Bipolar Lives And Caregivers

//Bipolar Lives And Caregivers

If someone in your life has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder understanding how to cope with their condition is crucial. You’ve taken on a role that you might not have initially intended, but your loved one’s mood disorder Does Not have to control your life.

Knowing how to recognize and handle the manic and depressive episodes is important, but you also need to take care of yourself.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is different for everyone, even if two people have the same type.

There are several types and understanding the key differences will make it easier for you and the person diagnosed to cope with and manage the ups and downs that typically come with “being bipolar”

  • bipolar I disorder: depression and mania are present, and psychosis is a possibility in an extreme manic state.
  • bipolar II disorder: occasionally referred to as “soft bipolar” due to the absence of mania. However, the depression can be more severe
  • cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): hypomania is present, like in Bipolar ii, but the depressive episodes are noticeably less severe.

Type 1 is the most severe, while bipolar 2 is thought to be more common. Cyclothymia is said to be the mildest, but it will still have an impact on your life and the person diagnosed.

The disorder can also be caused by medication, excessive alcohol consumption or the use of illicit drugs. If this applies to your situation, it could indicate a more serious mental health issue that should be discussed with a licensed professional. Self-medicating is never the answer.

See here for more information on the types of bipolar disorder.


Challenges of being a Bipolar Caregiver

Living with or even just being friends with someone that is bipolar can be challenging. It is impossible to completely understand the mood swings that they aren’t in control of. Frustration on everyone’s part is common and can easily turn into other problems.

Just like you might not always be able to figure out why their moods change, they can get just as frustrated with you not being able to understand why one day they’re on top of the world and the next barely able to get out of bed. This is the reality of bipolar, and patience is something that you will need in spades.

Eduard Vieta, MD at the University of Barcelona, Spain stated;

“Caregivers are especially distressed by the way the illness has affected their emotional health and their life in general.”

A study on bipolar caregivers in the United States found that depression can be common. It is often the result or combination of having little support for themselves, the financial strain the disorder can have, along with the disruption the mood swings bring.

Chances are you will also have to deal with the cultural and social stigmas that still surround mental illness. This often causes additional stress that can begin to affect your overall health.


Assisting with Bipolar Mania and Depression (How do you help someone with bipolar?)

One of the first things you need to know as a caregiver for someone with bipolar disorder is how to recognize the signs of mania and depression.

It is important to remember that everyone experiences these episodes differently, and not all bipolar symptoms will always apply. Once you can start identifying their warning signs or triggers, it will be easier to help them control manic impulses and keep dark depression at bay.

Even though it will take time to learn and recognize the signs, it will be worth your effort in the end.

Here are some signs that a manic episode could be occurring.

  • Noticeably sleeping less
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Increased irritability
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Hypomania, found in Bipolar ii, comes with high energy and can make the person more productive. However, it typically leads to depression that can sometimes last for weeks or months.

Bipolar Depression, regardless of the type of disorder often has the same symptoms. The severity will often vary, but it should never be ignored. Some of the signs you should watch for, especially after a bout with mania or hypomania are,

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Loss of energy
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of restlessness

Suicidal thoughts can also occur, and this is something that you want to watch for. Even if the depression doesn’t “seem to bad”, these thoughts can still occur. Always contact a mental health professional if you believe that this could be a problem. Do Not ignore any warning signs.

You can find the complete list at 


How You Can Help a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

Wondering how best to help someone that is bipolar? The first thing you need to do is to educate yourself. It is impossible to truly understand BP unless you are going through the cycling moods, but education will help.

There are books, brochures, websites and additional online guides. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is an excellent place to start your research. Local organizations can also help answer your questions, along with licensed mental health professionals.

Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask if you do not understand something, having the correct information will make it easier for everyone.

Some other things you can do to help someone with bipolar are,

  1. Don’t shy away from physical contact

Hugs, a pat on the back or any other form of affection can be extremely beneficial, regardless of the mood episode. You will want to respect their personal boundaries, but don’t be afraid to show them that you care.

  1. Communication

This is vital on everyone’s part. You need to be just as open and honest about your feelings as the friend or family member you are caring for. One tip is to try and watch your tone and words used, it can be easy to be misunderstood. If you have a compliant, try using “I feel” instead of starting the sentence with “you”. It is less accusatory and can keep the conversation flowing.

