I am looking for tips and advice for dealing with a family member with a bipolar disorder. It can be very difficult at times. Has anyone else had to deal with this? Any help would be appreciated.
Jan from Portland
As long as the patient is taking their meds, they can have a normal (or semi-normal) life. I deal with the disease every day and if it wasn't for my family and my fiancee's family, I would not survive.
To me, the first step is to make sure you tell them that you are there for them, every day if necessary. Keep a close eye on the patient, but not for what you think. It took just over 2 years to find the right regime of medications that can work with my head and body due to several allergies. Usually the first drug that will be used is lithium and that will not work with some patients (it mimics diabetics and tripled my TSH levels!). Finding a good SSRI is key.
Second, there can be an underlaying medical problem that should be addressed. Is there a family history of diseases in the tree? I also have to deal with fibromyalgia, so finding an antidepressant that worked with that helped greatly.
Third, find a bipolar support group in your community. Your local MHMR (Mental Health, Mental Retardation) facility can give you leads on that.
I have a few webpages pertaining to bipolar and fibromyalgia, but I cannot find my password at this moment, no caffeine yet. LOL!
Just hang in there, that is all we patients want. Someone to be there for us (and to make sure we don't self-medicate with illegal substances)! (04/25/2007)
There is a lot of advice on the net. I recommend WebMD's Bipolar Health section. There is also a board for caregivers, I think. Also, check out the blog at http://bipolarcentral.com/supporterblog
He's got a book/program to see, but the blog itself is very informative. Bipolar disorder, or bp can be treated effectively with medication and lifestyle changes. But, it is chronic and cannot be cured, per se.
Make sure you have a good team of psychiatrist/therapist/MD/other support. It sometimes takes time to tweak the medication to proper levels. So find a practitioner who is willing to be patient and experiment. There is no one cure fits all. As I mentioned above, therapy is also good to help the sufferer adjust to the condition and to get rid of any emotional problems which may be making the whole thing worse. Do your research. Besides the sources I mentioned, there is a lot of information on the net. The patient him/herself should take as much responsibility for his/her own treatment as possible. The caregiver is there to help, monitor and reflect back signs that signify the onslaught of the dangerous mood change(s). Good luck. (04/25/2007)
I have an uncle who is bipolar and he chooses NOT to take his medication. Our life with him has been very difficult especially since my dad (his only sibling) died in 1994. Some of my family cannot tolerate him and his behavior anymore, but I choose to love him and try very hard to have patience with him knowing he can't help that he has this disease. Do everything you can to encourage your friend or family member to take their medication. God Bless. (04/25/2007)
I would encourage you to make sure the person with bipolar is seeing their doctors and taking their meds properly, all the time. It is key. It makes a huge difference. Also, there are support groups in most all areas, like AA kind of. Those can be very helpful in building a support system for yourself. Additionally, there are many self help books out there, one in particular "When Someone You Love Is Depressed", and anything written by Kay Jamison Redfield. The biggest thing though, is today, there is virtually no reason for a bipolar person to remain unstable with all of the meds out there and all the resources. The more stable they are, the better your relationship with them will be, and the happier and more at ease in general, your life will become. Good luck to you. (04/26/2007)
I am a licensed therapist in the mental health field for 13yrs. My best advice to you is to contact the local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) re their monthly meetings and bi-weekly support groups for patients and family members. You can find out more about them on the internet or from your local community mental health center. (04/26/2007)
By Debbie in SC
My mother is bipolar. She also has borderline personality disorder. She can be VERY difficult to deal with. My father died in 2002. This caused her to spiral into more depression. With all the pressure I had a nervous breakdown. My mom is great when she can get her way. She has extreme moods. If she takes her meds she does better. We are both better when we stay away from each other. We visit every few months and this is much better. (04/26/2007)
By Susie from Buckhead, GA
Boy, today was a good day for this post. I have two bi-polar daughters, and when they are good they are great, when they are bad, they are awful! Medication helps the mood disorders, if they take them, and we have done counseling, but aren't right now. I would say that you have to take care of yourself, and have boundaries. Walk away when they can't be reasoned with, and let them cool down.
Don't take anything too personally. They are all different, so check out some books and some web sites for advice. There is plenty out there. If they are not under any care, this is NOT something that they can control on their own. They do need help. Sometimes they do get more mature, anger is a issue with my daughters, so we don't feed into it, and we sometimes have to leave to allow them a cooling off time. Good luck!
