How to live with a loved one with bipolar disorder: 15 steps (with pictures)

How to live with a loved one with bipolar disorder: 15 steps (with pictures)
How to live with a loved one with bipolar disorder: 15 steps (with pictures)

Living with a family member who has bipolar disorder can be challenging and takes patience and compassion. When you are dealing with bipolar disorder in a member of your family, it is important to provide support, take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and educate yourself about the disorder.


Part 1 of 3: Support a family member

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 1

Step 1. Understand that some of this person's behaviors are related to their bipolar disorder

For example, a person who speaks selfishly or bragging about himself is usually seen as an arrogant and self-centered person. This same behavior in a bipolar person is a sign of a mania, as are other behaviors that you find unpleasant. You will come to understand this disorder better if you know how to recognize these behaviors as symptoms of the disease, not as voluntary behaviors. However, be careful not to associate all of the behaviors this person exhibits with symptoms of their illness, as people with bipolar disorder can also be angry or sad like anyone else.

One of the ways you can better understand and support your family member's illness is to simply ask them questions about how they are feeling. However, make sure you do this with discretion and don't make him feel uncomfortable before bringing up the topic. If he feels threatened, you can just ask him how he is feeling to get more information about what he is going through

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 2

Step 2. Support your family member during treatment

Since bipolar disorder can be treated with medication and therapy, showing your support for the duration of treatment is crucial. You can get involved by participating in your family member's psychotherapy. Family therapy can also help you support it.

  • Contact the psychologist who follows him. If your family member has allowed you to talk to their therapist, you can talk to them about any concerns or issues you have as they arise. This way you can also get more information on how you can help your family member.
  • If your family member is not currently receiving treatment, you can encourage them to find it. There are many useful resources on the Internet. You can also search with therapists and psychiatrists who specialize in bipolar disorder. However, avoid forcing him into treatment if he doesn't want to (unless his behavior could be dangerous to him or to others), it will scare him and could put your relationship at risk.
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 3

Step 3. Help him keep up with his treatment

People with bipolar disorder generally avoid taking their medications because they may find pleasure in their manias. If you notice that your family member is not taking their medication, the first thing to do is to tell their psychiatrist or doctor as soon as possible. Chances are, the doctor will want to discuss this with this person, and they'll tell you what to do next. If you cannot talk to his doctor, you can encourage him to take his medication or offer him rewards in return (such as a certain treat or activity that he enjoys) if he agrees to take his medication.

Step 4. Make sure he is taking his medication

Taking medication is not necessarily the choice of whether or not to take a pill. Those commonly used to treat bipolar often cause side effects like memory loss, gastrointestinal symptoms, drowsiness, weight gain, excessive sweating, itching, hair loss, sexual disturbances and other distressing and unpleasant symptoms.

  • If someone you care about has stopped or wants to take their medication, ask why they could help. The person can have different reasons which go like a simple "because I feel better and I don't need it". She may also enjoy hypomania and does not want to take medications that put an end to her euphoria.
  • Side effects are often felt when starting treatment or increasing doses, but they can appear at any time and can cause a feeling of discomfort and anxiety. If the person does not want to take their medication, for whatever reason, encourage them to speak to their doctor to determine if a change in dosage, schedules, or other options might minimize problems and make treatment. tolerable.
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 4

Step 5. Help him during a manic or hypomanic episode

If you notice any signs that this person is going through an episode of mania, it is essential to help them to prevent injury to themselves.

  • Negotiate with her to prevent her from injuring herself during her risky behaviors (gambling, excessive speed, drug use, bad behavior on the road).
  • Keep children, people with disabilities and vulnerable people away from this person to avoid harming them.
  • Talk to your doctor or call an ambulance or SOS Suicide if there is a risk of harming yourself or others.
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 5

Step 6. Plan for times of crisis

It is important to have an emergency management action plan in order to defuse a crisis situation. Keep the phone numbers of family members who can help you, as well as doctors and hospitals. Don't just keep this information in your phone in case you run out of battery, you need to have these numbers written down somewhere and keep them with you at all times (eg in your wallet or purse). Give a copy to your family member. You can even make a plan together for times when this person becomes emotionally unstable.

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 6

Step 7. Help this person avoid the triggers

A trigger is a behavior or situation that increases the likelihood of a negative outcome, in this specific case, manic or depressive episodes. Possible triggers include certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol and other drugs. Triggers can also include negative emotions like stress, an unbalanced diet, problems sleeping (getting too much or too little sleep) or interpersonal conflicts. Your family member might also have triggers of their own. You can help him by discouraging him from engaging in these behaviors or by helping him to revise his priorities to reduce his stress level.

