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11 Ways to Support Someone During Mania

Mania, whether it be a full-blown episode or a shorter period of hypomania, is at the very center of the bipolar disorder diagnosis. Both manic episodes and hypomania are characterized by increased amounts of self-esteem and grandiosity, racing thoughts, irritability, and goal-directed behaviors or activity. Given that mania or hypomania are shared experiences for all those living with bipolar disorder, we reached out to our Facebook audience and asked them for tips on how loved ones, friends, and others can help them during these manic times.

It’s important to remember that the following tips are not comprehensive and are not guaranteed to be what works best for you personally. Communication between friends/loved ones and those with manic symptoms is key. Before instituting some of the tips below (such as calling one’s doctor and taking away their phone and credit cards), make sure you have permission to do such when a manic or hypomanic episode occurs.

Which of these do you agree with? Which do you disagree with? Do you have anything else to add? Let us know in the comments below. 

1. Avoid patronizing or combative words

“Don't make presumptions and say off the cuff remarks like, ‘are you drunk!’” – Haze S.

“I mean, there are things to not do like don't tell me to calm down, don't tell me to relax.” – Joy P.

“Don't assume I'm manic just because I'm upbeat or exaggerated, I might just be in a great mood. Don't tell me to calm down or stop because it's not something I can physically control.” – Crystal G.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Don’t take things personally

“Recognize that my distance has nothing to do with them or my love of them, and everything to do with my relatively short-term inability to empathize and connect.” – Rachel S.

“Give me my space and don't take anything I do or say personally. I feel awful for being irritable, but can't help it at the moment.” – Pamela H.

“Just don't take me seriously. This will help with forgiveness later.” – Emily B.

“Try not to get offended, as I get a wobble gob and have no filter! I often say things I later regret or hurt people's feelings by telling them the truth.” – Claire T.

“Don't take my irritability personally, come chill with me in a calm, safe environment.” – Deb E.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Give them space

“I say things and do things beyond my control. Just stay away.” – Judith A.

“Just allowing me to breathe, finding my calm, and allowing my wibbly wobbly moods to simmer/work its way out means a lot (unless you hear me saying some really scary stuff — if you do, just sit me down or try to distract me.)” – Camille J.

“They can just leave me alone, preferably. Not just with mania but the depressive episodes, too. I'd rather just be left alone.” – Alisha F.

“Leave me well alone. It's better for everyone, as I can become angry and agitated with every word of kindness given. I know they love me, but it's not what I want when I have an episode.” – Mandy I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Keep them company

“The two times I have been extremely manic, psychosis and all, my husband has been with me and/or my family. I cannot be left alone because I don't know what I would even do, I am very unpredictable.” – Cynthia B.

“The best advice I can give to anyone who's loved one is going through mania is to watch their behavior, spend more time with them, try to let them get out all their hyped-up feelings and listen to them, don't make faces that they’re crazy or anything.” – Karen R.

“Do things with me that are fun, keep me busy, while keeping me safe. Don't make me feel stupid or embarrassed for rambling on or not making sense.” – Kari R.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Protect them from harm — especially financial harm

“That the best way to help me is to lovingly express concern over my manic behavior, especially when it is detrimental to my health or lifestyle (like when I want to quit my job and start a new business ... Every other day with some new grand idea or invention. Or when I compulsively spend money. Or self-medicate with alcohol or working out.)” – Rachel S.

“The best thing someone can do for me is take my credit cards. Next, I need someone to talk to or I will start to obsess about things like FB.” – Kt J.

“Take away my credit cards and block me from buying ANYTHING on credit.” – Kevin B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Take away phones or passwords (if agreed upon)

“When I was manic, I started giving away cash to strangers and friends so def take my money away from me. Be kind. Kindness helped me. I also posted a lot of random stuff on Facebook and a friend took away my passwords and changed them for me.” – Stephanie K.

“Take my phone away from me. I go in to a shopping frenzy on my phone when I’m manic.” – Fran F.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Encourage their behaviors (within reason)

“If I am obsessing about something that isn’t particularly harmful, let me work through it and get it out of my system — there may occasionally be benefits of it.” – Camilla B.

“My husband tries very hard to balance letting me see my bright plans through (otherwise, I'd get frustrated because I think they're amazing, foolproof plans) and trying to talk me out of things that really aren't amazing, foolproof plans because he knows what I'll be like when my plans fail. I'm so lucky to have him; he handles me better than I handle me.” – Aimee F.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Give their doctor or psychiatrist a call (if necessary)

“Ring my psychiatrist.” – Xena S.

