Four Tips for Loved Ones of Those with Bipolar Disorder 

Public Health Library logoPublicHealthLibrary.org is a project created by Steve Johnson and fellow premedical students whose love of medicine combined with information technology has given them the opportunity to serve the community for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. As it states on the PublicHealthLibrary.org website: "A common situation every pre-med, med student, or doctor faces in their downtime is that everyone comes and asks them for unofficial advice. This betrays a greater problem: the general lack of accessible health information resources that the public feels comfortable consulting with to answer their questions." For these reasons and more, PublicHealthLibrary.org makes available accurate health facts, advice, and general answers for all people on the Internet including a list of links to health and medical related websites and smartphone apps. Along with continuing to spread trustworthy information and resources through his website, Steve Johnson also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time. The following article by Steve Johnson is about dealing with a loved one who has bipolar disorder. This is a subject close to my heart as I, Kevin Williams (webmaster), and members of my family have battled this terrible mental illness for generations. 

 
 Table of Contents
   
i. Introduction to Bipolar Disorder
1. Tip One: Know that Bipolar Disorder requires careful monitoring and compliance
2. Tip Two: Understand the connection between Bipolar Disorder and addiction
3. Tip Three: Know the warning signs of addiction
4. Tip Four: Understand the risk of suicide for those with Bipolar Disorder
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 i. Introduction to Bipolar Disorder
 

bipolar treeBipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that results in unusual changes in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to complete daily tasks. There are four types of bipolar disorder, each of which includes apparent changes in mood, energy, and activity levels that range from extremely elated and energized behavior to extremely hopeless, depressive episodes.

With the proper diagnosis and treatment, people with bipolar disorder lead happy, healthy, and productive lives. Here are some tips for loved ones of those with bipolar disorder on how they can help their bipolar family member or friend:

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 1. Tip One: Know that Bipolar Disorder requires careful monitoring and compliance
 

Bipolar psychiatristMedical professionals and family members and friends can help their loved one with bipolar disorder stay on track by regularly checking in and seeing how they are doing. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to manage, and patients must take their medication daily and follow through with therapy and other treatments.

While it is important not to hover or be pushy or controlling, friends and family should their loved one with bipolar disorder in helpful ways. Offer encouragement and support and let them know that you love them.

First, educate yourself about bipolar disorder. Understand that your loved one cannot control their moods and that understanding and patience are critical to their wellbeing. You need to learn to accept their limits and understand that the ups and downs cannot be managed with lectures or admonishments from you.

You also need to understand that stress negatively affects your loved one, so you can help to reduce stress by establishing a routine and helping with housework, groceries, and other responsibilities.

It's also important to encourage your loved one to see a doctor regularly. Medical treatment and therapy will help your loved one better manage their bipolar disorder and feel more comfortable and confident in living with it.

You may assist in finding qualified doctors, arranging appointments, providing transportation, and communicating with the doctor. Noting your loved one's progress and relapse are important, too.

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 2. Tip Two: Understand the connection between Bipolar Disorder and addiction
 
bipolar chart

While the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recognizes a link between bipolar disorder and addiction, there is no clear cause of the link yet. Loved ones of those with bipolar disorder must understand that "alcohol may worsen the clinical course of bipolar disorder, making it harder to treat." One report from a National Institute of Mental Health's Epidemiologic Catchment Area study found that a high rate of individuals with bipolar disorder also abuse alcohol:

-- 60.7% of individual with bipolar I disorder had a substance abuse disorder, which may include alcohol abuse or other drug abuse, at some point in their lifetime

-- 46.2% of individuals with bipolar I disorder had an alcohol use disorder

-- 40.7% of people with bipolar I disorder had a drug abuse or dependence diagnosis

The American Journal of Managed Care also found that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

 

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 3. Tip Three: Know the warning signs of addiction 
 

lithiumBecause of the greater risk for individuals with bipolar disorder to become addicts, their loved ones should be aware of the most common signs and symptoms of addiction. Those suffering from substance abuse may be excessively moody, have poor focus, feel depressed, or express bitterness and resentment.

These signs and symptoms may mimic those of a depressive episode, so you should alert your loved one's doctors about your concerns. You may also notice that your loved one is participating in risky behavior or stops participating in activities that they typically enjoy.

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 4. Tip Four: Understand the risk of suicide for those with Bipolar Disorder 
 
couple hugging

Sadly, people with bipolar disorder are at a greater risk for suicide, especially if they are not receiving treatment. One report shows that 30-70% of people who commit suicide suffer from a form of depression, and mental and substance abuse disorders are among the top risk factors for suicide.

If your loved one with bipolar disorder discusses suicide, always talks or thinks about death, makes comments about being hopeless or worthless, or experiences worsened depression, you should get help immediately. Contact their doctor and be as honest as possible, so that you can help to prevent the suicide of your bipolar loved one.

It is not easy to live with bipolar disorder. Friends and family members of those with bipolar disorder can take steps to help their loved one lead a happy, healthy life. Following these tips will help you to ensure the wellbeing of your loved one.

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"Depression can be so disabiling, you have absolutely no energy to think, move, sleep, or take the medicine needed to get well. Depression feels like falling into a 30-foot deep grave and realizing there is no way out and that it's never going to end. It is a devastating mental, emotional, and physical hell, comparable to becoming a zombie, one of the living dead. Depression is like the death of your spirit; leaving you feeling like an empty corpse with all hope lost forever. Left untreated, the illness can get progressively worse. Your mind can then be dragged through the very gates of insanity where the voices of hell, frightening apparitions, bizarre delusions, and reality becomes an endless looney tune show playing out in your head and all around you. The mental, emotional and spiritual torment can become so overwhelming, suicide seems like a friend and a welcome way out. All the while, your loved ones may be wondering why you can't get out of bed." - Kevin Williams, bipolar sufferer

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