When a loved one is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it may be difficult to understand at first. What does it mean? What do I do? How should I respond to their mood swings? Well, don’t feel bad because many others are wondering the same thing. Those with bipolar disorder experience mood swings that take them through sudden bursts of highs and lows. You want to love and support your loved one, so what’s the best approach?

Here are some ways we can help a friend or family member with bipolar disorder.

Learn about it
Make an effort to educate yourself about bipolar disorder. Learn the facts! The term gets thrown around too often and too lightly, making it widely misunderstood. Common misconceptions turn into false stereotypes and unfair prejudices. So being educated helps to be more understanding of our loved ones and what they live with.

Compassion vs. pity
There’s a fine line between “I’m sorry for what you have to go through.” versus “I recognize your challenges and I’ll be here to support you.” Both seem like caring words, which they are, but those with bipolar need support and understanding more than sympathy.

Don’t say “calm down” or “cheer up”
When someone is in an manic high or a depressive low, they won’t hear such comments. It’s difficult responding to someone in the midst of an extreme mood swing. Even if they are having an explosive episode, you need to keep calm and ask them how you can help. Or suggest the two of you take a walk and get some fresh air.

Always be patient
Remember that the disorder, and the behavior that comes with it, is never intentional. Be patient when their behavior may seem irrational to you. It’s not a character flaw or weakness, in fact, there could be biological contributing factors such as genetics and brain structure.

Listen and stay connected
Listening is helpful for the both of you. While you’re lending a supportive receptive ear, you’re learning more about them and their needs. Some with bipolar feel isolated or abandoned due to their mood swings and insecurities. Of course, if they start talking about self harm or suicide, inform their therapist immediately. Gestures like a hug or bringing cookies help to stay connected.

Don’t give up on them
It’s no easy walk in the park and it may be a lifelong struggle, but don’t give up on them. They need a friend and your support. You love them for who they truly are, which is not the disorder, it’s just another facet to who they are.

If you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, please contact a medical professional at Crownview Medical Group for treatment and advice. Crownview Medical Group specializes in mental health disorders and case management treatments.