A Guide for Friends and Family of People With BiPolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder or manic depression, is a treatable mental illness that effects many people. Many people with bipolar disorder live full lives without a lot of dramatic interruptions and others have difficulties coping. Having someone in your life with bipolar disorder can be a challenge. Here are some tips for learning how to deal.

1- Research bipolar disorder to better understand it. There are different kinds or degrees of bipolar disorder. Some people have prolonged periods of depression with little manic episodes and others have more manic episodes. Regardless of what kind of bipolar disorder they have, they should be seeing a doctor on a regular basis and be taking their medications according to how it is prescribed.

2- Many people who have bipolar disorder also suffer from some kind of substance abuse or often have an additional mental illness. This is called having a “dual” diagnosis. This makes having bipolar disorder more complicated because the person has to adjust not only to being bipolar but also deal with an addiction or another mental illness. People with a dual diagnosis may struggle for years to get their medications adjusted to a level that works for them and also may struggle to stay free of their addiction.

3- Understanding the extreme mood swings that go along with bipolar disorder is important in order to understand how to deal with a person with bipolar disorder. During a manic phase they may be very energetic and upbeat. Often their energy and enthusium can be difficult to deal with when you are trying to go about living your life. In a manic phase, little sleep can be needed by bipolar people. When a depressive state happens, you may get frustrated if they become emotionally needy.

4- To love a person who has bipolar disorder, you need to develop an exhaustive amount of patience. You need to learn not to “walk on eggshells” around them. If they get angry at you because they are being irrational, allow them to be angry but do not allow them to abuse you verbally or any other way. Sometimes a person will seem like they have a Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde personality.

5- The medications used to treat bipolar disorder should not be combined with street drugs or alcohol. Those who have bipolar disorder know this but if they have a substance abuse issue they may ignore recommendations to stay clean. This will make them more unbalanced and their medications will not work properly.

6- There are many people with bipolar disorder who listen to their doctor, go to therapy and have occasional times of severe depression or manic episodes. Many people may not even know that they are bipolar. Many can hold down a job and appear to be quite “normal”. Other people have personal dramas that keep them from functioning in the real world. Many times they have trouble because they are not correctly medicated or they are not consistent in their treatment.

The lesson is that to be a friend or loved one of a person with bipolar disorder, you need to learn about the disorder and be prepared that sometimes treatment is a rollercoaster ride.


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