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Monday, September 15, 2008 rick, Community Member, asks

Q: what to do when bipolar person is out of emotional control

how do you help a bipolar person when they become overwhelmed with their emotions and can not settle themselves down but continue to denigrate themself and will not listen to anything to get them out of the cycle

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Answers (2)
John McManamy, Health Guide
9/17/08 1:10pm

Hi, Rick. I second BipolarBear's advice. I will add this:


Someone in an emotional state - whether "normal" or bipolar - is by definition irrational. So - as a general rule - rationality and logic are not going to work. It certainly doesn't work with me when I'm out of control.


So your courses of action need to be "irrational." There are two possibilities:


1. Acknowledge the person's reality. "I'm listening," and "I see your point" are two very good things to say. This will help calm down the individual. Suddenly he or she doesn't feel so alone. Whatever you do, don't counter-attack. Don't try to justify your own actions or to prove how wrong the individual is. You may be totally in the right, but the individual will perceive your response as hostile. The goal here is to calm down the individual and establish a rapport. You may not resolve the issue right away. Keep in mind, it takes time for the brain to reset to normal. Do what you can to ease the concerns of the individual so he or she is not faced with the impossible task of going to sleep with a racing brain.


The disadvantage is that you may not have time to establish a rapport. If a two-year-old is about to run out into the road you don't bargain. This brings up the other option:


2. React fast and hard, as if you were dealing with a two-year-old about to run out into the road. "You are way out of line!" and "This is totally unacceptable!" in a very loud voice may be appropriate. Here, you are imposing your reality on the other person's reality. This can have the effect of jolting the individual out of their present state of mind, or, at the very least, signal that very severe consequences are in store if the behavior doesn't stop right now. Again, don't try to reason or explain. The object here is for you to take charge and assume control.


The disadvantage is that the fast and hard response can escalate the situation.


As a general rule, go with option 1, and save option 2 for emergencies. Keep in mind your response needs to match the particular situation. Both responses require a lot of skill and the ability to read the situation.


Hope this helps -



bipolarbear, Community Member
9/15/08 5:33pm

Rick, I would need so much more context to understand your question. For instance, if your person is in treatment, explore options like meditation, isolating him/herself to a quiet room, allowing them to feel their feelings without constantly checking on them (this is a fine line but it ticks me off when I am manic to constantly be checked on--are you all right honey? ing)...but here's the thing, if your person is not in treatment and their mood is perhaps very down they are truly not aware that you can hear what they are saying as "negative attitude". You cannot cheerlead them to be better. Perhaps their brain chemistry, perhaps their cognitive outlook needs worked on. So if this is the case seek a professional diagnosis/therapy with psychiatrists and psychologists. I have also found support groups invaluable and many of those who come are support persons needing support. Hope this helps 'cause I feel I am burbling on without having more context. Best of luck to you.

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By rick, Community Member— Last Modified: 06/03/12, First Published: 09/15/08