Supporting Families Living With Bipolar Disorder
Families Living With Bipolar Disorder
The frequent mood swings associated with bipolar disorder can be confusing and emotionally exhausting for family members. Especially younger children may not understand why their loved one is happy one minute and sad or agitated the next. Patience, education, and compassion are required to support a family member with bipolar disorder. Below are some tips to help you on your journey.
Tips for helping family members support a loved one with the bipolar disease.
Avoid labeling!- Try not to identify your loved one by their disease. Avoid phrases like “Teresa is bipolar”. After all, we don’t say, “Teresa is depression” or “Teresa is cancer.” It’s much better to call it what it is. “Teresa has bipolar disorders/ disease.”
Understand behaviors- Become an expert on the subject. Knowledge can help demystify the unknown. Education for the whole family can improve symptom management and medication compliance, help prevent relapses, and alleviate stress for everyone. Learn to view the behaviors of your loved one in the context of the illness. Their behavior is not personal. If your loved one suddenly becomes upset, agitated or angry about something, it may be a symptom of their illness. This requires patience and compassion, not lecturing!
Be aware of your own behaviors- If you are feeling angry, upset, or anxious about your loved one’s behavior, those feelings will be transmitted to your loved one and may negatively affect your relationship. If you monitor your own feelings and behaviors, you’ll be better equipped to help your loved one. If you’re simply having an off day yourself, let your loved one know and then lay low for a while. It’s important to tell your loved one how you’re feeling so that they don’t feel rejected, or like you’re ignoring them.
Learn the symptoms- One of the best things you can do for yourself is to become educated about the symptoms of bipolar disease. The National Institutes of Mental Health offers a lot of free and credible information.
Know the warning signs- Suicide, which is both a stereotypic yet highly individualized act, is a common endpoint for many patients with the severe psychiatric illness. The mood disorders (depression and bipolar manic-depression) are by far the most common psychiatric conditions associated with suicide. At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once.