How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)

How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that manifests itself in extreme, often unpredictable mood swings that have the potential to impact work and work relationships. Although having the disorder does not necessarily preclude people from seeking out the career of their choice, with some exceptions, there are some approaches to career selection and management that can make being bipolar in the workplace work for everyone.

Make a Self Assessment

Like any health issue, there are degrees in the type of bipolarity an individual experiences, and it’s a range that can vary over time and with different circumstances. There’s also the matter of whether the disorder is being treated and controlled with medication or therapy. Understanding where you are and what you can handle is a good first step in determining the right career path. You may benefit from meeting with a vocational counselor and discussing potential workplace triggers with a therapist or other healthcare professional in advance of a job search to ensure a good match. Make an honest self-assessment of the following:

Do tight deadlines or stressful situations trigger a manic or depressive episode?

Can I work in a noisy environment or do I need quiet space?

Can I effectively multi-task and juggle competing priorities on a consistent basis or do changing work assignments trigger an episode?

Do I need part-time, telecommute or flexible work hours to maintain or deal with mood stability?

Recognizing your abilities, your limits and your needs can all help narrow the focus of what constitutes a good career choice.

Look for Stability

For most people with bipolar disorder, having a regular, stable routine helps maintain mood balance. Jobs for bipolar people who need routine and jobs for people with anxiety might include:

Repetitive task jobs that allow for frequent breaks to stave off boredom. This might include assembly-type work, processing invoices or order forms or data entry.

Creative jobs are often sought by those with bipolar disorder, as they allow for an ebb and flow of ideas. Those might include careers as writers, artists or designers.

Quiet environment jobs that limit stimulation and allow for solitary, autonomous work can be beneficial, such as librarian, greenhouse worker or interior decorator roles.

Jobs that require on-call, shift work and frequent travel or that have heavy high-stress periods followed by significant downtime should be avoided, as they can trigger manic and depressive episodes.

Search Within Preferred Industries

Those with bipolar disorder shouldn’t feel they have to limit themselves in their career choice, but rather, should look for occupations within desired fields that best match their mental health needs. For example, if you enjoy handling finances, you might be well-suited to a career as a bookkeeper or financial analyst, while a financial account or wealth management job might be too high pressure. Likewise, stress associated with car sales might be overwhelming, but a job processing rental car returns behind the scenes would be tolerable.

Some lines of work may be off-limits to those with mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. For example, law enforcement and military service, as well as other occupations that require firearms training, may be unsuitable.

One of the most important things to consider when it comes to jobs available for someone with bipolar disorder is that of a flexible work environment. People with bipolar disorder often need downtime during the workday and when manic or depressive episodes strike. A line of work that allows flexibility for managing the disorder can be invaluable.

Very often in bipolar disorder, people with hypomania may not realize it’s a problem. They may even enjoy it, finding it to be a productive time. Or they may fear that taking medicine will make them depressed and they’ll miss feeling good. Others struggle with depression, not getting the help that could relieve their suffering.

For a variety of reasons, people with bipolar disorder won’t go to a doctor for help. They shrug off a friend or family member’s concern. Others view their illness as a distraction or a weakness, and they don’t want to give in to it. Still others put their health at a very low priority compared with other things in their lives.

Often, fear is the reason for not seeing a doctor. That’s especially true if there is a family history of emotional problems. People in denial are protected from their worst fears. They can stay comfortable in their everyday routines — even though relationships and careers can be at stake.

If you’re concerned about a loved one who could have bipolar disorder, talk to them about seeing a doctor. Sometimes, simply suggesting a health checkup is the best approach. With other people, it works best to be direct about your concern regarding a mood disorder. Include these points in the discussion:

  • It’s not your fault. You have not caused this disorder. Genetics and stressful life events put people at greater vulnerability for bipolar disorder.
  • Millions of Americans have bipolar disorder. It can develop at any point in a person’s life — though it usually develops in young adulthood — and is responsible for enormous suffering.
  • Bipolar disorder is a real disease. Just like heart disease or diabetes, it requires medical treatment.
  • There’s a medical explanation for bipolar disorder. Disruptions in brain chemistry and nerve cell pathways are involved. The brain circuits — those that control emotion — are not working the way they should. Because of this, people experience certain moods and energy levels more intensely, for longer periods of time, and more frequently.
  • Good treatments are available. These treatments have been tested and found to be effective for many, many people with bipolar disorder. Medications can help stabilize your moods. Through therapy, you can discuss feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that cause problems in your social and work life. You can learn how to master these so you can function better and live a more satisfying life.
  • By not getting treatment, you risk having worse mood episodes — and even becoming suicidal when depressed. You risk damaging your relationships with friends and family. You could put your job at risk. And your long-term physical health can also be affected, since emotional disturbances affect other systems in the body. This is very serious.