  1. Know when “space” is needed

Sometimes, it’s best to give some space during an episode. Don’t take it personally if the person just wants to be left alone. This is normal, and everyone occasionally needs some time to themselves. However, if their need for personal space has them alone for extended periods of time it could signal depression. The trick is to know when it’s healthy and this could take some time. Once again, remember to be patient and let them know that you are there for them.

  1. Be forgiving

You will need to be able to forgive actions that occur during depression or mania. Understand that it often doesn’t have anything to do with you, it is an unfortunate part of the illness. Be able to forgive will also relieve some of the stress, and this is important for your health and well-being.

  1. Promote healthy lifestyles

Studies have shown that eating a balanced diet, exercising and getting enough sleep can minimize BP symptoms. It does NOT replace medication and other therapies, but a healthy lifestyle is beneficial for everyone.

What you should never do is make fun of someone for their behavior, even when their moods seem to be “stable”. Also, do not make assumptions. You will never know exactly how someone with bipolar feels. Take the time to communicate and show your affection and support. It will make a difference.

  1. Have a plan

This discussion should take place during the absence of mania and depression but having a plan in place that you both agree to if a crisis occurs is important. Not only can it reduce stress, it can also prevent the bipolar sufferer from inflicting self-harm if the episode is severe.


Tips on Taking Care of Yourself (Preventing bipolar caregiver burnout)

If you are the main support giver for a loved one or friend that is bipolar, it can be stressful and seem overwhelming at times. There is nothing to be ashamed of, it doesn’t mean that you don’t care enough only that you are human and have limits.

Lesley Burke, Ph.D., at Deakin University has a few tips that can help you stay calm and healthy. If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be almost impossible for you to be able to offer the support that is crucial.

  • Learn everything you can about the disorder.
  • Accept that the illness is no one’s fault.
  • Be sure that you schedule “me time”.
  • Find ways to manage your stress.
  • Do not ignore your health.
  • Have interests/hobbies/ activities.
  • Start or join a bipolar caregiver support group.
  • Always focus on the positive.
  • Have limits set at home.

These are only a few tips that can help you stay healthy. There will still be times of stress, but it doesn’t have to completely control your life.

Focusing on the positive can seem absurd at times, but not every day comes with depression or mania. Remembering those “good” days when it feels like it is impossible to cope can help you get through the rough patches when they hit.

Setting limits at home can help to establish a routine that might carry over during a bipolar episode. During a severe one these “limits” might be broken but don’t take it personally. Use it as a learning experience to better deal with the next crisis. However, if their behavior is becoming dangerous to themselves or others reach out to their primary mental health professional.

Having interests outside of the home also helps, and don’t forget about the benefits of having support from others that understand your unique situation.


Bipolar Caregiver Support

Support groups for bipolar caregivers exist in most cities. The size and topics routinely covered will vary, and it might take you a couple of tries before you find a group that you are comfortable with.1

The main purpose is to give you support, so you don’t feel alone, and provide you with tips and education about the disorder.

There are also online groups if you can’t find one near you or if you are not comfortable talking about your loved one in person.

Mental health care providers and hospitals can also help put you in touch with any groups in the area.

Never be ashamed to ask for help when you need it. It is important for both you and the person you are supporting.

A few places you might want to start looking for one include,

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
  • Recovery, Inc.
  • DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support)

See here for more information on support groups for caregivers and those with bipolar disorder.


You’re Not Alone

Caring for someone that’s bipolar isn’t easy, no matter the amount of education and advice you get. Every day will be different, but it doesn’t have to completely control your life.

Communication is key between you, the person with bipolar and the mental health professional treating them.2

Don’t forget to take care of your own health, and always remember that you are not alone. There are others facing the same struggles with their loved ones. Join a support group for caregivers, whether it is online or in person, it really can help.

Please share your stories and advice, you never know who you might inspire or help.


