If someone you know and love is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it may seem overwhelming; but there are ways you can help your friend in need:
Taking the time to research this diagnosis is the perfect first step. By educating yourself, you’ll know what to expect regarding symptoms, possible triggers, or warning signs of mood episodes. You’ll realize that some things are just part of the condition and shouldn’t be taken personally. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend if he or she is open to answering your questions. Listen without judgment.
Be their motivation
If your friend is in a low period or having a depressive episode,
it can be extremely difficult for them to find motivation to get out and do
anything social. Gently try to coax them outdoors: go for a walk with them,
grab a bite to eat, or offer to pick them up and just go for a Sunday drive. If
they do not feel like being social, respect this and don’t take it personally.
Offer to attend a support group with them
Going to a group meeting with a friend not only shows that you care,
but also that you really want to understand more about their diagnosis. If
they’ve never been to a meeting because they didn’t want to go alone, this
would be the perfect opportunity to provide support and encouragement.
Just be a friend
Don’t treat your friend any different than you normally would. A diagnosis
should not change anything; do the things you have always done. Focus on what
you have in common, not their bipolar. Let them bring it up; they know what
they are comfortable discussing.
Support their choices for treatment
There may be times when you have to encourage them to seek professional medical advice, particularly if they have stopped their medication. However, they may want to skip therapy or explore a treatment you view as extreme. Remember that unless you’re an expert, the person living with bipolar probably knows a lot more about it than you.
Be serious about your support
Instead of a blanket statement offering generic support, try being definitive. For example, you can give them certain days you are open to get together or talk on the phone. Offer to do something specific, like take them to an appointment or babysit. Also, consider other ways of support, provided your friend is open to the idea. Some especially helpful things include washing their dishes, taking out their garbage or helping to tidy up. If your friend is in a state of depression, these can be daunting tasks for them.
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