Bipolar disorder is a complex and unique diagnosis for many people as every individual handles it differently and can need different support, so trying to help a loved one or family member with bipolar disorder can seem overwhelming at first. Mental health professionals are best equipped to handle the depth of this disorder, but support from those around them is also important for those struggling with bipolar symptoms. Here are some tips for how to support someone with bipolar disorder.
The best baseline for understanding this struggle and how to help someone is to educate yourself. Learn what you can about bipolar disorder, what medicines your loved one is taking for it and their side effects, symptoms, common struggles, supporting someone with this disorder, and anything else that could be useful. Education can also mean to spend time talking with the person you want to support about their triggers and experience so that you can learn their personal battles as well as how you can help those. Discussing this can also let them know you’re there.
You often want to discuss support or try to help when someone is in a manic or depressive episode, which doesn’t work well at all and can become counterproductive or harmful. Take time with them while they’re in a midpoint and doing well to discuss plans for how you can help during their episodes or discuss problematic behavior during episodes that may bother or concern you. This allows you both to talk during a level minded state and can help to prepare both of you for when episodes do occur as well as become more understanding of each other.
It can become incredibly difficult to find the right balance between your own mental health and the person you’re supporting as well as a balance between support and control and so on, but it’s necessary to find one. Remember to keep open and consistent communication to ensure you aren’t controlling their life or becoming overbearing, and to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too. Your mental health and wellbeing is very important, and it’s common that we forget that when helping a loved one.
Be With Them
When your loved one reaches out for professional help or you want them to, it’s important to be there with them if you can. If they are okay with you coming along, come with them to their physician or mental health professional. You can bring a list of symptoms or behaviors that are concerning if there are any, or just be there as support. It can mean a lot for some people to have someone with them. Also, keep track of and understand their treatment plan.
One of the hardest things for those in an episode or struggling with mental health issues can be when others around them are freaked out too. Manic episodes or breaks from reality can be terrifying for those with bipolar disorder and even though what they’re seeing or hearing may not be what you see or hear, it’s very real to them. Try to remain calm and be a source of comfort rather than ridicule. Your calmness can help to ground them while struggling and make the episode easier to manage.
There’s realistically a multitude of ways that you could support someone around you that struggles with this disorder, but these are some helpful starting points that can work for a lot of experiences. It’s important to recognize and remember that each person experiences this struggle very differently and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Make sure you also consider these differences and listen to your loved one to understand what you can do to support them the most.