What Family & Friends Should Know

Approximately 8 million American adults may be affected by bipolar disorder. Doctors believe it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Accepting the diagnosis of bipolar disorder does not mean you are giving up on your loved one.


If a loved one has bipolar disorder, it can affect you too

Although approximately 8 million American adults may be affected by bipolar disorder, you may not have expected someone close to you to be diagnosed with a mental illness. Now that it has happened, you may find yourself with the following concerns.

  • You may find yourself overwhelmed with additional responsibilities related to your loved one’s needs. There may be times when you feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and unable to cope. This is understandable
  • When a loved one is diagnosed with a mental disorder, family members sometimes feel ashamed or guilty. They may believe someone is to blame. No one should feel shame or guilt and no one is to blame. Doctors and researchers believe that bipolar disorder is caused by imbalances in brain chemistry
  • Coming to terms with the fact that bipolar disorder is real and is not going away can be difficult. Acceptance does not mean giving up on the person you care about or giving in to the disease. Accepting that your loved one has a mental illness may mean taking on a new role for that person, for your family, and for yourself
  • There may be many adjustments ahead for you. As you learn about things you can do to help your loved one, you will also learn what you need to do for yourself in order to cope and stay strong
sufferers of bipolar disorder seek help

Understanding the facts about bipolar disorder

As a friend or family member of an individual with bipolar disorder, some of the most important ways you can help include understanding the facts about the disease, getting to know the warning signals that an episode may be starting, and recognizing an episode of bipolar depression or bipolar mania.

  • Understanding and care from family and friends can make all the difference to a person with bipolar disorder. Learn how family and friends can help. 
  • Learn more about helping someone with a mood disorder at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) Web site.