Trust is crucial in shaking someone’s denial and in motivating them to get help. Trust is also important once treatment for bipolar disorder starts. Through the eyes of a trustworthy friend or family member, a person with bipolar disorder can know when treatment is working — when things are getting better, and when they’re not. If your interest is sincere, you can be of great help to your friend or family member.

Sources

SOURCES:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, American Psychiatric Association.
The Nations Voice on Mental Illness.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA).
American Psychiatric Association.
National Institute of Mental Health.
Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Bipolar Disorder Second Edition.
WebMD Medical Reference: “Bipolar Disorder.”
Muller-Oerlinghausen, B. The Lancet, Jan. 19, 2002.
Kaufman, K. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, June, 2003.
Compton, M. Depression and Bipolar Disorder, ACP Medicine.

Eleven ways you can help a friend diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

THE BASICS

  • What Is Bipolar Disorder?
  • Find a therapist to treat bipolar disorder

How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder may be at the mercy of extreme mood swings, but they are not powerless. Medication, therapy and a healthy lifestyle can help them enjoy full and productive lives, especially when supplemented by the support of those closest to them.

And that’s where you come in. If a friend has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, here are 11 ways you can help:

1. Educate yourself.

The term “bipolar” is thrown around a lot these days, yet it remains widely misunderstood. Spend some time learning about the disorder, and you’ll be much better able to understand what your friend is going through. Good sources include the National Institute of Mental Health, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and the International Bipolar Foundation.

2. Channel your compassion, but ditch the pity.

No one wants to hear, “I feel so sorry for you.” What they do want is recognition that life holds challenges for them and that you’ll be there to help them meet them.

3. Accept the lows with the highs.

When manic, the person with bipolar disorder can come across as the life of the party. When depressed, however, they may feel as though they have lost their value in their social circle because they are no longer “fun.” Don’t add to that pressure. Let your friend know you are there for them whether they are in the heights or the doldrums, and help them aim for that middle ground.

4. Don’t say “calm down” or “cheer up.”

It can be hard to know how to react when your friend is in the midst of an extreme manic or depressive episode, but platitudes such as these are sure only to antagonize. After all, if they could calm down or cheer up, they would.

A better response is to ask how you can help, or suggest some things the two of you might do together, even something as simple as going outdoors for some air. When your friend is no longer in distress, talk to them about what might help next time and prepare strategies.

5. Be understanding when they are less of a friend than you need.

Those with bipolar disorder are dealing with mood swings that can leave them irritable, overly sensitive, distracted, impulsive, and prone to explosive outbursts—all of which can be taken as a personal affront if you don’t understand its source. Try to show the same patience and understanding you would hope to receive if you were the one dealing with the illness. And remember that the frustration they feel is with the disorder, not with you.

6. Realize that they did not bring this on themselves.

Your friend didn’t choose to have bipolar disorder. It is neither a character flaw nor a weakness. Instead, research points to a variety of factors thought to be acting in concert, including genetics, environment and brain structure. This means they can’t simply snap out of it or choose to be happy, no matter how well-intentioned your advice.

7. Encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Eating well, getting enough exercise and sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drug use can help your friend maximize their control over their disorder. They don’t need you acting as their nanny, but they do need a friend who will share healthy activities with them rather than a friend who simply wants to party, especially because addiction and bipolar disorder so often go hand in hand.

THE BASICS

  • What Is Bipolar Disorder?
  • Find a therapist to treat bipolar disorder

8. Listen.

Lend a sympathetic ear, and let them know you don’t expect them to put on a brave face. Ask how they are doing and truly listen. If they speak of self-harm, take it seriously and be sure their therapist or doctor is informed.

9. Don’t get angry if your friend stops taking their medicine.

They may be dealing with a host of distressing side effects from the medication—sedation, weight gain, emotional blunting and sexual dysfunction, to name a few. Or they may blame the medications for feelings of depression even if the medicine is not responsible.

