For About and By Caregivers
Bipolar Disorder: Preventing Manic Episodes

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer


For a caregiver of someone with bipolar disorder, having fun may be the furthest thing from their mind when dealing with a manic or depressive episode, medication trials and errors, and just frustration with the entire situation. A loved one living with bipolar disorder still wants to feel included and normal, however. With some basic knowledge, ways to handle surprises, and a sense of love and hope, this feat can be accomplished successfully.

Prepare ahead

Itís not necessary for everyone in a large group setting to necessarily know about and understand a personís bipolar condition. A select few close friends and family will benefit from having a bunch of tricks up their sleeve, so to speak, for ways to avoid fun turning into failure.

Empathy is a big one. Itís knowing what a loved one is feeling and really, truly caring for their challenges. A caregiver wonít get far without it.

After that, what are the loved oneís triggers? Large crowds? Loud noise? Donít take them to those types of places. Just donít. It may seem like they could ďget outĒ for a while. If it sets their emotional reactions on high, a calm atmosphere will be much more enjoyable in the end.

Constant communication with how a loved one feels about activities is important for a caregiver. Do they like going to dinner? Or taking a walk? What are the types of events/outings they enjoy and feel they can manage successfully? This attitude also gives them control, something that many people with bipolar disorder struggle with maintaining in many areas of life.

Sometimes having a planned-ahead, structured schedule is a good idea. Loved ones living with bipolar disorder do best with knowing whatís to come and are able to mentally prep themselves for any new or scary experiences. They also have a finer memory of past experiences than the average person. If they didnít like something before, chances are they will remember it and resist trying it again.

Caregivers take on a lot of burden, and this is just one more place. They may lose their choice of fun activities, but also gain a more full and satisfying relationship with a loved one.

Donít fight fire with fire

The first rule of preventing an outburst is simply not being the flame that starts one. The four big communication no-noís, according to Bipolar Disorder for Dummies, Second Edition, are criticism, blame, judgment and demand. The guide says to keep them out of interactions with a loved one who is bipolar. Honing these skills is essential, and how a caregiver (or anyone for that matter) says something makes a world of difference in the outcome of an event or gathering.

While some people tend to yell when they are upset, and if a caregiver is one of those people, it is imperative to find another way of expression. Yelling at a person with bipolar disorder puts them on the defensive and increases aggression, and possibly hitting the trigger point of stress. Fighting fire with water is much better.

Here are some examples of phrases that may be taken the wrong way by someone with bipolar disorder, but not affect someone else.

Who said life was fair?


Itís all in your head.

Snap out of it.

Shouldnít you be better by now?

Stop acting crazy.

And things to say:

What would you like to do?

This episode wonít last forever.

Weíll get through this together.

What can I do to help you have fun?

I wouldnít change anything about you.

Caregivers willing to jump on the rollercoaster of bipolar disorders certainly will find loops and dark tunnels along the way. Itís a guarantee. Taking the big dip over the hill can be a blessing, in knowing someone who needs love and compassion is being given it. The loved one with a bipolar disorder is looking to their caregiver to be a friend who enjoys life with them.

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