or that they need medicine.
Have A Crisis Plan In Place
When your loved ones moods are particularly extreme, they may get to the stage where their safety and wellbeing are at risk and they feel out of control. Its important to have a crisis plan in place for times like these, so that you can support them to get the help they need as soon as possible.
This may include having a list of emergency contact information for doctors, therapists and other close family members, as well as the telephone number and address of the nearest hospital. Its also a good idea to keep a note of any medications that they are taking, as well as the dose. By having a crisis plan in place, you will be able to act quickly and effectively during emergencies, and support your loved one to get help when they need it the most. It is a good idea to involve your loved one in the crisis plan, when they are stable, as they will be able to provide valuable information on what has helped them in the past.
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What Are The Long
Bipolar disorder is a life-long and often recurring illness. You may need long term support to help manage your condition.
What medication options are there?
Your doctor will look at what medication worked for you during episodes of mania or depression. They should ask you whether you want to continue this treatment or if you want to change to lithium.
Lithium usually works better than other types of medication for long-term treatment. Your doctor should give you information about how to take lithium safely. If lithium doesn’t work well enough or causes you problems, you may be offered:
- Olanzapine, or
Your doctor should monitor your health. Physical health checks should be done at least once a year. These checks will include:
- measuring your weight,
- checking your liver and heart, and
- checking your pulse and blood pressure.
What psychological treatments are recommended?
You should be offered a psychological therapy that is specially designed for bipolar disorder. You could have individual or group therapy.
The aim of your therapy is to stop you from becoming unwell again. This is known as relapse. Your therapy should help you to:
If you live with your family or are in close contact with them, you should also be offered family intervention.
Family intervention is where you and your family work with mental health professionals to help to manage relationships. This should be offered to people who you live with or who you are in close contact with.
Accept That Your Friends Symptoms Might Affect Your Relationship
Treatment may help manage a persons symptoms, but it cant offer a cure for a persons mood changes. Its a chronic condition. Your friendship may be one of the most stable aspects of their lives, says Dr. Singh.
Part of that friendship involves understanding how your friends symptoms may affect your bond. A friend who can weather those ups and downs will likely be someone who truly understands the condition well, Dr. Singh says.
This is another time when its important to remind yourself that your friends bipolar disorder doesnt define them. They can cancel on you last-minute without it being a sign that theyre isolating themselves due to depression. They can become easily irritated with you for reasons besides entering a manic episode. Do your best not to immediately chalk everything up to their bipolar disorder, and set and reinforce your friendship boundaries when necessary just as you would with other friends.
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What Are The Treatments For Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that requires management throughout a person’s life. People who have numerous episodes of mood changes in a year can be much more difficult to treat. Medication is the primary form of treatment, but the additional use of psychotherapy or “talk” therapy is sometimes recommended to help prevent future episodes.
There are many drugs available to treat bipolar disorder. Proposed guidelines for treatment options are based on the three main phases of bipolar disorder, which include the acutemanic/mixed mood states, acute major depressive episodes, and finally the continuation/maintenance phase. As a general rule, avoiding antidepressants and taking two mood stabilizers has proven to be an effective strategy for most patients.
Lithium is a mood-stabilizing drug. It has proven helpful in controlling mania and depression and preventing depression and manic episodes. Lithium will reduce symptoms of mania within two weeks of starting therapy, but it may take weeks to months before the condition is completely controlled. Thus other drugs like antipsychotic drugs or antidepressant drugs may also be used to help control symptoms.
Common side effects of lithium include:
- Frequent need to urinate
The following are signs of a lithium overdose. Call your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience:
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Slight trembling of hands
How To Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011. This article has been viewed 22,051 times.
Living with bipolar disorder can be extremely trying on a person’s relationships with their friends and family. Struggling with difficult emotions or manic episodes is hard, but it’s even more challenging without the support of a good friend. Helping your friend with bipolar disorder requires patience and understanding, but remember to treat yourself with the same care and respect you provide your friend. If you are concerned that your friend may be a risk to themselves or others, get them help immediately.
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Best For Scheduled Group Meetings: The Depression And Bipolar Support Alliance
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Formerly known as the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association, The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is a non-profit organization.
Their work includes outreach, education, and advocacy. But their main focus is on providing support groups for people with depression or bipolar disorder and their friends and family.
DBSA’s website provides education, tools, peer support, and inspiring stories to help people with bipolar disorder pursue a path to wellness. You can search for a local chapter that will put you in touch with people in your community, and you can also join a local support group if one is available.
While most online support groups involve forums, DBSA offers regularly-scheduled online meetings. They provide specific groups for Friends and Family, Young Adults, and Caregivers, as well as more general support groups for individuals with bipolar disorder. There is at least one group every day of the week, and sometimes there are more.
The support group leaders are all peers, meaning they all know firsthand what its like to live with a mood disorder. They state their online support groups give people living with depression and bipolar disorder a safe, welcoming place to share experiences, discuss coping skills, and offer each other hope.
Helping During Outpatient Treatment
When your friend or family member begins seeing a doctor or therapist, show that you support their decision to seek treatment and ask how you can be most helpful. Learn about your loved ones symptoms. Each person needs different kinds of help keeping symptoms under control. Learn about medications and what side effects to expect.