“Call my psychiatrist; make me an appointment; drive me to the appointment. I shouldn't drive when I'm that up.” – Becky O.

“Remind them to slow down and maybe call [their] doctor.” – Marc D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Remind them about their medication

“When I am struggling, my friends and family ask if I have eaten and when, they also ask if I have taken my meds and literally bring them to me if I haven't.” – Stephanie B.

“It's VERY important for me to take my medication so I can start slowing down. If I wasn't medicated, I would not be able to survive.” – Cynthia B.

“My wife gives me space, she asks if I've taken my meds and doesn't make me feel guilty for not sleeping next to her because she knows it's not a choice.” – Candra C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Prepare for a depressive episode

“Enjoy the fact that I'm super productive, but be aware that it comes crashing down and prepare to catch me as I fall.” – Crystal G. 

“Be patient, prepare for the inevitable crash, help more at home, love me unconditionally ...” – Brandi B.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Provide hugs, love and general support

“Respect my disease, respect that I'm trying to control myself the best I can, love me for who I am without trying to change things about me that will never change.” – Megan S.

“Be understanding when I talk too fast and say things that sound off the wall. Know that my brain is running so fast I don't have time to really understand what I am saying.” – Joy P.

“Unconditional love is what you can do to help me the most.” – Rachel S.

Comments

Take each item on this list and apply it back to the people supporting you. Ex. #1 Avoid patronizing or combative words- remember this when talking to your loved ones- don’t call them names or be threatening.
#2 don’t take things personally- if I respond to your harsh words with some frustration of my own, understand I am stressed and saddened by what is happening. I might not always respond the way I should. Forgiveness goes both ways.
#3 give me personal space- space goes both ways - I cannot always be there to support you in your abusive moments.
Etc, etc. I can take each one of the above items and turn them around for those supporting you.
Burn out happens because life is a 2 way street. I am trying to understand your mental health issues. Please understand how your issues impact my mental health .

I was reading here the other day and felt upset at the advice and comments, because it seems there's not much a loving person can do for a family member who's bipolar, other than ride it out, don't criticize, don't patronize, don't give advice, don't try to help -- but what if the person is engaging in very dangerous behavior (which led at one point to a sexual assault against the person), threatening harm to self and others, using drugs and alcohol to excess, and so on? It's so painful to see a loved one endangering themselves in this way and to feel helpless in the face of someone who's not in control of themselves. I've begged them to get into a live or online group, they're not in therapy other than a prescribing psych they see every couple of months -- I can only feel that they would benefit from talking to people who have gone through the same challenges, who could offer the advice and help of someone who's been there. This loved one is on the way up to a manic episode right now and may wind up in the hospital again, as they did last year, and family members just feel so helpless. I believe they are taking their medication, but it doesn't seem to temper a manic episode at all. I couldn't feel more frustrated.

I'm reading both sides here. The afflicted asking for compassion and to be respected, or left alone. And the loved one's essentially being tortured by the effects of dealing with the consequences of mental illness. I am in the latter position. But the stress and abuse is very challenging.
There is a favorite meme going around that you can't help someone with an issue, you can only support and love them! What exactly does that mean? Isn't support another word for help? Its exhausting to watch someone go round and round in their cycle of depression and mania, or their delusions without taking action. Can't they see the outcomes on people around them? I suppose not, but it sure seems like selfish behavior, especially when blame is cast on the person they seem to look to for support.
It would be one thing if they didn't (and I generalize) leave a trail of wreckage in their wake.
I would love to look after my own wellbeing and leave them alone but when I read that bipolar people are 60x more likely to commit suicide I feel like if I don't do something I might lose a person I care about and I don't know how to do that and risk their life and my subsequent grief.

my boyfriend often goes through episodes of rapid speech and racing thoughts, and they often turn to jokes of suicide. he says he's never serious but i worry about him and he refuses help. his mood also changes in a split second and often times i can't tell whether he's serious or not. he will be fine one minute, but the next it's like i can see this presence fall over him & in his face and i'm never sure what to do. his anger also is very loud and disturbing but most of the time, it's never aimed at me. when he has manic-like symptoms and repeatedly continues talking, i often go along with the conversation and try to entertain it to the best of my abilities. he never tells me exactly what he's thinking and i'm afraid one day he'll bottle it all up & eventually take his own life. i struggle to control my emotions, so when he starts to get angry or argue, i either shut my mouth or leave the room. i encourage him to talk to one of his parents or go see a doctor, but he claims that he's fine & he doesn't want to worry his parents. i'm not entirely sure if it's bipolar or if it's related to anxiety of some sort, but i need guidance in what i should do to help him.

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