Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can be very hard, whether you’re a partner, parent, child, or friend of someone who has this condition. It’s stressful for everyone it touches.
It’s tough to strike a balance. You want to be supportive and empathetic, because you know the person with bipolar disorder isn’t to blame for their illness. But their behavior may affect you, and you have to take care of yourself and your needs, not just theirs.
Fran Szabo, 61, of Bethlehem, Pa., is one of those moms who speak glowingly about her kids without sounding like she’s trying to one-up other mothers. All three are successful in their careers and personal lives.
But the road to this happiness, Fran acknowledges, was bumpy for her, husband Paul, and sons Thad, 36, Vance, 32, and Ross, 29. Ross and Thad were both diagnosed with bipolar disorder so severe they required psychiatric hospitalizations. For years after that, Thad was estranged from the...
Although there's no easy solution, these tips may help.
Learn. Read information from reputable web sites, books, and articles that explain the condition. The more you know, the better.
Listen. Pay attention to what your loved one has to say. Don't assume that you know what he or she is going through. Don’t dismiss all of their emotions and feelings as signs of their illness. Someone with bipolar disorder may still have valid points.
Encourage them to stick with treatment. Your love one needs to take their bipolar medication and get regular checkups or counseling.
Notice their symptoms. They may not be able to see it as clearly as you do when their bipolar symptoms are active. Or they may deny it. When you see the warning signs of mania or depression, you can try to make sure they get help ASAP.
Do things together. People who are depressed often pull away from others. So encourage your friend or loved one to get out and do things he or she enjoys. Ask him to join you for a walk or a dinner out. If he says no, let it go. Ask again a few days later.
Make a plan. Because bipolar disorder is an unpredictable illness, you should plan for bad times. Be clear. Agree with your loved one about what to do if their symptoms get worse. Have a plan for emergencies. If you both know what to do and what to expect of each other, you'll feel more confident about the future.
Stick to a schedule. If you live with someone who has bipolar disorder, encourage them to stick to a schedule for sleep and other daily activities. Some research shows that it’s helpful to have a regular routine. The person will still need medicine and counseling, but look for everyday things, like exercise and a healthy diet, that supports their overall health.