Some people find it helpful to write down mania and suicide prevention plans, and give copies to trusted friends and relatives. These plans should include:
- a list of symptoms that might be signs the person is becoming suicidal or experiencing mania
- a list of stressful events that may be contributing to their symptoms
- things you or others can do to help when you see these symptoms occurring
- a list of helpful phone numbers, including health care providers, family members, friends, and a suicide crisis line such as 273-TALK
- a promise from your friend or family member that they will call you, other trusted friends or relatives, one of their doctors, a crisis line, or a hospital when manic or depressive symptoms become severe
- encouraging words such as My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesnt feel that way right now. and
- reality checks such as, I should not make major life decisions when my thoughts are racing and Im feeling on top of the world. I need to stop and take time to discuss these things with others before I take action.
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Listen To What Your Friend Has To Say
Sometimes when someone has bipolar disorder, their feelings may be dismissed by the people around them. This may not be done on purpose or maliciously. However, its easy to start believing that everything someone with bipolar says is because of their illness.
Be a support system by listening to what your friend or loved one has to say. People with bipolar disorder want to feel heard, just like anyone else. You shouldnt make them feel silly for expressing their very real thoughts and emotions.
Being a support system doesnt mean youre providing advice or even doing anything to be helpful besides active listening. As an active listener, stay calm, pay attention, and dont try to engage in arguments or debates.
Accept Your Partners Bipolar Diagnosis
Although medication and life-style changes can certainly rein in bipolar symptoms and make the disorder easier to manage, bipolar isnt an illness that can be cured indefinitely. That said, a bipolar diagnosis is not always a bad thing. Your loved one is the same person he or she has always been. Accept the diagnosis for what it is, and know you will enjoy times when the condition is under control.
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Other Ways To Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder
You can also support your loved one by:
Learning about bipolar disorder. Learn everything you can about the symptoms and treatment options. The more you know about bipolar disorder, the better equipped youll be to help your loved one and keep things in perspective.
Encouraging the person to get help. The sooner bipolar disorder is treated, the better the prognosis, so urge your loved one to seek professional help right away. Dont wait to see if they will get better without treatment.
Being understanding. Let your friend or family member know that youre there if they need a sympathetic ear, encouragement, or assistance with treatment. People with bipolar disorder are often reluctant to seek help because they dont want to feel like a burden to others, so remind the person that you care and that youll do whatever you can to help.
Showing patience. Getting better takes time, even when a person is committed to treatment. Dont expect a quick recovery or a permanent cure. Be patient with the pace of recovery and prepare for setbacks and challenges. Managing bipolar disorder is a lifelong process.
The importance of support in bipolar disorder recovery
People with bipolar disorder do better when they have support from family members and friends. They tend to recover more quickly, experience fewer manic and depressive episodes, and have milder symptoms.
How To Help Someone With Bipolar Depression
The ups, downs, and swings of a mood associated with Bipolar disorder can be challenging, especially when they happen to someone you love. You may feel the need to walk on eggshells because you fear something you do will create a mood change.
You love the person you know who has Bipolar, but their behaviors make it hard to stay with them. When the relationship is good, it is terrific. When its bad, its terrible.
You are not alone. There are millions of people with Bipolar disorder who have loved ones feeling exactly the way you do. You want to help, but you dont know where to start.
Heres how to help someone with bipolar depression.
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Things That Are Often Not Helpful
Making Fun of or Joke when you are frustrated or irritated it may be tempting to make fun of a mood or behavior or even lighten the mood with a joke but these things can provoke an adverse reaction if your loved one is currently experiencing depression or mania. Pay attention to when your loved one welcomes humor and when humor makes a situation worse.
Being Pushy sensitivity to others comments and perceived meaning is a common symptom of bipolar disorder. If your loved one has made it clear that a particular moment is not a good time to talk, respect this boundary and find another time to connect. Be gentle and ease into difficult conversations.
Too Many Check-Ins or Monitoring although you may be feeling nervous for the wellbeing of your loved one, too many check-ins or close monitoring can annoy them or incite a stressful mood. Give them the space they need to self-soothe and be there when they need you. It can be helpful to set up an advanced directive when your loved one is doing well, so that in times of distress you know what kind of supports they find helpful. If there is cause for concern for your loved ones safety, like suicidal feelings or harming self or others, be prepared to act without delay.
Passing Blame it can be difficult to separate the disorder from the person but often they are not acting out of choice. Try to be understanding and have compassion rather than being angry and blaming. Do not blame yourself for your loved ones behavior either.
How To Talk To Someone About Depression
Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to someone about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries the person will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.
If you dont know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You dont have to try to fix your friend or family member you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment.
Dont expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
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Eleven Ways You Can Help A Friend Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder
Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder may be at the mercy of extreme mood swings, but they are not powerless. Medication, therapy and a healthy lifestyle can help them enjoy full and productive lives, especially when supplemented by the support of those closest to them.
And thats where you come in. If a friend has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, here are 11 ways you can help:
1. Educate yourself.
The term bipolar is thrown around a lot these days, yet it remains widely misunderstood. Spend some time learning about the disorder, and youll be much better able to understand what your friend is going through. Good sources include the National Institute of Mental Health, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and the International Bipolar Foundation.
2. Channel your compassion, but ditch the pity.
No one wants to hear, I feel so sorry for you. What they do want is recognition that life holds challenges for them and that youll be there to help them meet them.
3. Accept the lows with the highs.
When manic, the person with bipolar disorder can come across as the life of the party. When depressed, however, they may feel as though they have lost their value in their social circle because they are no longer fun. Dont add to that pressure. Let your friend know you are there for them whether they are in the heights or the doldrums, and help them aim for that middle ground.
4. Dont say calm down or cheer up.