It is said, “Some days I can conquer the world, other days it takes me three hours to convince myself to bathe.” Bipolar disorder, formerly known as “manic depression,” affects more than three million people in the US, and millions more who are close to the patient.
While forcing a person to act a certain way is not a bright idea, there are steps you can take to improve communication and maintain a healthy relationship. Trust me, I know the ins and outs of bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with this crippling mental illness around the same time I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to the field of clinical psychology.
Below I compiled three ways that can help stabilize your relationship with someone you love who’s suffering from bipolar disorder.
1. KNOW THE SIGNS
Recognizing the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be a bit tricky. Individuals suffering from this illness have what’s called “mania”, a euphoric mood, and depression, a sad and sometimes suicidal mood.
During episodes of mania, one may exhibit rapid speech, a sudden burst of high self-esteem, and uncontrollable excitement. When the anchor drops, a depressive episode may include symptoms such as loss of motivation to complete basic everyday tasks- for example taking a bath or getting dressed.
Other hallmark symptoms of a depressive episode include changes in appetite, sleep, energy level, thought patterns, and concentration. It’s crucial to learn and remember these signs, as it will be easier to understand your loved one’s thinking and behavioral patterns.
Is someone close to you feeling down and refusing to go out into public? If so, remember this: never force someone to do anything they are not ready for. However, do encourage them to go out for a walk with you, etc. Again, never force them, as that is the therapist’s job.
If your loved one is taking psychopharmaceutical drugs, make sure you encourage him/her to take the medication every single day as instructed by the psychiatrist because a missed dose can drastically impact the road to recovery.
Saying the wrong thing can shake up your relationship, so below are words of encouragement with strong potential to help ease depressive symptoms.
1. “I love you!”
2. “I care about you.”
3. “Do you want a hug?”
4. “You are not in this alone.”
5. “I’m not going to abandon you.”
6. “We’ll ride through this. We’re in this together.”
7. “When this is all over, I will still be here with you.”
8. “All I want to do now is give you a hug and a shoulder to cry on.”
9. “Hey, you’re not crazy!”
10. “I understand what you’re going through and I’m here for you.”
11. “Don’t worry, I will take care of you.”
12. “You mean a lot to me.”
13. “If you need someone to talk to, I’m here.”
14. “After rain comes the sunshine.”
15. “No matter how many times you fall on your face, you are still moving forward.”
Finally, be there for them no matter what. Whether they’re feeling irritable or crying, recognize that they are suffering. Also, prevent them from isolating themselves. Include them in as many social events as possible. Even a simple walk in the park would work.
Spend time with them- anything to make them feel upbeat- because, at the end of the day, everyone with bipolar disorder just wants to feel accepted. When speaking to them, especially during a depressive mood swing, keep in mind that their self-esteem is usually extremely low and any rough criticism or comments can hurt them badly.
In September 2016, researchers at the University of California San Diego found that loneliness associated with depressive episodes is in our DNA, thus changing the way science perceives depression.