Bipolar disorder is a treatable mental illness from which recovery is possible. Bipolar disorder affects about 1% of the population. However, living with bipolar or a bipolar person can be extremely challenging due to treatment issues and the issues around bipolar disorder itself.
Living with Bipolar
Bipolar disorder is an illness and like other incurable illnesses, its symptoms must be managed. For a person living with bipolar disorder this often means:
- Education about bipolar disorder
- Bipolar disorder therapy
- Learning ways of coping with bipolar symptoms and life stress
- Medication treatment (also read: The Gold Standard for Treating Bipolar)
- A regimented daily schedule including good sleep hygiene, eating and exercising
These factors can affect almost every moment of the day and put a lot of pressure on those living with bipolar. But these things are necessary to try to prevent future bipolar episodes.
More on self-help for bipolar disorder.
Additional pressures come from side effects from bipolar medication treatment. Living with bipolar disorder often means living with an array of side effects like:
- Battles with weight
And others that are individual to the person. This can make a person feel physically sick as well as mentally sick leading to missed days of work or school or not being able to fully take part in family activities.
The keys to successfully living with bipolar is to strictly stick to the bipolar treatment plan, get early medical intervention for any occurring episodes, and to reach out to others for support and help when needed.
Living with Someone Who Is Bipolar
Living with someone with bipolar is not easy either. This loved one has to support someone with an incurable illness and this places extreme stress on the relationship. Clear boundaries need to be drawn between what a loved one can or cannot do for the person with bipolar disorder. It is often the case that living with a bipolar spouse harms the mental health of the loved one, making the relationship even more challenging.
When living with someone with bipolar, it's important to remember:
- The illness is not your or your loved one's fault. You cannot "fix" the bipolar but you can support the person with bipolar.
- Each person experiences bipolar disorder differently so while education is crucial, listening to the loved one with bipolar is equally important.
- You can offer to help with health care appointments, medication schedules and the like, but you shouldn't become the "bipolar drill sergeant."
- It takes time for treatment to work and it may be many months before your loved one is stable. Patience and support is crucial during this time.
More on how to help someone who is bipolar.
When living with a bipolar person, it's also important to get help for you too. Agencies like the National Alliance on Mental Illness1 and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance2 are useful in connecting with other loved ones living with a person with bipolar disorder. Family therapy for the person living with bipolar and their loved ones is also a good way of handling the stresses of a mental illness.