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These tips may help you be supportive of someone with bipolar disorder, no matter what the relationship:
- Recognize that no one is to blame for the condition.
- Remind them that their mental health condition is as real as any other medical illness.
- Encourage them to seek professional help.
- Accept their limits as well as your own.
- Ask them how you can help day-to-day to relieve stress.
- Learn about their medications. Make sure they take them as directed.
- Recognize that stress and overstimulation may trigger episodes.
- Know when to walk away. If they are combative or in the midst of an episode, it may not be the right time to confront them or have a serious discussion.
- Be patient. There are treatments that help, but it may take time to find the right one.
- With their permission, go with them to doctor appointments and therapy sessions. It’s critical you understand their condition as much as possible.
- Take a break. In a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, caring for the person with the condition is often the focus. Don’t forget to take care of yourself by eating right, exercising, seeking therapy if needed, and giving yourself breaks.
- Recognize manic and depressive symptoms and adjust your response accordingly.
- Have a crisis plan in place that includes emergency numbers of therapists, doctors, and psychiatrists.
Helping someone stick to daily routines may lessen their episodes. According to a 2008 study, people with bipolar disorder have “more sensitive circadian clocks.” When the internal circadian clock is disrupted, bipolar episodes may occur. The study showed that behavioral therapy focused on regulating daily routines such as sleep habits, meals, and physical activity may help.
How you approach issues with someone who has bipolar disorder may mean the difference between a full-blown episode or a calmer reaction.