9 Tips for Helping a Person with Bipolar Disorder

In addition to medical and psychological treatment, people with bipolar disorder need the support of their loved ones. This contributes to the improvement and relief of their discomfort. Learn how you can help in this article.
9 Tips for Helping a Person with Bipolar Disorder

Last update: 09 May, 2021

The love and support of significant people represent an essential pillar for applying the advice that helps people with bipolar disorder. These figures are a source of external motivation and help to enhance the results and adherence to treatment.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that affects people’s moods. In addition, its repercussions cause severe deterioration in the interpersonal, occupational and social spheres. Therefore, to ensure the patient’s well-being, medical and psychological care is essential.

If you know or live with a person with this disorder, we invite you to keep reading as we present some tips that will guide you to offer the appropriate and necessary support.

What is bipolar disorder?

It’s a mental condition that produces extreme and uncontrollable changes in mood. These alterations include a manic or hypomanic polarity, characterized by high levels of euphoria, agitation, and feelings of grandeur; and a depressive polarity, concerning feelings of sadness, lack of interest, and fatigue.

Mood changes don’t occur suddenly, i.e., they may take months. Also, the intensity of these changes is striking, which generates much discomfort and a significant deterioration in the interpersonal, social, and occupational functioning of the person.

Depending on the symptomatology, scientists have classified different types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder consists of the manifestation of at least one manic episode. Before or after the episode, the person may have had hypomanic episodes (milder expression of manic symptoms) or major depression.
  • Bipolar II disorder: The person has had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. In this case, there are no manic episodes. If so, the diagnosis would become type I.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This is characterized by chronic mood fluctuations comprising numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms (without meeting the criteria for a hypomanic episode) and numerous periods of depressive symptoms (without meeting the criteria for a major depressive episode). These disturbances are present for at least 2 years in adults and 1 year in children and adolescents.
  • Other types: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) also includes bipolar disorders caused by substances or medications.
A bipolar woman
Bipolar disorder is a chronic health issue that requires the support of the family support network.

Tips for helping a person with bipolar disorder

In addition to medical treatment, support from family and friends is extremely important to ensure the well-being and stability of people with bipolar disorder. If you live with or know someone with this condition, there are many ways you can help.

1. Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder

The more you know about bipolar disorder, the more you can help. This means understanding the depressive and manic symptoms, the treatments available, and the consequences of the attacks.

2. Help them accept their disorder

It’s of vital importance that the affected person recognizes that they have a health issue. This way, they’ll be more willing to receive the necessary help.

Keep in mind that the role of family and friends is to offer love and support. Therefore, the intervention of a mental health professional is required for there to be a significant improvement.

One way to get the person to accept going to therapy is to talk to them about the benefits it offers. At this point, it’s important to be careful with our words, because we don’t want the person to feel judged or pressured.

3. Go to therapy with them

Being willing and available to accompany them to their therapy sessions can be an additional source of motivation. You also prevent the person from feeling alone, which contributes significantly to them not giving up.

On the other hand, if the person permits you, it’s helpful to talk to the professionals who are treating them. Then they’ll be able to provide you with more valid information about their condition, advice on how to deal with specific crises and answer your concerns.

4. Be empathetic and understanding

Being empathetic means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, which allows you to respond or act better. To do this, it’s key to listen actively, remain calm, avoid arguing, making judgments, or bringing up any topic that irritates or frustrates.

Often, all these people need is a good listener, especially when they want to express challenges. In these cases, what matters is to express acceptance and understanding. This way you’ll feel more comfortable with your condition and be more open.

5. Monitor their medication

The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a balanced combination of therapy and medication. In most cases, medication is essential to ensure emotional stability.

Therefore, one way to help the person is to check, as frequently as possible, that they’re taking the pills as recommended by the doctor. If this isn’t the case, you should talk to the doctor. However, remember that these conversations should be non-judgmental.

6. Have a plan in case of emergency

Bipolar disorder is often unpredictable. Also, depressive and manic attacks can be dangerous, both for the affected person and for those around them. Consequently, it’s necessary to have all the support and speed to be able to handle the case.

We advise the affected person, family, and friends to have the telephone numbers of therapists, ambulances, hospitals, and other people close to them at hand. So that, in times of crisis, help can be called for easily.

7. Among the tips for bipolar disorder, don’t forget about self-care

If you live with someone who has bipolar disorder, it can be easy to forget your self-care. In addition, it’s well known that being a caregiver in this health issue entails an emotional and psychological overload that ends up deteriorating well-being.

To help someone you must have the emotional capacity to do so. So make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and even attend therapy.

8. Learn coping strategies to help control the attacks

This may take time and may even be complex. The main thing is to learn to recognize the symptoms or indicators that anticipate a manic or depressive episode and then take actions to prevent the development of the episode or delay its onset.

It’s also useful for the affected person to learn to recognize these signs and to be able to act on their own. This helps them gain self-control and autonomy.

A sad woman
The crises of bipolar disorder are intense and it takes time to learn how to cope with them in the best possible way.

9. Offer quality time

People with bipolar disorder often have difficulty establishing and maintaining lasting and stable relationships. That said, it’s important that you spend quality time and enjoy activities with them, so they don’t become isolated and lonely.

So you can think of activities that you both enjoy that’ll ensure interaction and a feeling of leading a normal life!

Apply these tips to help with bipolar disorder

In conclusion, helping and accompanying someone suffering from a mental health issue can be a great challenge. It involves making efforts to ensure, as far as possible, the well-being of the other person.

That’s why it’s vitally important not to forget self-care and to educate yourself as much as possible about the condition. This will enable you to offer more accurate support tailored to individual needs.

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