Helping Someone Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Helping Someone Cope with Bipolar Disorder

March 30 is World Bipolar Day

If you are a friend or a family member of someone that is living with bipolar disorder, you know how difficult it can be to maintain a positive relationship with that person, try as you might. But there are ways you can help too. Learning about the disorder is a good first step. It includes uncontrollable and disabling depression as well as periods of unexplainable energy, also known as mania. Symptoms can vary, but it is important to know that with a combination of psychotherapy and mood stabilizing medications this disorder can be treated. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 3 percent of adults in the United States have bipolar disorder. The condition most often develops in older teenagers or young adults, with the average age being 25.

man comforting upset woman

“Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify in children and teens. It's often hard to tell whether these are normal ups and downs, the results of stressor trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder,” explains Alicia Day, MS, LPC, School Based Clinical Services Supervisor, Counseling and Wellness Centers, Acenda. “The most noted signs of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may include severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.” Work with your friend or family member/loved one to create a plan to support them when they are not doing well. Here are some way to help someone you care about who has bipolar disorder.

  • Educate yourself. The more you know about this mental illness, the more you’ll be able to help.
  • Listen. You don’t always need to provide answers or advice to be helpful.
  • Be a champion. For people with bipolar disorder, it can sometimes feel like no one is on their side. If they know you are there for them, they will feel so much better.
  • Be active in their treatment. Attending a counseling session or doctor’s appointment with them shows you care and you will have a better understanding of the disorder and what the person is going through.

“Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder,” adds Day. If you or someone you love have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to an emergency room, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers can help you work towards setting goals for mental wellness. Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632) for more information.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration