6 ways to support someone with Bipolar disorder
If you have a partner, friend or even work colleague with Bipolar it can be hard to know what to do best to support them. It is a complex condition and can be as confusing and emotionally draining for everyone around the person as well as the person themselves. It is also easy to drift into a dynamic with them which can unintentionally make things worse in the medium to long term. Here are some ways to support them:
1. Encourage them to slow down their decision making
People with Bipolar are known to make rash decisions that they later regret. You can support them by not encouraging them to ‘just go for it’ but to talk it through and give it some time to consider all the consequences. If it’s a great decision, it will still be great tomorrow or even next month.
2. Don’t encourage them to drink alcohol
Alcohol can interfere with their medication and also as it lowers inhibitions can give someone a push to do behaviours that are destructive. It is best for them if you also avoid it in their company as it takes away the temptation, so avoid having it in the house for example. If your colleague has Bipolar don’t encourage them to over do it at work parties, they might be ‘hilarious’ when drunk but the impact on them is much more severe than someone who just had a few too many.
3. Encourage them to prioritise their sleep
When someone has racing thoughts, they may want to stay up all night partying or working on something. Sleep is important for us all but it is absolutely critical for people with mental health conditions, particularly Bipolar which can be physically and emotionally draining.
4. Be their feedback loop
People with Bipolar are often unaware of their changes in behaviour, mood and appearance. You can help them to calibrate the changes (and therefore seek help and support) by feeding back to them changes that are not the normal ‘them’. You need to do this in a non-emotive or judgemental way or they won’t see it as support. For example ‘Are you aware that in the last few days you’ve shouted at the kids more than normal? That’s not like you.’
5. Hold your own boundaries
When someone with Bipolar is struggling, you may bear the brunt of some of their destructive behaviour. They could blame you for everything, stop listening to you, overspend joint finances, cheat, get more irritable or angry, disappear for a time or violate their own values. This is very hard to be on the receiving end of. It doesn’t actually help them if you just put up with it. They need support without being enabled. Be clear about what you are not prepared to put up with and be consistent.
6. Get your own support
If you are the partner or family member of someone with Bipolar then it can be very useful to get your own support. It can be emotionally exhausting and sometimes you may even question your own sanity. Too many partners and loved ones end up with depression and anxiety issues because they think they should ‘just get on with it’. A counsellor with knowledge of the condition or a psychotherapist will help you to work through the issues because they understand your loved ones condition they won’t judge you or tell you what to do, they will help you to work through it and be a knowledgable sounding board for you.
Karen is one only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK and co-author to Time Mastery; a number one best-selling book, and Real Leaders for the Real World; an IBA finalist. She is a UKCP registered Psychotherapist (DipNLPt), an INLPTA certified NLP Master Trainer and a Principal Practitioner Member of the Association for Business Psychology. She is an NLPtCA recognised Supervisor and runs a supervision practice for coaches and therapists of any modality. She also has training in other psychological models, human development and social psychology which she uses in her training and coaching. For more information, please visit Monkey Puzzle Training