View Full Version : Bipolar: how you can help.

Obscene Eyedeas
May 6th, 2010, 03:28 PM
Supporting Someone with Bipolar - For Family and Friends
Some people trivialize depression (often unintentionally) by dropping a platitude on a depressed person as if that is the one thing they needed to hear. While some of these thoughts have been helpful to some people (for example, some people find that praying is very helpful), the context in which they are often said mitigates any intended benefit to the hearer. Platitudes don't cure depression.

Things not to say to someone with Bipolar Disorder:

"What's your problem?"
Will you stop that constant whining?"
What makes you think that anyone cares?"
"Have you gotten tired yet of all this me-me-me stuff?"
"You just need to give yourself a kick in the rear"
"But it's all in your mind"
"I thought you were stronger than that"
"No one ever said life was fair"
"Pull yourself up by your bootstraps"
"Why don't you just grow up?"
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself"
"There are a lot of people worse off than you"
"You have it so good - why aren't you happy?"
"What do you have to be depressed about?"
"You think you've got problems..."
"Well at least it's not that bad"
"Lighten up"
"You should get off all those pills"
"You are what you think"
"Cheer up"
"You're always feeling sorry for yourself"
"Why can't you just be normal?"
"You need to get out more"
"Get a grip"
"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be"
"Get a job"
"You don't 'look' depressed"
"You're just looking for attention"
"Everybody has a bad day now and then"
"Why don't you smile more?"
"A person your age should be having the time of their life"
"The only one you're hurting is yourself"
"You can do anything you want if you just set your mind to it"
"Depression is a symptom of your sin against God"
"You brought this on yourself"
"Get off your rear and do something"
"Snap out of it"
"You're always worried about your problems"
"Just don't think about it"
"Go out and have some fun"
"Just try a little harder"
"I know how you feel - I was depressed once for several days"
"You'd feel better if you went to church"
"Shit or get off the pot"
"What you need is some real tragedy in your life to give you perspective"
"This too shall pass"
"Go out and get some fresh air"
"We all have our cross to bear"
"You don't like feeling that way? So change it"
"You're a real downer to be around"
"You are embarrassing me"
"You'd feel better if you lost some weight"
"You're too hard on yourself. Quit being such a perfectionist"
"Don't take it out on everyone else around you"
"You are going to lose a lot of friends if you don't snap out of this"
"You're dragging me down with you"
"You're just being immature"
"You are your own worst enemy"
"That is life - get used to it"
"My life isn't fun either"
"You don't care about the rest of us - you're so self-absorbed"

Here are ways that you can help someone with bipolar disorder:

Become educated. The first step is to become educated about bipolar disorder, so you have realistic expectations and coping options. There are books, brochures, and videos on a variety of topics. We have Family Profiles, (stories of people who cope with bipolar disorder), a brochure, and other resources on our web site, www.familyaware.org.

Make this is a family matter. Acknowledge that one member’s depressive disorder affects the entire family. Everyone in your immediate family needs to learn about bipolar disorder, its symptoms and early warning signs, how it is treated, and what the side effects of medications may be. And to whatever degree possible, each member should participate in the caregiving process. Being a caregiver is stressful, and it is important that family members discuss their feelings and opinions. Sometimes it helps if a skilled family therapist facilitates these discussions in group sessions.

Be a partner in treatment. Find the right treatment for each individual bipolar sufferer usually means going through a process of trial and error with multiple different medications. Patients also need talk therapy to heal. Finding qualified clinicians (e.g., psychopharmacologist, psychiatrist, psychologist) is essential. As a family caregiver, you can help by finding the best clinicians in your area, scheduling appointments, keeping track of medications and making sure they are taken as prescribed, and being an early warning systems by reporting changes to the clinicians.

Meet with the patient’s clinician. Make sure to meet with the clinician treating your family member from time to time. Try to go with your family member and if needed, set up some appointments on your own. Although clinicians have to maintain patient confidentiality, they can listen to you and you can report issues you are having caring for your family member.

Be understanding. Let your family member with bipolar disorder continually know that you care. People with bipolar disorder have negative thoughts and are hopeless in a depressive state. They need to be reminded that you and others are concerned about them and that you are working together to help them get well.

Take care of yourself. Set healthy boundaries on how much you do so you don’t burn out. Take a vacation from caregiving from time to time. Many caregivers develop depression, so don’t be afraid to seek medical help for yourself. You also may need help processing and dealing with your emotions.

Find social support. Dealing with bipolar disorder can be lonely and isolating. You’ve watched the healthy person you once knew deteriorate and suffer. Your friends don’t understand bipolar disorder, and it is difficult for you to go out. Make sure you find sources of support such as a bipolar support group in your area.

Develop a crisis plan. Talk to your family member with bipolar disorder about what you will do if the person becomes manic or suicidal. For example, some people with bipolar disorder and their families decide that it is best for the person with bipolar disorder not to use credit cards. Also, determine what you will do if you need to hospitalize the person. Put your plan in writing.

Have hope. Remember that in most cases, bipolar disorder is treatable and can be stabilized. The condition is usually cyclical, so be prepared for it to worsen and/or improve at times. Finding the right treatment can be a drawn out process, but in time, a solution will be found.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is depression alternating with mania (elated or irritable moods and increased energy).


For at least two weeks, five or more of these symptoms:

•Feeling miserable and sad almost everyday
•Losing interest or pleasure in most activities
•Feeling anxious or irritable
•Having trouble concentrating or remembering
•Feeling tired
•Feeling guilty
•Sleeping too much or too little
•Eating too much or too little
•Have medically unexplained aches and pains
•Abusing alcohol or drugs
•Thinking of death or suicide

At least three of these symptoms:

•Increased energy and decreased need for sleep.
•Excessive irritability, euphoria, or aggressive behavior.
•Increased talkativeness or pressured speech.
•Disconnected and racing thoughts.
•Impulsive behavior and poor judgment such as spending sprees, erratic driving, or sexual indiscretions.
•Inflated self-esteem
•Increased goal-directed activities

Signs of Suicide

If someone has been preoccupied with thoughts of death or suicide, call his or her clinician today. If you think the person may be harmful to you or others, call 911 or take the person to your local emergency room. Other warning signs include:

•Talking about hopelessness and worthlessness
•Suddenly being happier and calmer during a depressive episode
•Making unusual visits or calling people one cares about
•Making arrangements or getting one’s affairs in order
•Giving things away

If someone is manic

During mania, a person may become paranoid, believe ideas that aren’t based in reality, spend a lot of money, or engage in unsafe activities. Remember that these behaviors are part of a manic state and the person is not in a normal state of mind. Try to prevent the person from carrying out these actions by talking to them and calling the clinician. You also need to keep the person and your family safe. Sometimes people in a manic state must be hospitalized. Make sure you discuss the behavior and options with your clinician, if possible before a crisis occurs so you can take appropriate action.

Sources: http://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/support/worst-things-to-say-to-a-person-with-bipolar-disorder/menu-id-67/