The original article was published in “How to Deal with” on January 20, 2012.
Bipolar disorder is an illness like any other medical condition. If someone you know or care about, like a family member, friend or a colleague, is suffering from bipolar disorder, your love and support can go a long way. Here are a few ways to understand and deal with a bipolar person.
1. Learn about Bipolar Disorder
Equip yourself with knowledge and information about the disease. The more you know, the better prepared you are. Study about the disorder, what are the causes, the symptoms, the treatment options, dealing on a personal level and so on. Generally, bipolar disorder is misunderstood as a mental condition and the patient is not given due respect. It is important to understand that this disorder is a disease just like diabetes, etc. and it has to be treated accordingly. Mania and depression are two sides of the symptoms of this disease. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms. When affected person is talking about himself/herself too much, he/she may come across as a conceited person. On the contrary, this is a symptom of mania. Many a times, the symptoms of the disorder are misunderstood and are taken as the inherent personality traits of the person. So it is very important to learn about the disease on the very onset. Do not act like a layman while dealing with your loved ones.
2. Encourage the person to get help
Bipolar disorder is a real illness and it needs medical treatment like any other illness. The affected people are often reluctant to admit that they need medical attention as they feel embarrassed or are in a state of denial. If you notice that someone you care about is displaying any of the symptoms of the disease, talk to them, help them to come out of their shell and encourage them to see a specialist. If the person by no means want to admit to such a possibility, do not argue. You need to be sensitive with your loved ones. Instead of forcing them to see a specialist, suggest a routine medical check up. Meanwhile you can contact the suggested doctor and talk about your concerns about bipolar disorder. The affected person has to understand that without immediate medical attention, the condition can worsen.
3. Be patient and understanding
One thing is very important in dealing with a bipolar person and that is patience. You have to understand that bipolar disorder is nobody’s fault and it is of no use getting frustrated. Even if the person is undergoing medical treatment, he/she is not going to recover overnight. Managing bipolar disorder is a continuous process and so needs sheer patience. You need to be caring and supportive of a bipolar person. You need to constantly remind the person that you are there when he/she needs you. That you understand their problems and always are ready to help them. Compliment them on a regular basis. That will boost their confidence and hep them stabilize their behavior. Whenever possible, take part in their treatment. Go with them on visits to the doctor. Family therapy goes a long way in managing a bipolar person.
4. Accept the person’s limits
You will have to accept and understand that a bipolar person can not control his/her moods. Bipolar people can not simply snap out of their manic or depressed episodes on will. It is no use of shouting at them or asking them to stop acting the way they do. They can not control their moods through will power or self control. Do not expect anything extraordinary from such people. But again expecting too little can hinder recovery. So it is essential to strike a balance between encouraging independence and providing support. You also have to accept the fact that you can not cure a bipolar person. It is not in your hands.
5. Communicate honestly
Having an open and frank communication with the affected goes a long way. Let the person know that he/she is not alone and that you are always there for him/her. Inquire from time to time how they are feeling and if they need to talk about anything. Always make an effort to answer their questions honestly. But at the same time, avoid arguing or engaging them in an intense conversation. During episodes, bipolar people often say hurtful things out of excitement which they do not actually mean. Do not take such comments personally. Avoid talking or arguing with them during such manic episodes.