Top 9 Ways to Support Your Partner with Bipolar Disorder
A diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be frightening to a spouse or loved one. Stereotypes of bipolar behavior in the news and tabloids may have colored your views on what to expect in a relationship. You want to show your support but don’t know how. Start with these tips, suggestions for helping your loved one cope with the disorder.
Boost your partner’s confidence
According to a study in Bipolar Disorders, people with bipolar disorder have unstable self-esteems – grandiose self-esteem in mania and low self-esteem in periods of depression. This is true to some extent even during remission. That’s why it’s especially important to make your partner or loved one feel good about him or herself whenever and however you can. Something as simple as regular text messages throughout the day will bolster confidence.
Take an active role in bipolar treatment
Not all persons with bipolar disorder adhere to their treatment, including a medication regimen. Symptoms get in the way. They forget. They think they no longer need them. A gentle reminder from you can go a long way in keeping them faithful to their treatment plan. 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. Your input is important.
Recognize there are things a bipolar patient can’t do
Go with it
Try to go with your partner’s fluctuating moods as best as possible and enjoy the perks when you can. For instance, enjoy his or her heightened libido during a hypomania and use it to enhance intimacy. But also understand that medications may decrease sex drive according to the American Family Physician. Use that time to attend to personal projects and have some “me” time.
Be there during bad times
Like most of the human race, persons with bipolar have bad days. Don’t let this scare you. Don’t put up a defense or brace yourself for something terrible or traumatic. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), many people don’t understand bipolar disorder. Let your partner know that no matter what, you are there to understand, talk and be supportive.
Accept your partner’s bipolar diagnosis
Although medication and life-style changes can certainly rein in bipolar symptoms and make the disorder easier to manage, bipolar isn’t an illness that can be cured indefinitely. That said, a bipolar diagnosis is not always a bad thing. Your loved one is the same person he or she has always been. Accept the diagnosis for what it is, and know you will enjoy times when the condition is under control.
One of the most loving things you can do for your partner is learn about his or her condition. By arming yourself with knowledge, you can know better what to expect and pick up on red flags before a crisis hits. Getting educated will also help you separate the illness from the person and lead to more compassion.
Have courage when life isn’t easy
Let’s be real. A bipolar diagnosis takes its toll on every relationship. The process of reining in unhealthy coping mechanisms and moving toward health isn’t an easy, smooth path. Finding one’s way to recovery involves trekking down an uneven, gravel road with plenty of potholes and rubble. Knowing that it sometimes gets worse before it gets better will give you the perspective you need to persevere through the tough times.
Watch for triggers and behavior changes
Watch for clues or telltales of changes in your partner’s mood or frame of mind. As a partner or loved one, you are in the best position to recognize the signs and help him or her identify and understand them. Keep a notebook and chart moods and episodes to identify a pattern your partner can use during his journey back to wellness.