They don’t need you to wag your finger. Your best hope for getting them back into treatment is to remain understanding about what they are experiencing but to encourage them to make an appointment with their psychiatrist straight away.

10. Stay connected.

When a friend is ill with diabetes or cancer, we know the protocol—visit, send cards, or bring meals. When the illness is mental, however, we are often at a loss as to how to respond. As a result, those who are struggling can be left feeling isolated and abandoned.

Bipolar Disorder Essential Reads

Why Is Lithium Good for Both Batteries and Bipolar Disorder?

Can You Be Hypomanic Without Losing Control?

There is great power in anything you do to stay connected, no matter how simple—drop by, send a note, visit if they are hospitalized, hug them, make cookies, and tell them you’re there for them.

11. Don’t give up on them.

Keep making suggestions for things you can do together, and be understanding if they cancel at the last minute. Your friend may not always be able to follow through on an invitation, but they are hoping you’ll keep trying.

LinkedIn Image Credit: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)Below are some suggestions about what to do if the person refuses to get their bipolar disorder treated. Ways to respond may differ depending on the situation.

Listen and observe

If the person refuses to treat their bipolar disorder, listen and observe to try and understand why they refuse. Possible reasons include when the person:

  • Has difficulty accepting that they have bipolar disorder or need treatment
  • Does not wish to be connected with the stigma sometimes linked to bipolar disorder
  • Enjoys hypomania or mania and does not want to treat them
  • Is too ill to realize they need treatment
  • Worries that if they take medication they may get side effects
  • Does not want to become reliant on medication
  • Finds that medication blunts their moods too much

Take appropriate action

Try to assess if the person is very ill or not. Does the person have severe bipolar symptoms that affect the way they function at home, work or socially? Are they in a bipolar crisis ? Consider the 4 different situations below:

1. People who are very ill sometimes do not recognize their severe symptoms or the need for treatment. If the person is too ill to recognise they need treatment:

  • It can help to develop an advance directive or plan with the person when they are relatively well about what treatment they prefer to receive when very ill (see planning for times when the person is severely ill).
  • Gently let the person know that you think they need treatment.
  • Offer to assist them to access treatment.
  • Contact the person’s clinician, mental health team or if necessary get emergency help in a bipolar crisis.

2. If the person who refuses treatment is unwell but can still discuss things (e.g. they are not too severely manic or psychotic to follow the discussion):

  • Consider clarifying with the person the reasons they have for not accessing treatment (see also what to do if the person wants to stop or reduce their medication). Try to use good communication skills to prevent arguments.
  • Suggest that they at least have an assessment with a clinician to see if they might benefit from treatment.
  • Mention how treatment might help in terms of what is important to the person (e.g. treatment might help to reduce symptoms the person finds unpleasant, make it easier for them to achieve a valued goal, or prevent negative consequences).
  • Suggest that the person discusses their concerns about treatment with someone who knows a lot about bipolar disorder.
  • Discuss what behavior (e.g. spending sprees) you are not prepared to tolerate, as the person may seek treatment to reduce this behavior once they know that you won’t put up with it.
  • Let the person know what boundary they have crossed (e.g. caused financial debt when manic), and the consequences if they don’t try to manage the illness (e.g. you will not pay off the person’s credit card).
  • If they are finding it hard to function, offer to assist them to get treatment.

3. If the person who has been well has warning signs of illness but refuses treatment:

  • Let them know that treating warning signs of mania early can prevent relapse.
  • Keep an eye on them to see if they develop more symptoms or get worse.
  • Try to negotiate with them to agree to get clinical help if things don’t improve or get worse within a set time.

4. If the person who refuses treatment is relatively well:

If your doctor has diagnosed you with bipolar disorder, you know what a manic episode feels like. To be diagnosed, you must have had at least one episode of mania or its milder form, hypomania.

During these stretches, you may feel fabulous, with lots of energy and an “up” mood. But those feelings are a symptom of mental illness. So it’s important to recognize the early signs that mania is developing.

