Category : Family & Friends

Advice for Family and Friends

Bipolar Disorder TreatmentBipolar Disorder (BP) impacts the person who has it as well as their family members, spouse, friends, and coworkers. Bipolar Disorder can be extremely stressful to relationships, especially close relationships. I want to focus on one specific thing that you can do to help you cope when you are in a relationship with someone with BP.

Try not to take it personally if your friend or loved one with BP is occasionally incapable of relating to you in their typical way. When a person is having a manic episode, for that time period, they are often incapable of refraining from behaviors that seem out of character. The prefrontal lobes in the brain are not working properly and the person having a manic episode will often say things that they would not ordinarily say, things that might hurt your feelings, or that you might find offensive. When the lobes are not working, there is a decrease in inhibitions. Jay Carter Psy.D. writes about the importance of family and friends not taking a manic person’s words and actions personally.

As Dr. Carter says, “It doesn’t mean that you disassociate or disregard what the person says….You simply know that a person who thinks “it’s all about me” does not function as well as someone who knows it isn’t.” In other words, you need to remember that It’s Not About You. It’s about the person with BP.

To learn more about how you can help yourself and your friend or loved one with BP, read books, magazines, and blogs about BP. Doing so will help you better understand what your friend or loved one is experiencing. Participate in therapy sessions or support group meetings if appropriate. And remember: Don’t Take It Personally!

I recommend reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder by Jay Carter, Psy.D., and Bobbi Dempsey. If you have BP and have recently had a manic episode that has shredded many of your close relationships, you might ask your loved ones to read this book so that they can better understand what you are experiencing. Rebuilding relationships takes time, education, and mutual effort.

How to Seek Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Author: Richard Jarzynka.

During a recent talk regarding my book, “Blessed with Bipolar,” I was stumped by the question, “How does a person get to where you are now from where you were in the psych ward?” I actually have a 380 page answer to that question. What stumped me was the question behind the question: “How do I get my bipolar daughter into treatment?”

It is a great irony of bipolar disorder that while it is perhaps the most treatable of mental illnesses, those of us who have it often wholly reject even the mention of “getting help.” When we’re on a manic high, we don’t see any need for treatment. When we’re crushed with depression, we think we’re too far gone for it to do any good. And when we are in a mood-swung, irascible and erratic temper . . . well . . . “see a counselor” is fightin’ words.

But the question of how to persuade a bipolar loved one to seek treatment deserves a response. Here’s my attempt:

• Don’t try to convince her that she is mentally ill. Anybody in their right mind would rebel against that reasoning. This approach will just get you a long list of reasons why she thinks you are wrong. Nobody wants to think of themselves as mentally ill.

• Acknowledge the hard and courageous struggle she has put up against whatever legitimate adversity there is in her life. She has kept trying to succeed on her own in many ways. And sometimes has. She needs to know that you recognize that.

• Let her know that you believe in her goals and that the emotional pain in her life seems to be an obstacle in the way of achieving those goals.

• Suggest treatment as a way to achieve goals rather than a cure for mental illness.

• Look at the situation as a “family issue” and offer to go into treatment with her. This may be difficult for you because I am not suggesting that you attend counseling sessions as a ‘co-therapist’ for your loved one. Let the counselor do the counseling. I’m suggesting that you seek treatment with her to address the difficulties in your relationship with her. That requires you to own responsibility for part of the problem, to see the role you play in it, and to work at making effective changes in your own thinking and behavior. That may sound like a challenge to you. And it is. But it’s no different than the challenge you are making to your bipolar loved one. What’s it worth to you?

Convincing a loved one to seek treatment for bipolar disorder is no easy task. I had enough good times to believe that I was mostly healthy and too much pride to seek help when I was not. The steps above may not work, but they are worth a try. At the very least, it is a good way to approach the treatment issue without the usual “I’m not crazy!” screaming match.

Richard Jarzynka is the author of “Blessed with Bipolar.” He has used the disorder to help him counsel clients; run a marathon; grow in his faith; and earn a masters degree in psychology, a scholarship to Law School, and a football scholarship.