Helpful references:

2019-04-05T15:26:51+00:00May 20th, 2018|Categories: Living with Bipolar Disorder|13 Comments


  1. Ed sagel June 8, 2018 at 6:55 am - Reply

    Looking for a support group in Frederick Maryland area

    I have a BP spouse

  2. Poojary Ashwin Kutty June 8, 2018 at 6:57 am - Reply

    Hello family thank you for your information and materials but in person experience with a bipolar spouse is not a easy process and things they tell or do is so much to handle. I’m trying my best to give my wife the most important thing is always show her Love and always act like nothing happened because if I don’t I won’t be able to be for her. I mean it’s really really hard to explain the emotional verbal abuse I’m taking every single day I can be a coward but I’m standing strong. Please keep me in prayers and thanks again.

    • Denise Rodgers June 10, 2018 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      I understand where you are coming from. My husband is bi polar, and it is a day to day struggle. I’m lucky that he doesn’t verbally abuse me, but he also is alcoholic/addict, and the financial burden had been really tough. He’s doing better, but due to the bi polar he has a hard time talking to strangers, and has been unemployed this time for about 8 months. He also suffers from back pain, and arthritis. Sometimes he can hardly move without pain. Since he is unemployed, he has no insurance, and we don’t quality for any discounts through the marketplace, and cannot afford to buy health insurance for him. It’s hard not to be critical and lose patience. I love him, and I know he loves me, but many times it’s like you have another struggling child instead of a spouse. Prayers your way.

  3. Barbara Segeti June 8, 2018 at 7:00 am - Reply

    I signed up twice. No email. Checked my spam, not there.

    • Bipolar Lives Staff June 10, 2018 at 9:31 am - Reply

      You’re already subscribed and you’ll be getting all email updates.

  4. Regina Zapinski June 8, 2018 at 7:24 am - Reply

    I needed this today.

  5. Robin June 8, 2018 at 7:42 am - Reply

    My name is Robin and I am bi-polar. My husband has trouble understanding my disease. Hopefully he wiil read this info and see that my problem has nothing to do with him. And that I love him as much as I always have. And that I try my best to control my disease with meds and excersize. But sometimes I can’t stop the episodes from coming. And to just realize they will get better again. Don’t take it personally.

  6. Michael Archon June 8, 2018 at 8:04 am - Reply

    The articles are helpful , I didn’t know my girlfriend was bipolar 1 I knew something was wrong by the time I figured out she was bipolar and in a manic episode , she wiped out our entire savings and turned on me I became the enemy it was hell a real doctor Jekyll turned into mr Hyde the story is a long one , I did all I could and saved her life . It’s been very hard on me mentally and physically in 60 not a young man it’s been over 2 years trying to find the correct medication all these new drugs are very bad too many side effects , so we are now on low dose lithium and keep in touch with our psychiatrist she is better but time will tell , I had a lot of hope for our future but now I feel that is gone I try and keep a stiff upper lip and take things day by day . She has no one in her life but me and sometimes I feel like moving on alone without her but I’m committed and don’t want to abandon her. I can only hope things get better , thanks Mike

  7. Nicci Wall June 8, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    This is a great resource and I will share it on my facebook page.

    However, a person IS NOT BIPOLAR, they have or live with. I am Nicci, and Bipolar is just one of the many facets of what makes me who I am.

    The use of correct language is important in reducing stigma and increasing awareness and understanding. So I ask that in future you refrain from a person “Is Bipolar”.

    • Team Bipolar Lives June 26, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Nicci,

      We wanted to “thank you” for your input and we agree that correct language is important, especially in reducing stigma and increasing awareness about the disorder. We have made the changes you suggested and look forward to reading more of your comments.

      The Team at Bipolar Lives

  8. Sue June 9, 2018 at 1:41 am - Reply

    ‘Helping’ is positive terminology. ‘Dealing with’ is not helpful terminology. ‘Managing’ and ‘assisting’ are better phrases.

    • Team Bipolar Lives June 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Sue,

      We wanted to let you know that we take our readers comments and suggestions seriously, including the wording we use. We have made some of the changes you suggested and look forward to reading more of your comments on future posts.

      The Team at Bipolar Lives

  9. Janice stokes June 9, 2018 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Thank you. My daughter has only just been diagnosed at 18 its very hard for her to be just told given medication and literally Goodbye for 2 months. We live in United Kingdom. I will as a Mum be searching for groups etc. But I found the information on here very useful. My daughter has suffered since a very young age,but obviously not been diagnosed till now.

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