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Dealing With Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder

Updated on March 1, 2013
The mood swings of a person suffering from the illness can be very difficult and exhausting to cope with. It's a learning process.
The mood swings of a person suffering from the illness can be very difficult and exhausting to cope with. It's a learning process. | Source

It’s very difficult to be understanding when dealing with someone who has a bipolar disorder. However, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help bring out the best in you, when dealing with a person who has a bipolar disorder.

What you should know

Firstly, there are a few things you should know about an individual who has this mood disorder:

1. Bipolar disorder is physical. There are a few areas in the brain that regulate mood. These areas can have abnormalities, and when combined with certain environmental factors, cause the start of mood disorders.

2. There is no cure for bipolar disorder. In fact, it’s actually very hard to verify whether or not an individual has bipolar disorder. A study found that 4.4% of Americans have this mood disorder (verified by a physician). The United States was found to have the highest bipolar rate in an 11 nation study. Roughly 2.4% of people in the whole world have bipolar disorder. Although, this seems like a relatively low percentage, there are probably many, many more cases of this disorder- whether they be unreported, or misclassified, or whatever. Bipolar disorder is probably more common than the statistics show.

3. Lifestyle can affect the individual suffering with this disorder. For instance, obesity can further complicate the disorder, especially if it comes with depression as well. Or if the individual is placed in a stressful situation, that can heighten the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

4. The relationships the individual has (between friends and family, etc) can suffer, often because there is an intense amount of stress to cope with. This is perfectly normal and expected.

People with bipolar disorder deal with high, happy  mood levels, which can very suddenly turn to an ugly, depressive state. Everyone involved can suffer- but it doesn't have to be like that.
People with bipolar disorder deal with high, happy mood levels, which can very suddenly turn to an ugly, depressive state. Everyone involved can suffer- but it doesn't have to be like that. | Source

How to cope

Though this will be difficult, there are a few ways to cope with someone who has a mood disorder.

1. Understand that it's a brain disease. The individual is not trying to be mean, moody or difficult- like I said before, there are areas in the brain which are affected by the disease and makes it hard to regulate their mood.

2. If you understand number 1, number 2 becomes easier. By understanding that bipolar disorder is a brain disease- you understand that the actions of the individual are not completely intentional and that managing their mood is a difficult task. You need to start seeing the individual’s actions in terms of the illness, and try not take what they do too personally.

3. Try your hardest to empathize. When suffering with bipolar disorder, you are dealing with highs and lows. Understand that this person goes from a really happy place in their minds, until something triggers their depression or anger. Try to understand what it’s like to go from a really high and happy mental state, to one that’s low and depressing. It can be exhausting.

4. Control yourself and your behaviors. If you are angry or resentful towards the person with this disease, it will shine its way through to the individual. This will only cause additional tension in regards to your relationship with the individual and it will make it easier to trigger the individual’s manic depression.

5. Read and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. This will help you with number 2, putting the person’s actions into context of the illness.

6. Get them help. Although there is no cure for the disease, there are ways of treating it. Suggest that the individual undergoes therapy- both individual and family therapy.

7. Don’t bring them down even further. They will feed off this. Be there when they need you or call out to you or seem like they’re just crying for help.

8. Don’t let it ruin YOUR life. Just because the individual may be in one of their depressions, doesn’t mean you have to suffer as well. Make the best of the situation at hand. Do not react in a negative way or in a way that you may regret later.

9. If you ARE suffering, due to the high and lows of a friend or family member- pretend to be happy, cheerful and in a good mood. Your mood will actually be elevated, compared to you thinking about the situation or actions involving the individual and letting them bring you down. This is a way to trick your brain into thinking it’s happy – just try it. Keep in mind that if you let this affect you so much so that it can ruin your whole day- that will be added stress on the person with the illness, and eventually added stress on you.


Submit a Comment

  • Lipnancy profile image

    Nancy Yager 

    5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

    It is so hard for them to feel happy in their lows. I really feel badly for them and their families.

  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    5 years ago from USA

    These are good tips - it is important to remember that the problem is a chemical malfunction, and the person isn't trying to irritate you. There's no need to take it personally so keep things in the proper perspective.

  • KatSanger profile image

    Katherine Sanger 

    5 years ago from Texas

    One thing to also remember about bipolar people is that they sometimes, when they feel better, choose to not take or ignore their medication, which can make matters worse. I have a number of bipolar friends, and I have had to talk some of them to the hospital in order to help them at times. It's hard, but it's important to remember that they aren't doing it to be bad or purposely avoiding medication; they honestly feel better and believe they are okay. Work with them; they are still your friends.

  • mariexotoni profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago

    Thanks kristleann for your feedback and insight!

  • kristyleann profile image

    Kristy LeAnn 

    5 years ago from Princeton, WV

    I have bipolar disorder (type 2) and I'd say these tips are pretty good. Another thing I'd add is that if the bipolar person seems super moody and is being grouchy/snapping your head off it's totally okay to just walk off and leave them alone for a while...we know we can be real a-holes sometimes lol...and if a bipolar person tells you they're feeling bad/sad/easily annoyed/etc. take their word for it and don't try to fix the problem, because you can't. Like you said, it's just something going on in the brain. People try to help by getting you to talk about it but there is usually nothing to say about just is what it is.


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