I Think My Loved One Is Bipolar. What Should I Do?

Sep 07, 2023

I Think My Loved One Is Bipolar. What Should I Do?

Living with bipolar disorder isn’t easy — for the person with the condition or their loved ones. But you don’t have to face things alone. If you suspect someone you love has bipolar disorder, here are a few things you can do.

Watching someone struggle with their mental health comes with many challenges, especially when it’s someone you love. And it becomes even harder when the person hasn’t received a diagnosis yet. But there are ways you can help them get the care they need.

Our experts at Associates in Behavioral Science treat the full range of psychological and emotional conditions affecting people of all ages, including children as young as nine. They see firsthand how urgent these needs can be, especially with undiagnosed conditions.

If you think your loved one has bipolar disorder, here’s what you should do.

1. Learn about bipolar disorder

There are several mental health disorders, so it’s important to understand as much as possible about bipolar disorder to recognize the signs in your loved one.

While it can develop at earlier ages, the average onset of bipolar disorder is at 25. There are different types of the condition, but they typically share emotional phases known as “mood episodes.” 

Mood episodes describe periods where people switch from extreme happiness, joy, or irritability — mania — to states of depression, or sadness and hopelessness. Mood episodes can also impact energy levels, sleep patterns, and daily behaviors. It’s also possible for people to have delusions or hallucinations during severe episodes. 

Understanding how these mood episodes work can help you react appropriately when they arise.

2. Listen and practice patience

It’s natural for people to want to help or fix things. However, sometimes the best answer is to listen instead of coming up with the perfect piece of advice.

If you suspect someone you love has bipolar disorder, let them talk about the challenges they face. In response, offer understanding and acceptance to help them feel comfortable or accept their condition. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, and management is often most successful with people who have a strong support system.

Sometimes, just reminding a person you care and are there for them is enough motivation to help them seek help. 

3. Encourage them to get help

Learning you have bipolar disorder can feel overwhelming, but this condition requires lifelong professional management. Worse yet, nearly 50% of people with this disorder don’t follow their treatment program long-term.

Encourage your loved one to get the care they need and ask them how you can help with their treatment. For example, they might like help finding a provider, rides to appointments, or encouragement following their management strategy, like medication usage. 

Try to find a way to champion their treatment in a way that’s encouraging and supportive but also encourages their independence.

4. Don’t ignore your own needs

There’s a reason the flight attendant says to put on your oxygen mask before helping others — it’s easy to overlook our own needs. This becomes even more common when your loved one has bipolar disorder.

When navigating daily life when someone you love has bipolar disorder, remember you need to keep yourself healthy, too. Don’t ignore the importance of eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

At the end of the day, you can’t take bipolar disorder personally, but that can be easier said than done. Counseling and therapy groups can also ensure you get the support you need and offer tools and personalized recommendations for your unique situation. 

5. Recognize when it’s too much

Finally, it’s essential to understand that some situations are too difficult to handle on your own and can even become dangerous. If you feel like a crisis is brewing, don’t wait to seek emergency care, either by calling 911 or taking your loved one to an emergency room.

Not sure what constitutes a mental health emergency? Common signs include:

  • Dramatic changes in mood, behavior, or personality
  • Inability to perform daily tasks, like bathing
  • Increased agitation, violence, or out-of-control behavior
  • Risky behavior to self and others, like self-harm or substance use
  • Increased isolation
  • Paranoia or lost touch with reality
  • Giving away personal possessions
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Sudden calm or cheerfulness after despondency
  • Tying up loose ends or seeming to say goodbye

These are just a few signs of a mental health crisis. If you have concerns about your loved one, play it safe and don’t wait to contact an expert.

Do you think your loved one has bipolar disorder? Contact our experts at Associates in Behavioral Science to learn more today.