Advice for people supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder

Saturday 30 March is World Bipolar Day and Bipolar UK and many other organisations will be sharing information and advice for those diagnosed with the illness and to help people understand what bipolar is and isn’t.

Daran Bailey, the Aster Foundation Wellness and Resilience Lead and trained Psychotherapist has shared some advice and guidance for those supporting a loved one living with bipolar disorder.

Daran says: “If you are supporting a loved one living with bipolar disorder you probably already know how it involves a combination of understanding, patience, and practical assistance. However, as someone that has been living with the disorder for many years I can personally say that I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for my partner so here are some top tips that can help you.”

  • Educate – Learn about bipolar disorder, its symptoms, triggers and treatments. Understanding the condition will help you provide better support.
  • Encourage treatment – Treatment involves the person as a whole and not one aspect so encourage the individual to seek professional help and stick to their treatment plan, which may include therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.
  • Be a good listener – Offer a listening ear without judgement. Allow them to express their feelings and concerns openly. This can be extremely difficult at times, so it is important to remember what is their feelings and what are yours.
  • Help create a supportive environment – Foster a supportive and stable environment at home on in social settings. Encourage routines, healthy habits, and stress-reducing activities.
  • Recognise warning signs – Familiarise yourself with the warning signs of manic or depressive episodes. Encourage the person to share with you what they know about their early warning signs. Helping them to understand their own triggers is extremely helpful when it comes to discussing warning signs and encourage them to seek help if they or you are noticing any concerning changes in behaviour or mood.
  • Offer practical support – Help with daily tasks when needed, such as cooking, cleaning or running errands. Sometimes we can obsess over the smallest of details and things just pile up so helping to alleviate some of the stressors can prevent an escalation of symptoms.
  • Respect boundaries – Understand that everyone copes differently, and it’s essential to respect the individual’s boundaries and preferences for support. Having a recovery plan in place helps them to know they have a sense of control.
  • Take care of yourself – This maybe should have been number one! Supporting someone with bipolar disorder can be extremely challenging so it’s crucial to prioritise your own wellbeing. Seek support from friends, family or a therapist if needed.
  • Promote social connection – Encourage the individual to stay connected with friends, family and support groups. Social support can play a significant role in managing bipolar disorder.
  • Celebrate successes – Acknowledge and celebrate the individual’s achievements, no matter how small even if it is something like making a cup of tea. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence and motivation.

Remember that every person’s experience with bipolar disorder is unique, so it’s essential to tailor your support to their individual needs and preferences. For more advice visit the Bipolar UK website.

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