9 Things You Can Do to Support a Loved One With Bipolar Disorder

In America, about 5.7 million adults struggle with bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can be difficult to manage, especially if it’s untreated. 

Does your loved one suffer from bipolar disorder? Learn how to help someone with bipolar disorder and provide the support they need.

1. Learn About Bipolar

One of the best things you can do to help your loved one with bipolar disorder is to educate yourself. The more you know about the disorder, the better you will be able to help them. 

You’re already taking that first step by looking up this article. The more you know about this mental illness, you will be able to help your loved one better.

2. Be Understanding

Mental illnesses can be difficult to live with, especially if they are untreated.

Your friend or family member may try to push you away or try and refuse your help because they are afraid of being judged or worry that you will leave them.

By showing them that you are understanding and that you are there for anything they need help with, they are more likely to reach out to you for help. 

Emphasize to them that they are not a burden and that you just want to help them get better.

3. Be Patient

You will most likely encounter times of frustration when trying to learn how to help someone with bipolar disorder. 

Being patient and trying to understand what they’re going through is a great way to help. They won’t get better overnight, and you need to be patient and trust that time and professional help will start to work. 

4. Reduce Stress

Stress can sometimes make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse, and it can be a trigger for some people. 

You can’t take away all the stress in their life, but you can ask them how you can help to minimize it. That could be helping them with daily tasks or keeping them accountable. You could even offer to exercise with them because exercise is a great way to reduce stress.

5. Respect Boundaries and Limits

When someone has bipolar disorder, they can have violent mood swings that can be difficult to control.

You need to respect their boundaries and make sure you don’t accuse them or blame them for having the mood swings. Having a mental illness is not their fault. 

You also have to realize that while you want to help them, you can’t force them to do anything. The best thing you can do is be there for when they need you.

6. Help Them Remember to Take Their Medications

If your loved one is taking medication for bipolar disorder, you can offer to help keep them accountable for taking it.

For some people, taking medication combined with therapy is one of the only ways to make sure that they can manage their illness. 

You could help them do this by just sending them a quick text in the morning or night as a gentle reminder that it’s the time to take pills again if they haven’t already. You don’t want to accuse them or shame them for having forgotten or not doing it, though.

7. Keep an Eye Out for Their Manic Episodes

When someone has bipolar disorder, they can go through many different mood swing episodes. 

For your loved one, it may be difficult to try and spot. However, as an outsider, you may be able to notice signs that they are going to start again. 

If you notice the signs of an episode starting again, you should tell the person so that they can be aware of it. And then try to help them avoid it by doing things like exercise, or hanging out at a stress-free event. 

If your loved one is seeing a therapist, you may also want to make sure that they are keeping their appointments, especially before an episode.

8. Offer to Go to a Support Group with Them

If they think going to a support group would help or benefit them but are too scared to go for the first time, you could offer to go with them. 

If you go with them, that could ease some of their anxieties about it. Even if they don’t end up wanting you to go with them, it will still be nice of you to offer. It will show them that you care about them. 

9. Be There for Them

The most important and helpful thing you can do is to just be there for them when they need help.

People with bipolar disorders can either experience intense highs or intense lows, which can include depression. If they are feeling depressed, they may tend to isolate themselves. 

You don’t want to push them too much, but you do need to try and help make sure that they don’t close everyone and everything out of their life. 

Even if they keep declining your invitations, make sure that you keep inviting them. Even if they don’t show up, it will still show them that you care about them. They may even accept your invitation at one point.

While you need to make sure that they don’t isolate themselves, you should also know that you need to give them some space. You don’t want to smother them; you should respect their boundaries.

How to Help Someone With Bipolar: Get Professional Help Today

Figuring out how to help someone with bipolar disorder can be a difficult and tricky process. 

Thankfully, you won’t have to do it on your own. There are resources out there and professionals who can help you.

Reach out for help today here.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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