How to Support a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

ATsai Editor
  • If your spouse or loved one has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be wondering what to expect and how to best show your support. Here are suggestions for helping them cope with the disorder. 


    Boost your partner's confidence


    If you can make your partner or loved one feel good about him or herself, their treatment will be much easier.  So will both of your lives.


    Take an active role in bipolar treatment


    Remind your partner to take their pills. Don't count on them to stick faithfully to their medication regimen, as they may slip from time to time. If they are seeing a psychiatrist or counselor, it could be helpful to join him or her for a session. At minimum, if you have questions or concerns, write them down so your partner can take them to doctor appointments.

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    Recognize there are things a bipolar patient can't do


    Some everyday tasks are difficult for people with bipolar disorder to handle. For example, bill paying can be stressful, creating anger and frustration. Try to be understanding and help your partner.


    Remember your partner's strengths


    Appreciate your partner's strengths and superhero abilities that come from bipolar disorder. For instance, go along during a hypomanic phase when he or she wants sex multiple times per day.  But also understand that medication may lead to a reduced sex drive at times. 


    Be there during bad times


    When he or she is in a bad frame of mind, don't be afraid. Don't put up a defense or brace yourself for something bad. Be there to talk and support your loved one. While they may be nasty during a bad phase, stay with them.


    Embrace your partner's bipolar diagnosis


    Accept your partner's bipolar diagnosis. It's not going to change. His or her condition may not improve. Medication can control bipolar, but your partner won't be "cured." Realize that a bipolar diagnosis is not always a bad thing. Your loved one is the same person he or she has always been. 


    Your partner may embarrass you at times


    Your partner may do something bold, brash or stupid. Step up and support them in a non-condescending way, even though you may be embarrassed. Don't say "that's the bipolar disorder talking" or openly blame it on the condition. Accept your loved one, don't dwell on it, give them a hug to show that you understand and move on. Your partner will be grateful.


    Remember that life won't be easy


    A bipolar diagnosis takes its toll on every relationship. Remember that things may not be easy. When bad episodes come, they may be more dangerous and volatile than before. Rather than using his or her old coping techniques, after a bipolar diagnosis your partner may try harder to rein in  their behavior. And this could make things worse.


    Watch for triggers and behavior changes


    Watch for clues of upcoming changes to your partner's mood or frame of mind. You are in the best position to recognize the signs and help them identify and understand them.


Published On: July 14, 2014