How to Live with Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Author: Shelly Tanner, LCSW | Reviewed by: Nancy George | March 19, 2021
Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Self-help, Support
bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is characterized by symptoms of intense mood swings—or “mood episodes.” These range from high “ups” to low “downs.” The periods of energized or elated behavior are known as manic episodes. And the sad or hopeless times are known as depressive episodes.

Depending on the type of bipolar disorder, each manic or depressive episode can range from hours to years. There are three types of bipolar disorder, each distinguished by the severity and length of a mood episode.

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder are typically manageable with the proper medication. However, living with someone affected by this condition can be challenging. It may feel that simultaneously supporting your loved one while maintaining your mental health is an insurmountable challenge. Whether they’re a spouse, child, parent or close friend, interacting with someone with bipolar disorder can challenging at times. Sometimes, it can be hard to know whether you’ll share laughs and smiles during a manic episode or if you’ll need to offer support and empathy during a depressive episode.

How to Support Someone Living With Bipolar

While not an exhaustive list, the following tips can help you take care of yourself while continuing to support those with bipolar disorder. And, whether you live together or not, these ideas can help improve your relationships and encourage more positive interactions.

Self-Care First

Not to sound selfish, but put yourself first. After all, it can be hard to offer the support your loved one needs if you’re not feeling up to it. Among other self-care tips, make sure you’re eating healthily, exercising regularly, sleeping well and practicing mindfulness.

Find Time for Yourself

Self-care is essential, but so too is taking some real “me time.” Whether that means escaping for a weekend away with your friends or simply setting aside a couple of weeknights for some rejuvenation, physically removing yourself from your living circumstances can help you recharge.

Join a Support Group

Whether it’s on a website or social media, there’s a wide selection of support groups available. For instance, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provides support groups in all 50 states.

Find Acceptance

Understand that those living with bipolar disorder can’t simply “snap out of it” or “look on the bright side.” Accept that bipolar is a real and persistent issue most often caused by brain chemistry or other factors beyond the control of those impacted by this condition. In other words, don’t get mad at the person; get upset with the disorder itself. Finding acceptance can be difficult, but it can also be the first step toward lasting and healthy recovery for both you and your loved one.

Learn About Bipolar

Take the time to study and understand bipolar disorder. Equipping yourself with pertinent and relevant knowledge will help you better respond to your loved one’s needs. Also, by understanding bipolar mood event triggers and soothing strategies, you can avoid problematic situations and offer the support needed to help curb depressive episodes.

Encourage Continued Medication Use

Medication is critical in treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It can help those with the condition regulate their moods and avoid relapse. However, some quit taking their medication. These reasons may vary from wanting to prevent side effects to suddenly feeling that they don’t need them. A big part of supporting those with bipolar disorder is encouraging continued medication use. Also, consider going to their doctor visits to make sure you understand your loved one’s medication needs and other treatment options.

Davis Behavioral Health is here to help you and yours through life’s challenges. We have compassionate, caring and experienced mental health professionals that help our clients understand and manage their mental wellbeing. Whether you or a loved one are experiencing mental illnessdepressionanxietysubstance abuse or other challenges, we’re here to help our clients live more fulfilled lives.