Tips for Friends: Bipolar Disorder

According to a Google search, bipolar disorder is ‘a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of happiness and depression.’ It is also called manic-depressive illness, and when it goes untreated it can affect a person’s life drastically.

A person with bipolar disorder will have one of four types of the disorder:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder: this level of the disorder is defined by mixed episodes that last up to 7 days, and depressive states that may last up to 2 weeks.
  2. Bipolar II Disorder: this level of the disorder can be defined by patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.
  3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS): someone is diagnosed with this level when symptoms exist, but do not meet the diagnostic criteria for either of the previous levels. But, a peron’s symptoms are clearly outside of the ‘normal’ spectrum of behaviour.
  4. Cyclothymic Disorder: is a mild form of the disorder, where people have episodes of hypomania as well as mild depression for at least 2 years. But, the symptoms do not reach the requirements of any of the previous mentioned bipolar disorders.

 

Similar to other mental illnesses we have discussed in the past, scientists have agreed that there is not just one cause for a person who develops bipolar disorder, but a number of factors that may contribute to a diagnosis. Some scientists look to genetics, and say that it’s likely that it runs in families. Though, not everyone with a family history of bipolar disorder will develop it. Scientists also believe that brain function and structure may have something to do with it, as studies have been done to examine the brains of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a live long illness, but can be managed long term with proper treatments including, taking medication prescribed by your Doctor to help stabilize moods and psychotherapy.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Offer emotional support, and be understanding about the situation.
  • Educate yourself on their disorder, as that can help you better understand their mood swings and what they are experiencing.
  • Talk to them, and listen. Make sure to remind them that you offer them a safe space to vent their feelings, and don’t make judgements.
  • Invite them on stress relieving activities to get their mind off things, including a walk or a hike.
  • Remind them that even though this is a live long illness, it will get better.

For further information, please visit NIMH or Bipolar Disorder: Tips for Family and Friends.

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