How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

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If you or a loved one has or is coping with a bipolar family member, you understand this condition is very challenging. The extreme mood shifts and erratic behaviors can be hard for both the person with bipolar disorder and the people in their lives.

People living with bipolar disorder must learn how to cope with their conditions. It’s also important that their loved ones know how to help when they’re going through a depressive or manic episode. In the end, the only way to receive relief is by receiving bipolar disorder treatment.

Listed below are ways on how to help someone with bipolar disorder.

About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health illness that causes radical changes in energy, mood, and activity levels. These changes affect their ability to carry out everyday tasks. Bipolar disorders normally develop in teenagers and young adults, with the age of origin at 25 years. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that nearly 3 percent of adults across the nation have bipolar disorder.

Six principal types of bipolar disorder share similar symptoms that differ in their severity and treatment. These types of bipolar disorders ranging from most to least severe include:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder 
  • Medication-induced bipolar disorder
  • Bipolar disorder due to a medical condition
  • Unspecified bipolar disorder

Most bipolar disorder symptoms are intense emotional phases known as mood episodes that can switch from mania episodes of extreme joy or happiness to depression episodes of hopelessness and deep sadness. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder experience a mixed state of happiness and sadness simultaneously.

Challenges of Bipolar Disorder

When someone with bipolar disorder goes through mood swings, they’ll usually experience severe changes in their sleep patterns, energy levels, and other normal behaviors. Psychotic symptoms, like delusions or hallucinations, can also occur during severe mood swings. These can be terrifying both the person who has bipolar disorder and those around them.

Bipolar disorder is a lifetime condition that can have people remain symptom-free for a while, with symptoms returning at any time. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder will grow anxious during their symptom-free periods, uncertain when their next mood episode will happen.

How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder


How to Help Someone with Bipolar Disorder

It is not easy to live with bipolar disorder, but support can positively impact someone’s life with the condition, especially during mood episodes. And you may wonder how to deal with a bipolar person? Well, listed below are ten steps on how to help someone with bipolar disorder:

Educate Yourself

The more that is understood about bipolar disorder, the better able you’ll be to help. For example, understanding depressive and manic episodes’ symptoms can help to react appropriately during severe mood shifts.


Offering your understanding and acceptance can go a long way in helping someone feel more comfortable with his or her bipolar disorder. Ways to become a better listener include:

  • Actively paying attention to what they say
  • Remaining calm during discussions
  • Evading arguments
  • Sidestepping any topics that seem to frustrate or irritate them

Be a Champion

People who have bipolar disorder usually feel hopeless or worthless. Therefore, affirming their positive qualities and strengths can help them recover from their depressive episodes more efficiently.

Be Active in Their Treatment

Bipolar disorder treatment usually consists of many doctor visits and therapy sessions. While you don’t need to attend these appointments, you can help them by coming along and waiting for them until their appointments are finished.

Make a Plan

Bipolar disorder is very unpredictable. It’s vital to have an emergency plan if needed to use during severe mood episodes. This should include a plan if they get out of control during a manic episode or feel suicidal during a depressive episode.

These plans can include coping mechanisms, like what they can do when they feel a severe mood episode coming on. Maybe even a plan on how to complete chores or other daily activities when they feel low energy levels. These plans should be made when they are in a calm and stable state of mind. The best way to enforce them is to write them down to refer back to easily.


Supporting someone with bipolar disorder can be very helpful. However, you need to understand when to step back and allow a mental health professional to intervene. While someone with bipolar disorder can make conscious decisions, it must be understood when their behaviors and moods become out of control.

Be Understanding

It can be difficult for someone with a mental health disorder to understand what they’re feeling. People with bipolar disorder might not know why their moods are changing. Trying to comprehend what they are going through and offering support makes a huge difference in how they feel.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

It can be easy to forget to care for yourself while caring for someone with bipolar disorder. When choosing to help someone, make sure you’re eating properly, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Staying healthy can better allow you to keep the person with bipolar disorder to stay healthy.

Be Patient and Optimistic

Bipolar disorder is a life-long condition, so the symptoms will come and go throughout their life. Bipolar disorder is unpredictable, and there will be symptom-free times that alternate with extreme mood swings. For the sake of the person living with bipolar disorder, try to remain optimistic and patient. This can keep them on track to living a healthy, fulfilling life.

Know When it’s Too Much

Specialists know how to handle bipolar disorder better than anyone else because they are trained to treat it. When helping someone with bipolar disorder and things become too difficult to handle, reach out to a mental health specialist right away. If they become abusive or threatens to harm themselves or others, you should call 911 immediately.

The Takeaway: Helping Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Helping someone with bipolar disorder is challenging because that person’s moods are unpredictable, and it’s not easy to understand how to cope or react.

But you can make an enormous difference in the life of your friend or loved one by putting in the effort. Knowing that they can rely on you will help them stick to their treatment plans and remain more positive. It can also be rewarding knowing that you’ve helped your loved one cope with the peaks and valleys of bipolar disorder.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

Treatment is best managed by a mental health specialist who can diagnose and treat bipolar disorders. The patient may have a treatment team consisting of a psychiatric nurse, psychologist, or social worker. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, and only treatment can help in managing symptoms. 

Treatment for bipolar disorder usually includes:

  • Medications- Usually, the patient will need to start taking medications to balance their moods immediately.
  • Continuous treatment- Bipolar disorder requires a lifetime of treatment along with medications, even during periods of feeling better. People who skip maintenance treatment become are at a high risk of relapse, causing mood changes that can turn into full-blown depression or mania.
  • Day treatment programs- These programs may be recommended by your mental health specialist. These programs provide the counseling and support needed to get bipolar symptoms under control.
  • Dual diagnosis- Those who have bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses will require dual diagnosis treatment to become relieved of symptoms. Treating only one of the two or more mental illnesses can make it very difficult to manage both conditions.
  • Hospitalization- The mental health specialist may recommend hospitalization if displaying dangerous, psychotic, or suicidal behaviors. Hospitalization can help keep the patient calm and safe while stabilizing the patient’s mood when having a manic or major depressive event.

Bipolar disorder treatments will usually include medications and psychotherapy to help control symptoms and education and support groups.

Getting Help for Someone With Bipolar Disorder

If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, know that there is help available.

Here at Montare Behavioral Health, we can help diagnose and treat bipolar disorder, along with any other co-occurring conditions. Do not hesitate any longer, contact us today at Montare BH and allow our treatment staff to help you on the recovery journey.