Skip to content

Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Bipolar Disorder: Tips for Family and Friends

Do loved ones a favor: Help them stick with treatment for bipolar disorder.
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature

Ongoing treatment -- both psychotherapy and medication -- is essential to controlling the mood swings of bipolar disorder. How can family members help their loved one stick with treatment?

"Learn as much as you can about the disease," says Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and author of An Unquiet Mind. "Read and read some more. Join support groups. You'll get emotional support and information you need."

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder (pronounced "bipolar two") is a form of mental illness. Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the "up" moods never reach full-blown mania. The less-intense elevated moods in bipolar II disorder are called hypomanic episodes, or hypomania. A person affected by bipolar II disorder has had at least one hypomanic episode in his or her life. Most people with bipolar II disorder suffer more...

Read the Bipolar II Disorder article > >

Also, learn to watch for early signs of mania, especially insomnia. "Sleep deprivation is the easiest way for someone to become manic," Jamison tells WebMD. "Families and friends need to keep on top of that. If a patient is having sleep problems, get treatment for it."

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers these suggestions to families and friends, to help a loved one with bipolar disorder stay with treatment:

Find the right doctor. Help them find a psychiatrist and other health providers who take time to listen closely. Encourage second opinions, if you feel it's necessary. Help by making appointments.

Make doctor appointments stress-free. Put together a list of questions to ask the doctor. Offer to go along to appointments. Get to know the doctors, nurses, and other practitioners involved in treatment. 

Learn about bipolar disorder drugs. You should know about dosages, possible side effects, and what to do.

Relieve fears. Explain the role of medications -- that they greatly relieve symptoms without altering personality.

Gently remind. Little "medication reminders" can help ensure sticking with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask for permission to make these reminders.

Chart progress and problems. Help in keeping records of symptoms, treatment, and setbacks. A journal or calendar works well for this.

Relieve daily stress. Establish a daily routine that your bipolar loved one can easily handle. Help with everyday chores, like running errands. Identify triggers that make symptoms worse.

Use words of support. These will help: "I'm here for you." "You can get through this." "Don't give up." "Your brain is lying to you right now; it's part of the illness."

Encourage positive self-talk. Here's one example: "My life is valuable and worthwhile, even if it doesn't feel that way right now."

Today on WebMD

lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
Pills on blank prescription paper
Learn about this popular bipolar disorder medication.
 
serious looking young woman
Assess your symptoms.
teen girl in bad mood
How is each one different?
 
Feeling Ups and Downs
ASSESSMENT
Bipolar or Schizo
Article
 
Foods to Avoid
Article
Man being scolded by his shadow
Article
 
lunar eclipse
Slideshow
depressed man
Article
 
young women not speaking
Article
man talking with therapist
Article