How Friends and Family Can Help

Do things with, rather than for, your loved one. Support your loved one in sticking with his or her treatment plan. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.

family members and friends support each other through mental illness

Think in terms of doing things with, rather than for, your loved one

Whether you are the spouse, a significant other, a family member, or a close friend of someone with bipolar disorder, your support is important. There are a few basic things you may be able to do to help your loved one manage bipolar disorder.

  • It’s important for your loved one to keep scheduled medical appointments. This is true during episodes of illness and even when your loved one isn’t having symptoms. Offer to accompany your loved one to medical appointments to get information firsthand from the doctor
  • Do what you can to help your loved one see the need for medication, if it has been prescribed
  • If your loved one stops taking a prescribed medicine—or is thinking about stopping—the doctor needs to know about this as soon as possible. Symptoms that come back after stopping medicine are sometimes much harder to treat
  • Plan now for future episodes. Making arrangements with your loved one during stable periods could help reduce problems during the next bipolar disorder episode of depression or mania. Talk about the possible need to put certain safeguards in place, such as taking away credit cards, banking privileges, and car keys and having a plan about when to go to the hospital

Caring for yourself—and your relationship

spend time with those who are having manic or depressive episodesDealing with family and relationship pressures caused by bipolar disorder is an ongoing process. Here are some ideas that may help you cope better.

  • Ask your loved one’s doctor or therapist about ways you and your loved one can learn, together, about dealing with bipolar disorder. Besides reading books, you can also ask about family therapy or about joining a bipolar disorder support group
  • Share responsibility for helping your loved one. This approach can help prevent you from “burning out” or feeling resentful toward your loved one. Accept all the help and support you can get. Be creative about ways to share the responsibilities of caring for your loved one
  • Try to have patience and understanding. When recovering from an episode of bipolar disorder, let your loved one approach life at his or her own pace, and avoid expecting too much or too little. Try to do things with your loved one, rather than for him or her. This will help your loved one regain self-confidence
  • Do not neglect your own health. This means getting doctor check-ups, eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising