Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic depression, is characterized by extremely high and low moods. People learning how to deal with a bipolar person often are confused by the sudden mood swings and may feel responsible for the changes or at a loss how to react. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, there typically are signs of when a person with bipolar disorder is becoming depressed or overly excited.
Learn the warning signs of an episode. Mayo Clinic doctors advise family and caregivers to become educated about the person's individual triggers so that they can help the patient identify the signs of distress. Ask for consultations with the patient's doctor to find out what kinds of signs to watch for, such as a change in appetite, sleep disruptions, restlessness or irritability.
Encourage people with bipolar disorder to continue taking their medication and participating in support groups. Researchers at Helpguide, a nonprofit information site, say that gentle encouragement and support is very helpful to people with bipolar who usually appreciate the concern.
Practice patience. There is no cure for bipolar disorder and once a person has been diagnosed and starts taking medication, it can take awhile for results to be seen. Prepare for setbacks and look for progress in the recovery, not perfection.
Establish a set time for daily activities and stick to your schedules. Having meals and bedtimes at the same time every day can help to reduce stress in the family and reduce the triggers that can set off a bipolar person.
Make a plan to deal with violence or disruptive behavior. Have emergency numbers readily available and talk with the person when he is in a relaxed state about the kinds of precautions you will take when necessary.
Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Knowing that the depression or mania is not your fault can help you to take care of your own needs. Doctors at Helpguide report that bipolar disorder can take over a household and create stress on everyone in the family if boundaries about the limits of what you will do and how much disorder you will take are not set.
Find a support group of others who deal with bipolar in their families or friends through organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health (see Resources). The stress of living with someone who is bipolar can be overwhelming if you don't have someone to talk to about your own feelings of guilt and anxiety.
Know that you have limitations about how much you can control the outcome of the recovery. You can share your concerns with the person, but ultimately it is up to the person to maintain his own medication and learn how to deal with mood swings.