It can be difficult to watch a loved one experience the extreme ups and downs that come with bipolar disorder. But there are a few things you can do to help them out.
Recognize the Signs
Manic episodes vary from person to person, but there are some commonalities: sudden, unrealistic improvements in mood; easily irritated; more impatient than normal; sleeping less while not being tired the following day. Usually family members can pick up on the signs after experiencing a few episodes. But with emotion it’s is a fine line between normal behavior and potential episodes, and it’s always better to get treatment rather than letting things escalate.
Create a Plan
During a time of stability it’s a good idea to establish a plan. Go through a list of symptoms and the treatment plan for each with the psychiatrist, psychologist, and any other doctors on their treatment team. Make sure to include the individual suffering from bipolar by asking how they would like to be treated when their symptoms get worse, and what kind of support they would like in those moments. Being proactive, instead of reactive, is going to alleviate a lot of the stress surrounding episodes.
It can be easy to respond quickly to a big, impulsive decision made by an individual with bipolar. Instead of shutting down their big ideas, talk it through with them. Perhaps they want to make a sudden change in profession. Ask them questions about where they would apply, what steps they will take to make that move, etc. Entering into a discussion instead of an argument will be beneficial in the long run.
Everyone who comes in contact with an individual with bipolar disorder should understand that medication isn’t going to fix the disorder. There are other steps to take, such as therapy, providing a positive lifestyle and social interactions with friends and family that can help alleviate symptoms.
Bipolar disorder can be tough to handle alone. Collaborating with the treatment team is extremely important, but be aware that sometimes they may not want to sign release forms. There’s also plenty of additional resources available on the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ site.