  • People with bipolar disorder often express criticism of others.
  • If you live with this person, you can eliminate certain substances such as alcohol from your household. You can also try to create a more relaxing environment by controlling light, music and energy levels.
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 7

Step 8. Show compassion

The more you learn about bipolar disorder, the more you will come to understand and accept it. Although it can be difficult to deal with this kind of disorder in your family, your worry and thoughtfulness can help the family member who has it.

One way to show him that you care is to be there when he needs it and show him that you want to help him heal. You can also offer to listen to him when he wants to talk about his illness

Part 2 of 3: Take care of yourself

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 8

Step 1. Show empathy

Putting yourself in the shoes of the person with bipolar disorder will increase your understanding of their behavior and reduce your emotions or negative reactions to their mental state. Try to imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning and not know if you are going to have severe depression or if you are going to feel completely euphoric.

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 9

Step 2. Focus on your own sanity

Caring for a family member with bipolar disorder can sometimes lead to stress and symptoms of depression. Remember that you can only start helping her if you take care of your own physical and mental health first. Pay attention to your own behavior and how you feel about this person.

  • Give up control. It is important to understand and remember (whether out loud or in your head) that you cannot control your family member's behaviors. He has a condition that you cannot completely cure.
  • Pay attention to your own needs. For example, you could make a list of your own goals and start working towards them.
  • Use resources to handle difficult situations. These are resources that will help you deal with a certain situation and are vital for taking care of yourself. These strategies can include activities that you enjoy doing such as reading, writing, art, music, outdoor activities, exercise, and sports. Therapeutic activities can also help you take care of yourself, for example relaxation techniques (eg progressive muscle relaxation), meditation, journaling, mindfulness and art therapy. You can also handle these situations by creating distance or removing yourself from stressful situations when they arise.
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 10

Step 3. Consider seeking professional help

If you find that you are having difficulty managing the symptoms of this person with bipolar disorder, it may be helpful to seek therapy on your own. There is evidence to suggest that family therapy, not just information about the disorder, can help individuals (especially caregivers or parents) manage bipolar disorder in a family member.

Part 3 of 3: Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 11

Step 1. Realize that bipolar disorder is a biological disorder

This means that there is a very strong genetic component and that it tends to be passed on. This is why it is not the fault of the person with bipolar disorder as it might be if they had other medical conditions. Bipolar disorder is not a mental illness that this person can control by will.

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 12

Step 2. Know the different types of bipolar disorder symptoms

There are two main types of bipolar disorder, bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder. It is important to identify what type of patient is suffering from your family member in order to understand their specific symptoms and behaviors.

  • Bipolar I disorder is found in people who go through manic episodes that usually last between a week or more. Some symptoms of this manic episode include an irritable mood, exaggerated self-esteem, less need for sleep, a urge to speak louder, difficulty concentrating, increased activities aimed at a certain goal, and dangerous behaviors (eg. example gambling or unprotected sex with multiple partners).
  • Bipolar II disorder is manifested by a major depressive episode as well as at least one hypomanic episode (similar to a manic episode, but less severe and which can last up to 4 days).
Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 13

Step 3. Understand how treatment for bipolar disorder works

Bipolar disorder is usually treated using a combination of drugs and therapy. Psychiatrists or doctors often prescribe mood stabilizing drugs like lithium to reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. Psychologists, therapists, and other professionals usually help the patient with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy and interpersonal therapy are generally used.

Deal with a Bipolar Family Member Step 14

Step 4. Learn about the typical effects of bipolar disorder on family life

Family members of a patient with bipolar disorder may feel overwhelmed and lacking in energy. In addition, the spouses of these individuals may feel a lack of support and many of them do not seek help.

If a family member of a patient with bipolar disorder thinks that person is in control of their disease, they might feel overwhelmed and dissatisfied with their relationship with that person


Understand professional secrecy. Remember that you can discuss with the doctor of the person with bipolar disorder if it is a minor child in your care or if they have signed a paper authorizing you to do so. However, if neither of these conditions exist, the therapist may refuse to discuss with you in order to protect the patient's right to confidentiality


  • Save a life and don't call the police during an episode. The police could traumatize or injure that person. Instead, call an ambulance or go to the emergency room.
  • If you or a family member thinks of harming yourself or someone else, seek help immediately by calling 112. You can also contact a hospital, doctor or SOS Suicide.

Popular by topic