By Tina H
Please read Patty Duke's biography "My Name is Anna". I started exhibiting symptoms of the disease when I was 16 years old. At age 51 I was finally diagnosed correctly, and took medication for a long time. I don't think that people realize how poorly most health insurance treats mental illness. Much of the care available is available if you have the money for it, but heaven help the sufferer who is uninsured, on Medicare, or receiving Welfare of any sort. That person will be pretty much out of luck.
Your counseling should be teaching you ways to cope with the sufferer. Remember, you must take care of yourself, or you're no help to anyone. My maternal grandfather was bipolar, I am bipolar and a depressive, and both my kids are depressives. It does run in families, and if you have a first degree family member who is bipolar, chances are someone in the next generation will be, too.
The illness can be controlled, but I think it's really important for anyone dealing with a bipolar to remember, "It's not your fault!" and you didn't make them manic, or depressed, or angry, or suicidal. Our suicide rate is high, as is our rate of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Do contact NAMI, and use all the Web resources you can get.
This is something totally new to you as a person. You have lived your life and never had to rearrange what you did to someone else. I have always listened at what my boyfriend said, and had computed it so when I said something back to him when he was in his "attitude mode" I didn't make it worse. I just tried to be there as the unbiased individual and let him know I wasn't the critic, just because I didn't grow up with him, or in your case, she didn't raise you, so it isn't an obligation to be there. You are there as a friend, and in my case, a lover. (07/30/2007)
I understand, because I have a brother with bipolar/schizo affective disorder. We have been dealing with this for 18 years. It has been very hard on my family. We have had him hospitalize so many times. He also has a drug problem that puts more problems into the situation. It seems that it has been harder to help him since the new hepa law came into affect. We are right now trying to find a way to have him permanently put into a hospital setting, because my mother finally quit being controlled by him and he tried to kill her.
So be careful on how you let them control situations because when they think they have no more money and help coming they will get rid of that person. He told my mother that she had killed his mother so he was going to kill her. She told him that she was his mother and he said my mother would not treat me this way. What he was saying was she had taking back control and he did not have control over her anymore.
So he was going to kill her because if she was not going to help him than he did not need her anymore. So in his eyes she must die. He was also thinking that he would get my parents things. So that means he must get rid of me also because he knows he can not control me. My advice for you is to start talking to anyone in the hospital where your bipolar person has been like social workers or doctors in the mental health system. Just keep asking them questions and if they don't know then say what about someone else. Then maybe you can find your help. I have been going on medwirenews. They have some information that is helpful. I wish you the best of luck God knows we all need it.
I have bipolar disorder and let me clarify, it is a chemical imbalance, not a mental illness. I work as a nursing assistant taking care of other people, many with dementia and yes, even mental illness! I also am in the process of authoring a book. I have already authored a book on therapy. Additionally, my partner and I have been together for seven years. Many of the remarks made by people above regarding their alleged loved ones, it sounds more like your referring to pets, are sad. It is no wonder the horrible stigma surrounding this disorder exists. (07/28/2008)
A quick warning to people, from experience. There is another disorder that is very commonly mis-identified as bipolar, when it's actually a totally different thing on the inside and quite destructive. In the USA, it is known as borderline personality disorder, which includes total and often rapid mood shifts, but isn't limited to that.
*Bipolar* is believed to be a chemical imbalance; the swings between depression and mania aren't caused by a "bad" childhood, though the person might coincidentally also have had one. There is lots of hope for someone with bipolar disorder, as it's usually totally controllable with medication, proper sleep and diet so the person can live a normal happy life.
*Borderline* is believed to be caused by a combination of genetics and childhood emotional abuse. They have little/no stable personality, instead going from emulating one person to the next, terrified they'll be rejected and abandoned; often they have a self-destructive behavior like drinking or cutting that they use to handle it. They have trouble grasping emotional cause-and-effect in themselves or others, and see everyone in black-and-white terms as good or bad. Deep down, they are an emotional maelstrom of carefully-hidden rage and self-hatred.
The most trusted loved ones of someone with borderline personality get to see a very different side of the person from others. The borderline won't hide their wild moods from them; if one is judged as bad then the individual will seemingly be unable to do anything right in their eyes. Often the BPDer will seem manipulative, and will threaten self-harm/suicide if it seems like someone's going to leave them. As two books put it with their titles, loved ones are stuck "Walking On Eggshells" as the Borderline alternates between "I Hate You, Don't Leave Me!"
Other big red flags:
I write all of this because borderline personality is rarely brought under control, it won't get better on its own or even with medication, and most therapy actually makes it worse. If what I wrote sounds at all familiar, then please read up on borderline personality and bipolar disorder, so you can figure out which one you're really dealing with and make decisions based on that. Don't wreck your mental health and waste years of your life trying to help them "get better" like I did. (05/07/2009)
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