How To Support A Loved One Through Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a complex ailment that deals with the highs and lows of an individual’s mood spectrum. It can be very difficult to judge how a person is feeling and even more so to understand what the person is going through. The patient needs a different kind of attention during their highs and different during their lows. In this article, we shall see what to do during these contrastingly different phases of a patient’s mood cycle.

In a general scenario, it is very important not to take the consequences of the symptoms personally. The family members need to understand that it is the disorder that is causing them to behave in a certain way and that this is not the person being themself. The family member needs to be aware of the mood shifts that are a routine part of this ailment. A person might feel great one day and would be able to conquer the world and the very next day might even feel difficult to merely get out of the bed.

Family members play a very important role in a patient’s life; they need to be prepared for a crisis situation. The patient might go through sudden changes of mood and might take disastrous life-altering decisions and for that, they need someone by their side double-checking their life decisions. The patient might even get suicidal thoughts and for that, the family members need to be prepared and should be willing to take these thoughts seriously as one might never know when these thoughts might turn into actions.

Manic / Hypo-manic Phase

During Manic or hypo-manic days, a patient could feel very energetic and might take rash decisions and these are the times when they need the support of their family the most. During these times we should spend time with them and get to know what is going on in their mind so that we could stop them from damaging their life based on their excited nature. During these times, it’s important, to be honest, and compassionate with the patient, so that they feel heard and understood.

It is also possible that they skip meals and have an erratic sleep schedule thus it is important to make food that would make them want to eat and also is important to let them sleep whenever they can because complete sleep is progress towards a healthy mind.

As their mind is racing during the manic/hypo-manic phase, it’s important to keep a quiet environment around them to give their mind a breathing room so that they don’t go into an over-drive.

And most of all, it is important to not take their behaviour personally as their behaviour is more often than not a symptom of their disorder and not them themselves.

Depressive Phase

During depressive days, the patient’s behaviour and moods are completely opposite. They feel a lack of energy and mood to do anything. They might even find life meaningless and risk suicidal urges may increase.

During such times it’s important to keep realistic expectations from the patient regarding the amount of work they can accomplish. It is also important to provide them with support and assistance in finishing their daily tasks.

The family members should encourage any and every kind of activity the patient desires because it is important to have some kind of activity in their routine. The activity should also include getting out of the house even if it is for mere 15 minutes.

Treatment

With respect to treatment, the first and foremost thing to do is to find a qualified Psychiatrist and a Therapist. This ailment requires medical attention and that is something you should not ignore. Patients tend to skip doctor’s appointment when they are feeling better or hypo-manic which is why helping them keep to the schedule is very important.

With treatment it is also important to have a mood journal where the patient can document how their mood has been fluctuating between doctor’s appointments, this also helps the doctor or the therapist to gauge what has been going on. This also helps you keep a track of improvement or decline and get ahead of the disorder. While doing this you should also be on the lookout for the warning signs of relapse into depression or mania, the mood journal is very helpful in this aspect.

While talking to the doctor it’s important to speak freely and without any form of shame or guilt, a non-judgemental doctor is of prime importance. When the doctor prescribes medication, it is important to get educated about them and understand the possible side effects. Lastly, educating yourself about the disorder is also very important in creating a healthy atmosphere for the patient, it helps them feel understood and not alone in the journey.

Self-Care

Lastly, it’s very important to take care of yourself while caring for a bipolar patient. You need to speak up for yourself and set boundaries, you do not want to be mistreated just because the patient is going through a rough patch. Being mistreated sets a precedent of allowing that kind of behaviour into a routine. You should also join a support group to better vocalize the problems you are facing as a caregiver; this will help in relieving your stress and will make you feel less lonely in this difficult journey. Simply put, do not shy away from seeking help.