Dealing with Bipolar Disorder in the Family

How to cope with someone with Bipolar Disorder. Tips for family and friends of the bipolar, communicationm, warning signals, how to recognize and deal with suicide behavior.

It's stressful caring for a bipolar family member. These coping tips should help.

Supporting Someone with Bipolar - For Family and Friends

It is imperative that you seek out and learn all you possibly can about bipolar disorder. Like a general fighting a battle you are going to need all the ammunition you can garner at your disposal. There are many different sources of information...books, films, internet, support groups and others. Take from as many as you can and learn.

Do all you can to keep communication lines open between you and your ill relative. Assure him you are there for him and that you know he is sick but will get well again. Try to be a part of his wellness, but not a part of his illness. Encourage every effort to get better and go with him, rather than send him for help if he wishes. Try to project positive thoughts about his recovery.

Lessen the burden on the family by broadening the network of people who can help in a crisis. Another person who has been through this, a concerned friend or professional may offer respite when you need it most.

Live Your Own Life
One of the hardest things for family members to do sometimes, but one of the most important. It is imperative that you realize that your life doesn't stop to revolve around your ill relative. Take care of your own health and your own needs or you may not have the strength to cope.

Know the Warning Signals
Know the warning signals that may trigger an episode in your family member. Be prepared to act before they worsen and get out of control. Tragically, suicide is an all too common result of bipolar disorder. Learn about it and what you should watch for. Denying the possibility could end in tragedy. Be prepared. Educate yourself about suicide.

Don't Expect Too Much of Yourself
Surprise. Surprise. You are not superman (or woman) and there are limits to what you can handle. It is natural for your emotions to vary. You are dealing with a serious situation. It's natural to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted. These are valid feelings and ones shared by all families of bipolars. So cut a little kindness to yourself into the equation.

Don't Blame Yourself
In the throes of illness your relative may try to blame you for the way he is feeling. Don't listen. You have educated yourself and know that he has a chemical imbalance. But neither will arguing with him at this point help much. Tell him that you will not accept what he is saying and that you know it is the illness talking. Don't let him hurt you.

Talk About Your Situation
It is hard sometimes to talk to others about how out of control things have become in your life. You don't want gossip or pity - you don't want lasting stigma - but you do need to talk to someone. Find a self-help group in your area if there is one - if there isn't, start one. You'd be amazed at how many others face the same issue - or talk to a close friend.

Seek Counseling
If you are having trouble coping, never be afraid or ashamed to seek help for yourself.

Don't give up too soon. Recovery from an episode is not often a straight path. Relapses are common. Wellness is achievable and has been achieved by many.

I know you don't want to hear this. But chances are very good that there will be another episode. Try to be prepared. Have telephone numbers - doctor, emergency, admitting hospital, support, advice, etc., readily available. Ensure insurance is in place and the best that you can manage for psychiatric illness. Support others going through a crisis - as they will support you. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to get active and to cope. Consider having advanced directives in place prior to another episode.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 28). Dealing with Bipolar Disorder in the Family, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 19 from

Last Updated: January 9, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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