How to Relate to Someone Struggling with Bipolar Disorder

There is arguably nothing more difficult to deal with or impactful on a relationship than bipolar disorder. In fact, one study claims bipolar disorder is only surpassed by severe forms of cancer in the adverse effect it has on marital life. So, how do you deal with a bipolar loved one? Is there a way to effectively communicate and cope?

3 Ways You Can Communicate

The good news is that bipolar disorder doesn’t have to ruin a marriage, friendship, or relationship. Instead, it can serve as a way to strengthen the relationship and build trust that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. The key to making this a reality is understanding how to communicate with your bipolar loved one. Here are a few tips you must remember and put into action:

  • Study up. Education on what bipolar disorder is and what it is not will go a long way in helping you effectively interact with your loved one. It can also prevent a lot of unnecessary fights, disagreements, and insensitivity. Until you understand bipolar disorder is not a weakness but rather a clinical condition as real as cancer, arthritis, or high blood pressure, you won’t understand what’s actually happening on a daily basis.
  • Learn to listen. The second most important thing you can do is practice patience and learn to listen. If you have a proper understanding of the disorder, listening will be much easier. However, it can still be hard at times when you’re dealing with such a high-emotion illness. Listen to what your loved one has to say and understand that the illness doesn’t invalidate his or her point of view.
  • Lay ground rules. The problem for many people – especially married couples with one suffering from bipolar disorder – is that there are no rules in place for what to do when symptoms strike. That’s why it’s important for you and your loved one to lay ground rules for what happens in certain situations. Everything should have a preplanned response so nothing comes as a surprise.

3 Things You Should Never Do

Just as important as what you do is what you don’t do. Avoid doing the following things when communicating with your bipolar loved one.

  • Saying the wrong thing. You don’t need to walk on eggshells, but you should be mindful of what you say. Don’t say things that are offensive or excluding. Never use their illness as a way of insulting them or belittling them. It’s ideal to only discuss the illness when they bring it up or it becomes an issue.
  • Throwing platitudes around. Going with the previous mistake, never throw clichés and platitudes around. These include things like “it’s all in your head,” or “everything will be fine tomorrow.” These only further aggravate a person with bipolar disorder.
  • Underestimate the disorder. Did you know that 20–50% of bipolar people attempt suicide at least once in their life? That statistic alone is enough to show that bipolar disorder should never be underestimated.

Bridges to Recovery

At Bridges to Recovery, we offer effective bipolar treatment through an internationally recognized licensed treatment model. For more information on our comprehensive and individualized plans, call us today at 844-870-0368. Bipolar treatment is an option for your loved one.