Help For Significant Others:
So you love or care about someone who suffers from manic-depression and
you haven't a clue as to how you can help them, and yourself, deal
with some of its more disturbing aspects. Well, read on because in this
section I hope to provide you with some hints about what you can do to
help your loved one, and things not to do as well. Yes, there are some
things you can do to help, but it is just as important to know what NOT
to do. You'll find many links here as well. Links that will aid in your
understanding of the many moods your loved one may be experiencing, sometimes
in very rapid succession. Just remember, you are an important part of
a team in this enterprise; a team consisting of the person who is bipolar,
their psychiatrist and mental health workers, and yourself. It takes a
teamwork approach to manage this disorder and here will be as good a place
as any to get started in providing help that really helps.
When you've read the information here, you might find it helpful to join
our support list for significant others. You can read a bit about that
list and then join it by going here. The list is called FI-SO, for FyrenIyce
Significant Others. The moderator is a perfectly lovely woman by the name
of Kim. It's a small, intimate group where your privacy and concerns are
carefully guarded. Please consider joining. To join the group click on
the link at the bottom of this page titled FI-SO.
Please be aware as you read the following items that these are just
suggestions for helping your significant other cope through an episode.
They are not intended to be used indefinitely and without good cause.
We donít want you walking on egg shells all of the time, but sometimes
it might be of use to you to have an idea of what seems helpful to us
during a depressive or manic episode.
What A Significant Other (SO) Can Do To Be Supportive
- When your SO is depressed, offer love and hugs, if your mate is receptive
to that. Sometimes a hug is better than words.
- Practice active listening if he/she wants to talk. Really listen.
- Ask if your SO prefers to be alone and quiet, then respect their wishes.
- If you canít deal calmly with a mood then leave the room.
- Ask your SO how they are feeling before commenting; get them to clarify
- Help with chores without your SO having to ask.
- Reassure your SO that they are loved and that their illness hasnít
- If your SO wants to accomplish a certain thing then help them to do
that if possible.
- If your SO is having problems with medication then encourage them
to discuss it with their doctor. The key word is Ďencourageí, not order.
- Take suicidal thoughts seriously.
- Let your SO have time to recover from a manic or depressive episodeóthere
is a natural healing period. Be patient.
- Let your SO know if they seem to be showing signs of an impending
episode, but do this with concern and without an accusatory tone of
- Work out advance directives or an emergency plan with your SO concerning
what to do if depression or mania strikes.
- Consider joining a support group for significant others.
- Remind your SO of important appointmentsówe can be forgetful.
- Before a moodswing hits, ask your SO how you should react to minimise
damage. Donít assume you know.
- Reassure your SO that he/she is a good and valuable person. We can
get very down on ourselves.
- Sometimes having code words or keywords to describe what a mood is
can be helpful, but be careful not to over use them as they can become
just another trigger.
- If your SO is agitated or hyper try to minimise those things you know
upset them or adversely affect their mood. This can be noise, lights
- Educate yourself about bipolar disorder, but donít go diagnosing your
SOís every mood or action. Remember, you can know all about the illness
in an objective manner, but you donít live it as your SO does.
- Help us to talk about recovery whenever you can. Encourage positive
- During a mood try to help your SO identify what kind of mood it is:
anxious, paranoid etc. Then talk about it to allay fears.
- Be patient if intimacy declines a bit during an episode; it will improve
as the mood improves.
- Offer to go to your SO's appointments with their psychiatrist or therapist
if they find that helpful.
- Try to learn what "triggers" your SO and minimise the times
those triggers come into play.
- Give your SO time to straighten things out in their head before communicating
them to you. Be patient with that process.
- Remain consistent in your responses to various moods. It confuses
us if you react one way one time and another way the next.
What A Significant Other Shouldn't Say Or Do
- Donít tell your SO to snap out of a depression; they canít.
- Donít let your SOís depression or mania reflect on you; itís their
mood, not yourís.
- Donít assume your SOís mood is always due to being bipolar; we can
be normally angry, sad etc.
- Donít ask if your SO has taken their medication everytime they show
any sign of moodiness. We have good and bad days that arenít bipolar-related.
- Donít abandon your SO.
- Donít present them with a list of doís and doníts.
- When your SO expresses angry thoughts donít take it personally. You
probably arenít the target or the cause.
- Donít talk down to your SO. Weíre mentally ill, not stupid.
- Fight fair; never use your SOís illness as a weapon to score points.
- Donít think itís only your SO who needs therapy; be open to the fact
that you too can benefit from the same.
- Donít assume that your SOís illness is their problem. It affects
the whole family so communication is essential.
- Donít throw previous mistakes in your SOís face; we all make
mistakes. Your SO probably feels badly enough already.
- Donít tell your SO they can do without their medication. You may not
clearly remember how bad things can get and they may not either.
- Donít tell your SO what you think before having asked them what they
need most from you at the time.
- Donít use your children against your SO; instead, help explain the
illness to your children in a sympathetic manner.