Warning Signs

Just because you’re extra-energetic and in a good mood doesn’t mean you’re starting a manic episode. But be aware of patterns, such as when:

  • You feel you’re on top of your life even if it’s not really going well.
  • You have anxiety that can’t be explained by a stressful event, such as an upcoming exam.
  • Your thoughts race and you’re irritable.
  • You’re sleeping less and not taking good care of yourself.
  • You talk too much or faster than usual.
  • Your sex drive is revved up.
  • You turn more often to alcohol or drugs or do other risky things like drive dangerously.

Management

Once you’re in a full-blown manic state, you may not think you need help or be willing to accept it. That’s why the best way to deal with mania is to address it early on.

If you think you’re heading into a manic stretch, first get in touch with your doctor. They may need to change your medication dose or recommend that you try another one.

Take your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes, even if you don’t think you need it. Tell your doctor about any supplements or herbs you’re taking. They may cause worrisome side effects.

Other things that may help:

  • Review what’s happening in your life and your stress level. See if you can dial back your commitments a bit. If you slow down now, you may avoid having to take more time off later because your symptoms got worse.
  • See a counselor or therapist. If you aren’t already in therapy, find someone who treats people with bipolar disorder. They can help you learn ways to identify and cope with troubling thoughts, emotions, or behavior.
  • Look for ways to relax. When you talk with others, focus on listening. Carve out time to read, listen to your favorite music, or watch a show.
  • Get enough sleep. This is not a time to skimp on your ZZZs. You need at least 6 hours a night.
  • Watch out for caffeine. Steer clear not only of caffeine in beverages, like sodas and energy drinks, but in over-the-counter medications.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol. They can affect your mood and may interact with medications you’re taking.
  • Above all, don’t postpone seeking help so you can continue to ride the manic “high.” The higher your manic episode rises, the further your mood may tumble after it ends.

Reducing Risk

Talk to your doctor or therapist about what you should do when you’re already in a manic state. And plan ahead. You might ask trusted friends or relatives to call your doctor if they notice signs of mania.

Here are some practical ways to protect yourself while you’re in a manic episode:

  • Keep up your normal routine. As much as possible, try to maintain a stable daily schedule. This includes your sleep, eating, and exercise patterns.
  • Guard your finances: Limit how much cash you carry. Consider temporarily giving your credit cards to someone you trust to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Delay big decisions. Don’t make any major changes before you talk to someone, such as a mental health clinician or a relative. At the least, give yourself time to reflect before you take action.
  • Bypass risky situations. This isn’t the right time to begin a new relationship or sort through a conflict with a friend.

Prevention

Once you feel better, keep up your healthy habits. That includes exercise, which can improve both mood and sleep. Build up your toolbox of strategies to reduce the intensity of future episodes:

  • Look at what boosts your stress level. Lots of aspects of your life, whether it’s your job or a person you deal with, may affect your mood.
  • Think about what may have been early signs of previous episodes. Was missing sleep for a few nights an early signal? Tell loved ones about those signs so they can watch out for them, too.
  • Track your mood each day. When you keep a daily mood diary, you and your doctor or therapist can look for patterns. How do medication, sleep patterns, and life events affect how you feel?
  • Once your mood is stable, reflect on how mania affects you in good and bad ways. Write down those thoughts. Then you can remind yourself of the downside when you’re tempted to ignore the early signs of mania.

Sources

Mood Disorders Association of British Columbia: “Bipolar Disorder: What can I do to prevent future manic episodes?”

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Bipolar Disorder.”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Bipolar Disorder.”

SANE Australia: “Self-care for managing mania.”

International Bipolar Association: “11 Ways to Support Someone During Mania.”

How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Bipolar disorder is a form of mental illness that afflicts millions of people around the world. This is a condition marked by extreme mood swings, including periods of mania and depression.

Symptoms of bipolar can surface in the teen years, or early adulthood, and have also been known to appear in children as well.

The key is to diagnose bipolar symptoms as quickly as possible. This article takes a look at the most recognizable symptoms of this mental disorder. Keep reading to learn the facts so that you can seek help.

1. Feeling Restless or Impulsive

Bipolar disorder causes severe mood swings. This means that an individual will experience periods of extreme highs followed by extreme lows. During the highs, they will often become restless and exhibit impulsive behavior.

These periods of restlessness make it hard to focus, thus they will have difficulty concentrating on tasks at work or school. In fact, it can feel impossible to focus on anything at all.

The internal state during these periods is chaotic, making the feelings of restlessness a challenge to cope with.

