Does someone you love have bipolar? If so, you’re not alone. Nearly 5.7 million adults in the United States live with this condition. And, there is a sizeable population of young people also living with bipolar.
The majority of individuals develop bipolar between the ages of 15 and 19, a time in your life that is already quite stressful and confusing.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about how to help someone with bipolar, and make sure your friend, family member or partner feels loved and supported through his or her journey.
Read on for more.
1. Don’t Stop Inviting Them Out
A person with bipolar may have trouble leaving their home. They also may have deep depressive episodes where they stay on their own and do not want company.
While some people may see this a sign to stop engaging with their friend or family member, don’t fall into that trap. Instead, continue to invite them out and let them know you want to see them.
If you continue to do so, your friend will know you’re here for them.
2. Ask Them What They Need
Instead of assuming what your friend needs or wants, ask them. Sometimes what people need of you isn’t as clear cut as you’d expect. They might even just want you to come over and just order dinner with them or sit and watch television.
You don’t always have to do a grand gesture to make them feel appreciated. But asking what you can do is incredibly helpful.
3. Offer to Go to Therapy or a Support Group
If this person is a member of your family or your partner, you may want to accompany them to therapy or a support group. This way, you can learn even more about bipolar, as well as their particular case.
Their therapist, or the support group, may be able to explain things about bipolar that your friend or family member felt uncomfortable discussing. This way, you’ll feel as though you really understand your friend or family member in a much more meaningful way.
4. Do Research
Don’t assume you know everything about bipolar from what your friend has or has not told you. They may not have disclosed everything, or may not know a whole lot about it themselves. Just being diagnosed doesn’t make someone an expert.
So, do some research and see what you can find out about bipolar. This way, you can be much more educated on their symptoms and some of their behavior.
5. Don’t Try to Cure Them
Did your mother’s sister’s postman cure themselves of bipolar by eating gin-soaked raisins? That’s fantastic, but keep it to yourself. Pseudoscience abounds, as do anecdotal claims that people swear up and down work. These false claims often sell false hope to people who are in desperate situations or can make people really annoyed.
Even if you believe that some alternative medicine cure is better for your friend or family member than what their doctor has prescribed, now is not the time to bring it up. And don’t tell them, “If you really wanted to get better, you’d try anything.”
This kind of discussion can create tension between family members and friends and isn’t necessary.
6. Don’t Shame Them For Taking Medication
Many people who have been diagnosed with bipolar take medication. That’s absolutely normal and there’s no reason to say anything disparaging about it.
There are many individuals who feel as though taking psychotropic meds is the “easy way out” or that if your friend “just exercised” or “just went outside” it would cure them.
If your friend is under the care of a physician and taking their medication, do not interfere or make them feel guilty for managing their bipolar in this way. It is their body and their choice.
7. Let Them Know You’re Here to Listen and Mean It
Don’t hold it against your friend or family member if they want to speak to you. If you truly want to be supportive, listen to them whenever they need to talk. If you don’t want your friend or family member to speak to you when they need it, you should set this boundary very clearly.
Otherwise, when you tell them you’re there, mean it, and be there.
8. Don’t Try to Fix The Problem
Sometimes, people just need to vent. And those who have bipolar are no different. As someone who isn’t trained in the medical field, you don’t have the qualifications to fix any of the problems the individual is facing, so don’t try to do so.
If your friend or family member does ask for help, for example, managing stress or switching things around to make their life more manageable with bipolar, you can definitely do what you’re capable of. Helping them discuss what they might need from an employer is very different than trying to fix someone’s bipolar or manage symptoms you’re not qualified to manage.
How to Help Someone with Bipolar: Be There
The key to how to help someone with bipolar is to just be there for them. Anyone going through a rough time needs to know that they’re loved, supported and have a soft place to fall. You need to be that for your friend so that he or she can move forward in their life.