I asked for topic suggestions on my Facebook page, and this one that came up. Someone asked, “How do you approach a person with bipolar disorder if you are non-bipolar”. I found this quite interesting. It makes me wonder, why would you approach a person with bipolar disorder any differently than a ‘non-bipolar’ person? Is this how ‘non-bipolar’ people feel? Are they scared of us? I do understand the question if it were, “how do you approach a person with bipolar disorder when they are either depressed or manic”. Maybe that is what they meant.
If the person with bipolar disorder is doing well, then not any differently than you would approach a non-bipolar person. There is no reason to be apprehensive.
Common misconceptions about people with bipolar disorder:
1) We are always moody, either constantly depressed or manic
2) We are dangerous
3) That we could ‘snap’ out of it and feel better if we really wanted to
If the person is depressed or manic:
1) Ask them if there is anything you can do for them, and follow through
2) Let them know you are there for them, just being there for them can be enough
3) If they ask for space, give them some space, but don’t completely abandon them, check in with them every now and then to make sure they are okay.
4) Listen without judgment, and don’t criticize what is said
What NOT to say or do if a person is depressed or manic:
1) “Just snap out of it”
2) “Calm down”
3) “People are worse off than you”
4) “What do you have to be depressed about?”
5) Do not encourage ‘bad’ behaviors