2. Talking Very Fast

The chaotic nature of bipolar disorder also results in racing thoughts. The mind becomes a swirling storm of conflicting thought patterns, causing the individual to talk faster than normal.

During these periods of mania, the individual may become paranoid or delusional, and even believe they are seeing things that aren’t really there.

The scattered thoughts caused by this mental disorder can also cause spikes in erratic behavior, thus the impulsive need to speak in a way that sounds hyperactive and abrupt.

3. Easily Distracted

Again, it’s common for anyone suffering from bipolar disorder to have an inability to focus. They are easily distracted. The act of sitting in one place for any period of time can often feel impossible. As the mind races, thoughts will constantly jump from one thing to the next.

Because of this, bipolar is often confused with Attention Deficit Disorder. Although they do share similar traits, these two conditions are quite different.

The inability to focus can make normal day-to-day life is frustrating, especially for anyone with a busy and demanding schedule.

Sitting at a desk, trying to complete work or attempt to do anything productive while battling a mind that is constantly distracted, can feel like a total nightmare and become a major disruption.

4. Engaging in Risky Behavior

A person with bipolar disorder might also begin engaging in behavior that could be considered risky by those around them.

The key is to remember that normal rational thought can be difficult, making it hard for the person with this disorder to understand that their behavior has become questionable.

For anyone with a loved one engaging in behavior that is out of character, this can be a clear sign that something is wrong. These are moments when it’s important to not dismiss the change in behavior, but rather to pay close attention, and ask questions in an effort to gain insight into the true nature of the situation.

Keep in mind that a person who is bipolar likely won’t understand what is happening within themselves, and won’t have any desire to draw attention to their mental illness.

When a loved one begins to show signs of bipolar disorder, it’s important to encourage them to seek help from residential mental health rehab.

5. Feeling Hopeless for Extended Periods of Time

While mania is often a clear symptom of bipolar disorder, there is also a flip side. An individual who is bipolar will also suffer periods of depression and hopelessness.

Anyone who has ever experienced even a minor form of depression understands how painful it can be. It’s like a gray fog that settles over the mind. There’s nothing pleasant about it. And though many people suffer from depression, it’s hard to explain the experience to anyone who’s never felt it first-hand.

The depression experienced by someone with bipolar can be dark and debilitating. After all, falling from a manic episode into hopelessness is such an extreme that the mind simply cannot process what is happening.

The highs and lows of bipolar can feel crippling, and without proper medication, your thoughts and actions can feel like they are beyond your control.

6. Severe Fatigue

The mental and physical extremes of bouncing from highs to lows can often lead to severe fatigue. After all, neither the mind nor body is designed to experience such an existence.

Again, anyone going through depression can describe how it produces fatigue that feels impossible to overcome. Depression floods the mind, creating helplessness that robs you of joy, leaving you unable to see beyond the bleakness of the current moment.

Bipolar takes depression to another level, robbing the mind and body of the energy to get out of bed, and often even the will to want to continue to live.

7. Feeling Suicidal

For most people, the notion of suicide seems ridiculous. After all, life is precious and every moment we spend on earth is a gift to be savored. Unfortunately, those with bipolar are often robbed of joy, and many of them view suicide as an escape from the misery of living.

Keep in mind that the extreme ups and downs of bipolar can feel like an endless roller coaster. This experience is exhausting. Thus suicide indeed seems like a desirable option for ending the pain. That’s why seeking treatment is so important for reestablishing the chemical balance needed for good mental health.

Common Bipolar Symptoms to Watch For

There’s nothing more important than good mental health. After all, the mind is very powerful and can dictate how you feel about yourself. Fortunately, this article can help you recognize bipolar symptoms so that you or your loved ones can get the necessary help to live a long and happy life.

If you found this article informative, be sure to check out our website for more great lifestyle tips and advice.

How to seek help for bipolar disorder (manic depression)

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is defined by rapid mood swings.

Not the kind that you get as a teenager when hormones run riot, though.

These mood swings are much, much more dramatic.

On good days, those with bipolar feel like they’re so invincible they can fly.

On bad days, their depression is so crippling that just getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world.

There are several different kinds of bipolar disorder, and they’re defined by how quickly the person switches from depressions and manias.

