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Have a healthy relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder

Frank Healy Licensed Professional Counselor, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory Associates For Life Enhancement

While everyone has times when they are in an extreme mood, a person with bipolar can be very depressed and at other times be so happy that they seem like they are driven by a motor. Their mood can change very suddenly, and it often seems that there is no apparent cause. This is called bipolar disorder. As the name implies, they are often in one extreme of mood or the other. If you know one of these people it may be hard for you to understand them, and it can seem that they are making you have mood swings. This article will help you understand more of why they act the way they do, and how to help them.


Do understand that bipolar is an illness

People with bipolar are subject to extreme mood swings. While everyone tends to feel good when their life is going well and get sad or depressed when things are not well, people with bipolar have more extremes of mood. They can get so depressed that they do not want to get out of bed and cry or get angry when there seems to have been nothing that provoked it. Conversely, at other times they seem so happy that they talk and move faster than anyone and do not seem to need any sleep. They get irritable if anyone tried to slow them down.

Chemically, this is caused by having too many or too little chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. When you understand this you will be more accepting of them and less judgmental.

Do accept it when they say they don’t want to interact with you

Whether the person is depressed or manicky they often do not want to interact with anyone. When they tell you to leave them alone, tell them they can talk to you later. This will make them feel comfortable to approach you later.

Do understand that bipolar disorder doesn’t define them

People with bipolar disorder often say that they will never find the right partner because the mood swings scare people away. However, just because they have bipolar disorder, it is not the only attribute that they have, and are functioning human beings with emotions and beliefs just like everybody else. People with bipolar are often intelligent, caring, and have good qualities. When they are on the right medication and in therapy, their mood can be stabilized and they function well. They need recognition for the things that they do well.

Do participate in their therapy with them

Understanding that bipolar is a disease is only the first step in helping them. They should allow you to come to some of their therapy sessions so you can understand them better and know how to help them. When someone first goes to therapy they often do not want others participating. However, they should include you after a few sessions. Enroll in your own therapy if you need to learn to take care of yourself. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a wonderful support group for family members of people with mental illness.

Do encourage them to be at their best

People with bipolar need the same concern and support that everyone else has. Encourage them to live life as everyone else does with the added duty of taking care of their illness.


Do not blame yourself for their mood

People with bipolar disorder often get depressed or agitated for no apparent reason. There could be a sudden shift in their brain chemistry, a negative or upsetting thought they had, or any other reasons which may not be apparent to you. You need to take care of yourself and not take it personally. Often they will apologize afterwards when they realize they have overreacted.

Do not make him/her do something that they do not want to do

One of the challenges of having bipolar disorder is that they approach every situation they encounter with apprehension of how it will affect their mood. If someone dies in the family, they fear that they will go into a severe depression, and if you go on a vacation, it may send them into a manic phase. Your first reaction to this might be, “So I should never take them on a vacation or do anything fun with them?” No. If they are well medicated and in therapy they can fare well. However, sometimes they might just not feel right about something and it is not helpful to make them do it.

Do not allow them to use the excuse that they are bipolar to disrespect you

This may seem like a contradiction to Don’t #1. Although you do not have to take their mood personally, you do need to remind them that they are still responsible for their behavior, and you will not take abuse from them. Having bipolar disorder may cause people to overreact at times, but this is no excuse for causing verbal or physical abuse to another.

Do not use platitudes to make them feel better

People with bipolar can benefit from changing their thoughts. This is called cognitive therapy. However, telling them that everything will be all right when they are not feeling right, or telling them to get over it and move on will just frustrate and aggravate them. It is better to just help them accept how they are feeling.

Do not try and match their mood

Some people believe that caring includes mimicking the mood of the person they care about. If the person is sad, they become sad. If the person is happy, they get happy. When your loved one has mood swings, you need to take care of yourself. You need to have interests outside of taking care of others.

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Having a loved one who has bipolar can be challenging. Follow these tips above to help you learn what to do and what not to do to take care of them and take care of yourself.

More expert advice about Bipolar Disorder

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Frank HealyLicensed Professional Counselor, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory

Frank Healy is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of New Jersey. He counsels people with depression and anxiety. He has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. He remembers every day of his life since he was six years old. This incl...

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