As 2.6 percent of people suffer from bipolar disorder, there is a probability that you may know someone who will experience the disorder. Given the strong genetic correlation, your chances of developing bipolar disorder increase greatly if another member of your family has been diagnosed with it.
Knowing if a loved one is presenting signs of bipolar disorders is important. Even more importantly, it’s important to know where and how to get help. A thorough evaluation by a psychiatrist, along with medication, are essential for treating mania and major depression. Talk therapy can help manage symptoms between episodes, and offer support for families.
With good treatment and support from family and friends, people with bipolar disorders can lead productive lives. However, without treatment, the disorder can have a devastating effect on life and relationships.
Identifying Potential Symptoms
Bipolar disorder, as it is so named, is a disorder of extremes or poles from high to low. Depression and manic states are part of the bipolar cycle.
You may notice that your loved one is sleeping less and less, and has unlimited energy and full of ideas. This person can be pleasant and fun to be around, but it can quickly change to irritability, which can lead to verbal or physical outbursts. You may notice that your loved one is self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to offset the effects of the disorder.
You may see increased use of bad judgment from your loved one. They may spend money recklessly and engage in risky behaviors, including casual and unprotected sex, gambling, driving at high speeds, and generally in places where bad things will happen.
If the symptoms continue without treatment, behaviors can become progressively more threatening.
Approaching the Subject
When speaking to your loved one about their behavior, they may accuse you of being boring, oppressive, or ruining their life. You will need to approach it delicately, as pushing a person in a manic state will lead to unnecessary and potentially harmful conflict.
Your best strategy is to use a combination of listening to your loved one and applying leverage to influence positive behavior, like meeting with a mental health professional.
Leverage isn’t about pushing or forcing, but about providing your loved one a choice. For instance, if you are providing something they need like a car, money or something else of value, you can give them a choice about how to proceed: continue receiving these items by getting help, or choosing to live without them and not receiving help.
Never Give Up
Managing an illness, even after receiving help from mental health professionals is a marathon, not a sprint. Your morale and determination will be tested. As you support your loved one who struggles with the illness, don’t be afraid to ask for your own help. Mental health professionals can assist you with finding the resources you and your loved ones need to manage this difficult illness.