A milder form of manic depression is called cyclothymia, but don’t be fooled by this ‘milder’ form—it can be just as disruptive to a person’s life even if the mood swings aren’t viewed as so dramatic.

The most important thing you need to remember when writing about manic depression, or bipolar disorder, is that it is something that people have not something that people are.

Don’t define those that have bipolar by their illness.

Many people say, ‘she’s bipolar’, but you’d never define someone with depression by saying ‘she’s a depressive’. It’s unfair for those that have bipolar to be defined purely by their mental health.

Instead, say that they have bipolar.

Causes of bipolar disorder

Some people are more susceptible to developing bipolar disorder than others.

It’s not always a condition that someone is born with, but they can develop it due to traumatic instances.

An example of this is Catherine Zeta-Jones, who developed bipolar after her husband was diagnosed with throat cancer.

There are people who have it their whole lives, though, such as Carrie Fisher or Stephen Fry.

Symptoms of mania

  • Feelings of severe overconfidence/invincibility
  • Extreme happiness/elation
  • Talking quickly
  • Increased sex drive
  • Lack of social inhibitions
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Being full of energy
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Being easily irritated
  • Not craving sleep
  • Lack of an appetite
  • Delusions—hallucinations or illogical thoughts
  • Making risky decisions

People with bipolar may also go through episodes of hypomania. These aren’t as extreme as manic episodes and don’t have any psychotic symptoms either. They also tend to last for a shorter amount of time and are therefore easier to manage.

Symptoms of depression

  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Difficultly sleeping
  • Delusions or illogical thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Pessimism
  • Guilt
  • Self-harming

Mixed episodes

Mixed episodes are complicated because they’re a combination of depression and mania.

This makes it difficult for the person to work out how they’re feeling, and can be confusing for them and the people around them.

This confusion can lead to even more erratic and inconsistent behaviour.

Treatment for bipolar disorder

Treatment varies from person-to-person.

Some people don’t seek any treatment at all—many people with bipolar feel that it’s bipolar that makes them more creative, and the euphoric feelings of mania are worth the feelings of depression that go alongside it.

For those that do seek treatment, a mood stabiliser such as lithium is prescribed.

Everyday life

Much like with any mental health issue, there are varying levels of it.

Some people can live their lives as normal with the people around them oblivious to what’s really going on except for what they may dismiss as the odd quirk.

Other people find it debilitating and struggle to cope with everyday life.

Some people may even flit between the two—some days they’re fine, while others they can’t cope.

The most important thing to remember is a point I’ve mentioned already: mental health issues are only part of what makes someone who they are. Nobody should be defined by something that’s out of their control.

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Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depressive illness or manic depression, is a mental disorder characterized by wide mood swings from high (manic) to low (depressed).

Periods of high or irritable mood are called manic episodes. The person becomes very active, but in a scattered and unproductive way, sometimes with painful or embarrassing consequences. Examples are spending more money than is wise or getting involved in sexual adventures that are regretted later. A person in a manic state is full of energy or very irritable, may sleep far less than normal, and may dream up grand plans that could never be carried out. The person may develop thinking that is out of step with reality — psychotic symptoms — such as false beliefs (delusions) or false perceptions (hallucinations). During manic periods, a person may run into trouble with the law. If a person has milder symptoms of mania and does not have psychotic symptoms, it is called “hypomania” or a hypomanic episode.

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When a mental illness suddenly appears in a partnership, it can shake the foundation of a marriage. While dealing with the erratic behavior of a spouse in mania or depression is difficult, through counseling, love and acceptance of the illness, partners can grow even stronger as a couple.

Mood changes

It’s stressful for a spouse to deal with the confusion of ever-changing moods from their partner that has bipolar. It helps for this spouse to view their continued support as an investment in something worthwhile.

Confusion and chaos

When symptoms of bipolar first begin to surface, most spouses aren’t sure what to think—they’re very confused. Amid the chaos of behaviors they fear they’ll never see the person they’d fallen in love with again.

When sympathy isn’t enough

When a spouse is first diagnosed, the initial response from their partner is usually sympathy––until anger, frustration and even hate arise down the road, according to sociology professor and author David A. Karp, Ph.D. Karp remarks that “caring for someone who has a mental illness can be more draining than caring for someone with cancer.” When a spouse with bipolar denies their diagnosis, it can cause even more frustration and anger, and make the well partner feel like ‘the enemy’ for even breaching the topic.

