Having a family member with bipolar disorder can be difficult, requiring patience and compassion. It is critical to support your family member, take care of yourself physically and emotionally, and educate yourself about bipolar disorder when dealing with a family member's bipolar disorder.
1. Recognize that some of your family member's behaviors are associated with the disorder.
A person who is constantly talking about themselves or bragging about their accomplishments, for example, is considered arrogant or self-centered. This behavior, as well as other risky behaviors that may be equally unappealing to you, is a sign of mania in a person with bipolar disorder. Recognizing that this is a symptom of the illness and not a deliberate behavior on the part of your family member aids in understanding their condition. However, don't automatically attribute every mood your family member has to their illness; people with bipolar disorder can be angry or sad in healthy ways as well.
Simply asking about their experience with the illness is one way to better understand and support your family member's illness. However, before you attempt to engage them, use discretion and determine if they feel comfortable talking with you about it. If this is too threatening, you could simply ask how they are doing and learn more about what they are going through right now.
2. Assist your family member in receiving mental health treatment.
Because bipolar disorder is best treated with medication and therapy, it is critical that you support your family member who is undergoing treatment. Participating in your loved one's psychotherapy is one way to get involved. Family therapy can be a valuable resource in the care of a person suffering from bipolar disorder.
3. Communicate with your loved one's mental health provider.
If your loved one has given you permission to speak with their therapist or doctor, you can notify them of any concerns or problems as they arise. You can also learn more about how to help your family member.
4. Assist in monitoring medication adherence.
Individuals with bipolar disorder frequently avoid taking their medication because the "high" of mania feels good to them. If you notice that a member of your family has stopped taking their medication, the first thing you should do is notify their psychiatrist or general practitioner as soon as possible. The doctor will most likely want to speak with your loved one and will advise you on how to proceed. If you are unable to speak with a doctor, you can encourage your loved one to take their medications or offer incentives (such as special treats or doing something fun with them) if they agree to be med-compliant.
5. Assist in the event of a manic or hypomanic episode.
If you notice signs that a family member is having an episode, it is critical that you engage them in harm reduction.
Negotiate to reduce the risk of harm during risky behaviors (gambling, excessive spending, drug abuse, reckless driving)
Keep children, the disabled, and other vulnerable people away from the antics so that they are not disturbed.
If your loved one is at risk of harming themselves or others, speak with their medical health care provider or call an ambulance or a suicide hotline.
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