Manic depression, now more commonly called bipolar disorder, can be one of the more frightening mental illnesses for both the sufferer and his friends and family. It is marked by large mood swings from irrational, psychotic elation to deep periods of depression and despondence.
It manifests differently in each person, with some being more manic than depressed and vice versa. If someone you know has bipolar disorder, then knowing how to deal with a manic depressive will help you to relate with and help that person. He or she will appreciate your concern.
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The following are some steps you can take to improve both your relationship with the bipolar individual and the therapeutic outcome of that person's treatment.
- Educate Yourself
Understanding the facts behind bipolar disorder will help you better relate to your friend or family member. There are a number of good books about the subject, and a quick search of the Internet will yield a raft of useful resources.
- Don't Stereotype the Person
Whatever you read or learn, don't force it onto the person. Because bipolar disorder is expressed differently in different individuals, no one-size-fits-all description will ever fit your friend exactly. Be open to the unique characteristics of the individual instead of focusing on the common features of the disease.
- Be Honest about Your Relationship
Your options for dealing with a manic depressive person will depend on your relationship to that person. For example, if the bipolar person is your spouse, you may not have to option of moving out as you would if he or she were your roommate. Your relationship also determines the degree of responsibility you have to the individual. Even if you can just move out, it may be wrong to do so if the person really depends on you for support.
- Learn to Recognize Symptoms
By understanding the triggers and warning signs of both manic anddepressed episodes, you prepare yourself and are better able to address the issue early. Because he may not recognize his own symptoms, your position as an outside observer means you can suggest treatment before the condition gets too bad.
- Support the Individual
Help the person to recover and to avoid relapsing. Assist in making doctors' appointments and picking up medication. Ensure that the person takes that medication. Help the individual avoid complicating problems like drug or alcohol abuse.
- Don't Argue
Especially during manic periods, there is little point in arguing with a bipolar person. Mania is a psychotic episode, meaning the person is divorced from reality. He may not fully realize what he's saying, so try not to take anything too seriously. That said, don't avoid the person. Just remember that anything they say might be the illness talking.
- Get Help
Bipolar disorder can lead people to do dangerous things. In addition to the threat of self-harm, both mania and depression can make a person engage in activities that threaten his life and health. If you suspect a person is in danger of these things, don't be afraid to get help. Offer to put the person in contact with a mental health professional. In an emergency, it is entirely appropriate to call 911 for assistance.