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What Your Loved Ones Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (BP) doesn't just affect the person diagnosed...it also affects their family, friends and everyone around them. Often times those closest to the sufferer are more confused, scared and upset because they're unsure what to do or how to act, or they may not even fully understand the problem. With some help, encouragement and understanding, family and friends can be great allies to depend on in the hardest of times.

Blame the Illness

One of the key points for any spouse, family member or loved one to understand is a lot of the behavior a person exhibits is the disorder and not the person. If they could control their behavior they probably would so it's unfair to blame the person. Put the blame where it belongs, on the disorder.

Many times this is the hardest thing to do. It's difficult seeing a loved one in a manic or depressed state, and they may even lash out at you. Try to stay calm and remain as supportive as possible.

Be Knowledgeable

There are a lot of things to learn about BP, from medications to therapy to just how to manage everyday life. Ask to go to doctor appointments so you can ask questions. Offer to go with them to some therapy sessions if they are comfortable with you being there. If they aren't ask if they would be comfortable with you scheduling a separate appointment without them so you can learn and ask questions.

Be sure and have your questions written out BEFORE you see the doctor. You want to learn as much about BP as possible keeping in mind that you don't want to add stress to the person living with it. If you're not understanding something, you may want to set up a time with the physician by yourself to go over things in more detail.

Ask Permission

Having someone to share the best and worst times can be a blessing to many people suffering with BP, but sometimes many feel like they have lost all control over their life. Don't assume they want you to take charge of everything. Ask what areas they know they need help with and also ask their physician what areas he or she thinks they'll need help with. When a situation arises stick to what you've talked about and if things need to be adjusted try to involve them as much as they want.

Medication

Medication is often one area that patients need the most help with. Research exactly what types of medications have been prescribed, the dosage and when they need to be taken. In some cases you will need to take over dispensing the medication. You may decide upon diagnosis you will handle all the medication but that is something to discuss between you, the person with BP and their physician.

At various times and for various reasons, people will try to stop taking medications. When a person is in a manic episode they feel like they are fine and no longer need the medication, while in a depressed episode they may not feel the medication is helping. Knowing beforehand that this may occur, you both can plan how you will react to help keep the person on their medications.

Create Plans

With BP it's always good to expect the best but plan for the worst. Knowing what you will do in certain circumstances will help not only the patient but help all those around them. If you have children, arrange for whatever assistance you need from friends and family so they can move in quickly when needed. You will also want to talk to a financial counselor to plan for periods of financial uncertainty.

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