According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 10 million people in the U.S. are affected with bipolar disorder (BP). BP is also known as manic depression. The median age of BP is 25-years-old, and men and women are equally diagnosed with the disease.
There are two phases of the BP illness: the manic phase and the depressive phase. These cycles of highs and lows can last days or weeks.
It is very important for people with BP to seek proper treatment. Bipolar disorder can be treated with medications and regular therapy talk visits to a psychiatrist or support groups. Extreme cases of BP may include hallucinations or delusions. Also, bipolar disorder is associated with a high rate of suicide.
Like diabetes and hypertension, bipolar disorder can be difficult for family and friends. Family and friends have to manage a BP patient's behavioral issues which may include: severe depression, poor work or school issues, financial irresponsibility and frequent visits to medical professionals. The stress of your loved one’s disease can be exhausting mentally and physically.
A recent study states if a caregiver is under a great deal of stress, their loved one will have difficulty following a treatment plan. Here are some important tips to support your loved one who is affected with BP:
• Keeps tabs on your own mental health and take care of yourself. It is vital for caregivers to take care of themselves. To avoid burnout, set healthy boundaries. Take a timeout for yourself, even a vacation or two once a year. You are dealing with a great deal and you may need help processing your own feelings.
• Invite your friend or relative affected by BP out for positive distractions, such as walks and other activities. Sometimes just getting out of the house changes the perspective and mood of the BP patient.
• Find social support. Find sources of support such as a bipolar support group in your area.
• Research. Educate yourself about bipolar disorder. Also, learn about BP so you can understand what your friend or relative is experiencing. There are a variety of books, brochures and websites available on BP. One resource is www.familyaware.org.
• Listen to the BP patient’s feelings. Express understanding about their situation and offer emotional support. Also, provide understanding, patience and encouragement. Talk to your friend or relative and listen carefully. Remind them they will get better with time and treatment.
• Develop a crisis plan. Discuss with the BP patient about what you will do if they become suicidal. Do not ignore comments about your friend or relative inflicting self-harm. Report these comments to their therapist or doctor immediately. Also, determine what you will do if you need to hospitalize the person and put your plan in writing.