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How to Cope with Someone Who is Bipolar

Mar 16, 2023 | Bipolar, Communication, Helping a Loved One

Bipolar disorder is a serious illness that can lead to extreme highs and lows in mood. The disorder typically begins to develop in adolescence or early adulthood and can have a large impact on the person’s life. 

If you’re dealing with a loved one who has bipolar disorder, it’s important to remember that they aren’t intentionally making decisions that hurt or upset you. In fact, they might not even realize they’re acting differently than usual. Instead of reacting with anger or frustration when your loved one is experiencing an episode, try the following tips for supporting them.

Validate and acknowledge the emotions of your loved one.

The first step to coping with bipolar disorder is to recognize that it’s a real illness. Ultimately, people suffering from bipolar disorder cannot help the way they feel. Depending on if they are in a manic phase or a depressive phase, they may lash out at others, isolate themselves, go on spending sprees, or become increasingly impulsive.  

It is useful to keep in mind that their different moods are caused by the disorder and are not within their control. People with bipolar disorder need support from those around them and with this support, you will be doing them a tremendous service by helping them cope with their illness more effectively. If or when your loved one chooses to discuss their challenges, lend an open ear and acknowledge their feelings. By providing an outlet for them to express themselves, you are validating their experiences and making it easier for both of you to cope.

Don’t advise them to “get over it.”

When someone is bipolar, it’s far more than just a bad mood or a phase. It’s a mental illness that needs treatment. Just as you wouldn’t tell an asthma patient to get over their condition, you cannot tell someone with this disorder that they should be able to overcome it simply by willpower alone. Many people that suffer from mental health disorders are treated with a stigma that indicates they can will themselves out of the condition. Although it is vital that they decide to manage their condition, they cannot eliminate bipolar altogether. Fortunately, there are a wide range of resources that those with bipolar can use to manage their condition. 

Help them seek out a therapist.

It’s important to help your loved one seek assistance from a therapist and/or psychiatrist. A therapist can provide emotional support and teach coping skills, while psychiatrists prescribe medication used in treating the symptoms of bipolar disorder, like mood swings and depression. By working together, these professionals should be able to determine the best treatment plan for your loved one.

Additionally, it is an excellent idea for the family and friends of someone living with bipolar to seek therapy as well. Having an outlet to confide in can decrease some of the stress and anxiety that is inevitable in this situation. 

Do your own research.

It is helpful to continuously seek to try to learn more about bipolar disorder and how it affects those impacted by the condition. If you’re not sure where to start, the National Institute of Mental Health has some great resources that are easy to understand., 

Many people are unaware of the fact that there are actually a few different types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic are the three most commonly acknowledged variations. 

  • Bipolar I is the most commonly experienced form and refers to those that have one or more manic episodes that may or may not co-exist with depressive episodes. 
  • Bipolar II is less severe than Bipolar I and involves a shifting back and forth between manic and depressive episodes. 
  • Cyclothymic disorder exists for more than two years and occurs in a cyclical pattern. It is not severe enough to meet the criteria for bipolar but emulates the same experiences with mania and depressive episodes.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

It is vital to ask questions and continue seeking to learn more about this lifelong condition. Asking questions will help you understand what bipolar disorder is, how it affects the person who has it, and how your loved one feels when going through a depressive or manic episode. 

Although your loved one is not likely to have all the answers, talking through their condition can help reduce the stigma and increase feelings of empathy and support. Additionally, you can ask their care team questions that will guide you towards the best way to be there for them in the event of an episode.

Set boundaries.

When you’re living with someone who is bipolar, it’s important to set boundaries for yourself. You do not need to be readily available at all times in the event that they have an episode. Because bipolar is lifelong, this is a condition that will never go away. Putting yourself on hold or reducing your quality of life in order to support them is not the most effective or sustainable plan. By setting boundaries, you can ensure that you retain your own sense of peace and happiness while simultaneously being there for your loved one whenever possible.

Look for signs that treatment is necessary.

Looking out for the signs that your loved one is in need of treatment can help you establish some control of the situation. Below are some of the indicators that treatment should be sought immediately.

  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Inability to hold down a job or remain in school
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Inflated sense of self
  • Periods of elevated mood
  • Increased impulsive or high-risk-taking behavior
  • Frequent anxiety or depression

Bipolar disorder can be scary at first, but with support from loved ones and professionals, it’s possible to enjoy life alongside a bipolar person.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. Living with someone who has bipolar disorder can be stressful and frightening, especially if you do not know much about the condition. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you understand what bipolar disorder is and how to cope with it.

Having a good support network of friends and family members is crucial when coping with bipolar disorder because it provides encouragement during difficult moments in life when symptoms flare up unexpectedly. 

Not only can you help your friend with bipolar disorder, but you can help yourself as well. If you have friends who are bipolar, make sure to let them know that you are there for them every step of the way. The support will encourage them to continue seeking treatment and help them manage their illness permanently.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder or other mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  We have Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs for adolescents and adults in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston, Texas.  We also offer online programs for individuals who reside within the State of Texas.  To learn more about treatment services for bipolar, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at  You can also learn about outpatient therapy services at