Do's and Don'ts When Supporting Someone with Bipolar

When someone is depressed, it is difficult for them, but also difficult for family and friends to know what to say and do. Here is a list of do's and don'ts.

When someone is depressed, it is difficult for them, but also difficult for family and friends to know what to say and do. Below is a list of suggestions that we hope you find helpful.

  • DO learn everything you can about this disorder. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to know what to expect.
  • DO realize I am angry and frustrated with the disorder, NOT with you.
  • DO let me know you are available to help me when I ask. I'll be grateful.
  • DO understand why I cancel plans, sometimes at the last minute.
  • DO continue to invite me to all the activities. I never know from day to day or minute to minute how I will feel and just because I am not able to participate one day does not mean I won't be able to today.
  • DO feel that you have the right to ask about my doctor or therapist appointments - but DON'T ask me if I'm taking my medications if I'm legitimately upset about something.
  • DO continue to call me, even when I only seem to want a brief conversation.
  • DO send cards, notes, and other reminders of our friendship or relationship.
  • DO offer me lots of hugs, encouragement, and love, even when I seem to withdraw.
  • DON'T tell me I look too good to be depressed. I may be really fighting here to stay above water.
  • DON'T tell me you know how I feel. Each of us is different and two people with this disorder can feel totally different. Pain is a relative thing, this includes emotional pain. DO let me know that you understand or that you can relate to what I am saying.
  • DON'T tell me about your Aunt Margie or the friend of a friend who is managing in spite of this disorder. We are not all the same and I am doing my best.
  • DON'T tell me to "pull myself up by the boot straps," "snap out of it," "what have you got to be depressed about," "you have so much to be grateful for," "there are a lot of people worse off than you," "happiness is a choice," or the likes. Believe me, if I could "snap" my fingers and have this depression be gone, don't you think I would have done that a long time ago? Don't you think I would choose to be happy?
  • DON'T tell me not to worry, that everything will be all right or that this is just a passing phase. This is happening to me right NOW and things are NOT all right!
  • DON'T ask me how I feel, unless you really want to know.
  • DON'T tell me about the latest fad cure. I want to be cured more than anything and if there is a legitimate cure out there, my personal doctor will let me know. Also, don't call my doctor a quack and encourage me to throw out my medications.
  • DON'T count me out. This could be the day that I'm ready to accept an invitation.
  • DON'T give up on me.

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2021, December 28). Do's and Don'ts When Supporting Someone with Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 9, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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