Reach acceptance

If a spouse can move through these times, he or she will reach a place of acceptance, says Karp. “Those difficult emotions will then be replaced with softer feelings of love and compassion.” Just because life with your spouse looks different from the one you originally imagined, it doesn’t mean you can’t still have a loving, fulfilled life.

Redefine spousal expectations

Acceptance also means redrawing the picture of what your life as a couple looks like. For some, that may mean having to rely on only one income, going without certain luxuries, or even choosing not to start a family. For others, it may mean that many of the responsibilities of daily life fall on the well partner.

Share responsibility

Couples who have the most success share the belief that the partner with bipolar and the partner without bipolar each share an equal amount of responsibility within their relationship. Bipolar is biologically based, and can be properly managed if an individual shoulders the responsibility to help themselves––unless they are extremely manic or depressed, in which cases they are temporarily unable to.

Prepare ahead

In periods of wellness, successful couples prepare for episodes that lie ahead. That may mean realigning chequing accounts or giving power of attorney as a means of limiting control to the ill spouse during manic episodes. Some couples will have a list of symptoms the bipolar spouse exhibits when on the brink of a manic or depressive episode and agree at what point to seek help, thus removing the emotions from such a decision.

Carry the burden

Following a diagnosis many spouses are left with most of the responsibilities of their life together—from caring for the children to working to pay the bills to caring for their ill partner. It’s a heavy burden for many.

Draw boundary lines

Many spouses struggle with how to help the person they love without becoming engulfed in the spouse’s misery or mania. They may even feel their own identifies are being buried, and they are losing themselves or jeopardizing their own health. Spouses must learn to draw a boundary line, or risk losing themselves, Dr. Karp says.

Mutual wellness

Many couples attribute their successful marriages to a commitment to mutual and personal wellness. This could mean daily exercise, eating well, good sleep habits or focusing on the wonderful things shared by both. If both partners wholeheartedly want their relationships to work, they will find ways to make it work.

Move forward

Dr. David A. Karp argues that sometimes the well spouse has to withdraw. It may sound harsh, but it’s for the sake of their health. He says spouses must learn to take care of themselves before they can take care of others. It’s important for the well spouse to fulfill their own goals, and continue to move forward, even when their partner is struggling.

Learn more:
9 Life Lessons We Can Learn From People With Bipolar Disorder
The Best Things You Can Do For A Friend With Bipolar Disorder
4 Caregiver Tips When Dealing With Bipolar Disorder

125 Comments

My husband avoids me when it’s bedtime. And then in about10 minutes he’s snoring and it takes me hours to get to sleep. Especially since some of my family members were murdered in their beds while they slept. I wake up several times a night now. Looking at the door we keep ours open while we sleep at night. I can’t even remember the last time my husband acted like he loved me or even showed me that he did. No Christmas or birthday or any other kind of presents ever. I buy him some but not alot because I know I’ll get nothing. But we’ve been married for 27 years too. So that might have something to do with it. But I sure miss the closeness really bad. As well as even a card for any kind of special day. But we’ve had a tough last 2 years. My husband got terminated after 42 years and for a year he had no income at all. Unemployment denied him but finally he’s old enough to draw social security. I’ve not been able to work for years. But I do get disability. And we have a special needs son who will always live with us. Which is fine but I just try not to think about all the things he’s never going to be able to do. If I do I’d begin to cry and probably never stop. I try to focus on the positive things. But he doesn’t adapt well to change. He likes the same thing each and everyday. Or it messes him up. And that’s just a slice of my life. Been without a car for 2 months now. Hopefully I will get one soon or I’m going to lose my mind.

Steph–my advice is, take him up on the divorce. I’m serious. Second round of this with my husband–he was diagnosed ten years ago but knows better than all the doctors. He wouldn’t take meds. He wouldn’t be proactive about his mental health. All he did was self-medicate with beer. Now we’re in round 2 — much worse than the first, complete with psychosis. I’m too old and tired to leave, and he would be destroyed if i left him. You have a perfect out–go now, before it is too late.

These articles and comments from bphope DO give me hope. My hubs of less than a year has BP1 with muxed cycles. Thankfully, I’ve not seen full mania yet… hypomanic is tough enough. I also have joined 2 fb support groups which help. Thank you!

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