Bipolar disorder is a difficult mental health condition to manage, characterised as it is by extremes of highs and lows. A person may go through phases of high activity, impulsivity and optimism followed by periods of dark despair and deep depression. For carers and concerned friends and family members, helping an individual with bipolar disorder can be a major challenge. About 1 in 100 people will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives.
Getting the Right Diagnosis and Treatment
Because it has extremes of highs and lows, those with bipolar disorder are often likely to be misdiagnosed. For instance, when they are in a depression they may well be diagnosed with that rather than their true condition. Once the disorder has been diagnosed, part of the solution is to use medication to stabilise a person’s mood whether they are in the manic or depressive stage.
Coming to Terms with Bipolar Disorder
Phases of bipolar disorder can last for months at a time and can be difficult to handle. A manic mood can also be just as dangerous as a depressive one – the person can behave recklessly or unusually and make plans that seem entirely grandiose and totally unrealistic. There may be psychotic episodes in each state and a small number of people experience hallucinations. For those trying to help friends and family with bipolar disorder it is important to do as much research as possible and use all the support networks that are available.
There are practical things you can do to help:
The Impact on Friends and Family
There’s no doubt that having someone in the family who suffers from bipolar disorder can bring large amounts of stress. It’s not just the sufferer who can feel down and anxious about the condition. Family members can go through their own stages of guilt, anger and despair when dealing with it.
While treatment can make a big difference, you may have to realise that things will not be the same again. You not only have to accept the limits of your loved one suffering from the illness but also your own – don’t try to do everything, even if you feel that you have an obligation to do so.
Getting respite care and having your own outlets that release the pressure valve is vital. It can wear you down over time, so the more you can find support and your own safety net the better. This may be within your own family; it may involve getting friends to help or it might involve joining groups where you can meet likeminded people who are going through the same difficulties.