Helping a loved one struggling with bipolar disorder can be challenging. Navigating extreme mood swings and unpredictable behaviors is difficult for both the person with the disease and those around them. While it is essential to help manage the symptoms, it is also imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of the disease. Dr. Maninderpal Dhillon – a practicing physician based out of Michigan, explains how family members can offer their unwavering support to those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental illness characterized by extreme changes in an individual’s mood, energy levels, and activity participation. Affecting nearly 2.8 percent of U.S. adults, the average individual starts showing symptoms around 25 years of age. Individuals diagnosed may experience several primary symptoms including mania, hypomania, and depression. As a result, those with bipolar disorder often have difficulty managing everyday tasks and maintaining personal relationships.
Dr. Dhillon explains that bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition; however, there are various treatment options to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. While medication is the foundation of treatment, there are various therapeutic strategies to help minimize its severity.
It is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of bipolar disorder to minimize side effects. Dr. Maninderpal Dhillon explains that friends and family members can help to stabilize the various symptoms by establishing an effective support channel. He claims that bipolar disorder is a lifelong process, so it is critical to perform extensive research on the disease and be mindful of an increase in daily responsibilities. For those that are unsure of where to begin, it is always best to consult a medical professional on how you can aid in their treatment and recovery.
Adopt a listening stance
Listening is a powerful way of connecting and supporting someone going through a difficult time. When your loved one wants to talk about the challenges that they are facing, try and listen openly without judgement. Sometimes, all they need is a listening ear to help them feel heard. If you struggle with active listening, utilize some of the following techniques:
- Actively pay attention without having a parallel conversation in your head
- Remain calm during the conversation
- Steer clear of arguments
- Avoid stressful topics and confrontation
Have their back
Individuals with bipolar disorder often struggle to accept help and are met with feelings of anger and helplessness says, Dr. Maninderpal Dhillon. The best way to support a loved one living with the disorder is to reassure them regularly that you have their back. Although this does not mean you must agree with their actions or behaviors, it communicates that you care and that you understand that they are more than the illness. Such reassurance is especially crucial when depressive episodes set in and the person feels fearful and hopeless.
Support them in treatment
Treatment usually entails numerous therapy sessions and visits to the doctor’s office. A great way to show support is to accompany them to their appointments. Dr. Dhillon states that waiting for your loved one outside can be a massive boost to their morale and provide them with the motivation to continue with their treatment.
Have an emergency plan
Bipolar disorder is unpredictable, so it is important to establish various coping strategies during periods of extreme mania or depression. Likewise, ensure all family members understand what steps to take during times of stress.
While it is important to know how to help a loved one struggling with bipolar disorder, it is also essential to know when to seek professional help and how to set boundaries. If you feel there is something you are unable to deal with, do not hesitate to call your loved one’s doctor or even 911. Dr. Maninderpal Dhillon explains that the best way to support someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder is to ensure positive, open communication at all times.