Bipolar Disorder Etiquette

One of my friends who also happens to have bipolar 1 disorder said that her well meaning mom told her to quit being so moody and to “just snap out of it”. That did not go over well with my friend. So, I’ve decided to compile a list of “dos and don’ts” for non bipolar people to use when lending a helping hand to a bipolar friend, co-worker, or loved one.

Today – 1/12/2010,  Etiquette Rule #1.    

1. Never, never, ever tell a person in either a manic or depressed episode to “just snap out of it”. This phrase has been used by well intentioned non-bipolar individuals in an attempt to help their friend or loved one perk up or settle down mood-wise. In a poll conducted on a bipolar forum site, an overwhelming number of bipolar individuals found this phrase offensive, inappropriate, and extremely annoying. I assure you that the bipolar person would snap out of it if there was any way to do so. People who don’t have bipolar disorder(BP) have to remember that the ups and downs of BP are not just simple mood swings that we can control easily.

Other things you definitely want to avoid saying to a person who is having a manic or depressive episode:

  • Quit being so moody
  • There are a lot of people in the world who are a lot worse off than you
  • And you think you’ve got problems….
  • Why can’t you just act normal?
  • It’s all in your mind (We’ll duh)
  • Pull yourself up by your bootstraps
  • You have such a great life – why aren’t you happy?
  • Lighten up (a variation of just snap out of it)
  • You really need to quit taking those pills
  • You need to get out more
  • Just do yoga
  • Just stop eating processed foods. You must be eating too much sugar and refined flour

Instead you might say one or more of the following:

  • I’m sorry you’re suffering right now
  • You’re important to me
  • You’re not alone in this
  • If you need a friend, I’ll always be there for you
  • You have so many amazing gifts – how can you expect to live an ordinary life?
  • I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. I can only see how hard it must be
  • I’m never going to say, I know how you feel unless I really do, but if I can do anything to help you, I want you to know that I will

4 Responses to “Bipolar Disorder Etiquette”

  1. kim b says:

    Thank you I am always pissed off when a person refers to me as being crazy also. I think there is a big difference from beig crazy to manic depressive disorder. I can hear people when they laugh mock and ridiculke me and it hurts. I don’t go around not knowing what I am doing from one minute to the next. I think whever wrote this page of do’s and dont’s should be commended good work and good understanding thanks I will be sure to print this for my boyfriend!

    • Luann says:

      Hi Kim,
      Glad you enjoyed the do and don’t list. Some people are very insensitive, and I think that comes from sheer ignorance about the disorder.

  2. Sarah says:

    Thank you for making the bipolar list of dos and donts. It would be ever better if I could get my bf the actually believe that I have no control on how long my moods last and can’t just be happy bubbly go lucky at the snap of a finger. Oh how I wish it were that easy. Thank you again for the list and maybe one day I can convince him bipolar is a real illness, and I don’t really just like being miserable and trying to bring everyone around me down………….

  3. Andy says:

    You could add : “Well you bought that on yourself !”……And when I constantly see people SMIRK I really want to slap that smirk from their faces !


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