7 Ways to Help a Friend with Bipolar Disorder

Last Updated: 23 Aug 2019

While it can be rewarding and enriching, having a close friend with bipolar can also sometimes be frustrating, and confusing. Here are ways to be supportive—while taking care of yourself, too:

#1 Educate yourself about bipolar

Learn more about its array of symptoms and the different facets of its treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend if he or she is open to answering your questions.

#2 Avoid passing judgment

If you see your friend struggling, approach him from a place of compassion and concern, rather than from a place of judgment.

#3 Communicate your acceptance

Let your friend know what you admire about her and that you appreciate how hard she works to stay well. Be patient and understanding.

#4 Establish a warning system

Decide together how to best communicate any behavior that could indicate that symptoms are worsening or escalating.

#5 Get to know them well

Spend time with your friend regularly, even routinely, to establish a strong connection. Just be there to listen and lend an ear.

#6 Be motivating

If your friend is in a low period, understand that it can be very difficult for him to find motivation to get out of that dark place. Offer to pick him up and go see a movie or just go for a walk; but respect his decision to not be social.

#7 Practice self-care

Set a good example and become a role model to your friend by taking care of yourself first. Establish boundaries, find time to relax, and keep doing the things you enjoy.

Read more:
The Essential Guide to Maintaining Friendships with Bipolar

Printed as “The Friendship Formula,” Summer 2019

About the author
Sasha Kildare, a feature writer, speaker, and educator, is also the author of the upcoming memoir and information guide Intact: Untangle the Web of Bipolar Depression, Addiction, and Trauma. Her blogs about storytelling can be found at DrivenToTellStories.com, and you can find her on Twitter @sashakildare and Instagram @sashakildare562.
  1. Im grateful that you “normal people” are taking the time and interest of learning about your bipolar friend and how you can be a friend to them when they may be or are already in full blown mania or depression. As someone whom has struggled with bipolar for the past 20 years i have a few suggestions on what may be helpful for both of u all. When they are manic and delusional and telling you what they think is going on , and you-know its not true, just listen to them. The more they told me “thats not really happening” that its in your mind, would make me mad and hurt. Also if they are not on medications PLEASE dont think they won’t repeat absurd, rude, or violent behaviors just because you guys talked after an “incident ” and they seemed remorseful, understood they were wrong. Sad fact is mania will only get worse til treatment ; for me the paranoia and delusions were very severe. Place zero expectations on them. Like when your watching a movie and ask them to stop talking, they may be quiet for a moment but then a few scenes later the will likely open their mouth back up. If they promise to stay in the house, dont b shocked when they are gone in the morning. Being messy, loud, inconsiderate, egotistic, short attention and non stop talking , and annoying are appropriate adjectives for me in mania. When they are depressed, call and check on them everyday. Even if they dont answer text or something saying you love them and to call if theres anything you can do. Remind them of all the good stuff about them cuz believe me they cant see one good quality of themselves. Offer to come by with pizza or watch a movie or go on a walk with them. Whatever you do dont call them lazy or selfish for staying in the bed all the time. They really “cant” get out

  2. Wow, lolasdad! “Never allow a ‘bi-polar’ to be your only friend.” So much judgment. *sigh* People who have bi-polar disorder do NOT like to be only defined by their illness…

  3. Always know when you may begin to get in over your head. Have a trusted friend or professional around to help.
    Know when to quietly retreat, as in, I have other plans, I thinks its time for me to go.
    Never say too much, as this may give them food for thought, and you may regret this later.
    Never allow a bi-polar to be your only friend.

  4. I need help with how to take care of myself with my bipolar individual
    She drains me, I feel I am trapped and have no where to go or run away from her.
    I live in Losangeles. I’m currently in therapy but it’s not helping as much as I need it

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